Improve, tighten background checks on guns

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Mankato Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

Once again we hear painful news that the perpetrator in another mass shooting was on the radar of the FBI and other authorities, but due to oversight issues, or worse, standard procedure, he was allowed to buy an AR-15 assault rifle.

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Omar Mateen was put on the U.S. watch list when he was investigated by the FBI. After an investigation, he was cleared and taken off the list.

At one point he would not have been able to board a U.S. airplane, but he was able to presumably walk down the street to his neighborhood gun store and easily buy a weapon to inflict mass murder and the killing of 49 people.

Defenders of America’s current gun laws will argue being a suspect of a crime or being watched shouldn’t disqualify one from buying a gun and exercising their Second Amendment right. But common sense should tell us otherwise. At the very minimum, those who have for some reason fallen under the scrutiny of the FBI should be sent through a more thorough check.

Other countries do this all the time. In Israel, people are questioned about who they are visiting, what places they plan to go and what business they are in before they can board a plane or in some cases go into a nightclub.

Turns out Mateen was canvassing Disneyworld in Orlando. He was dangerous and we had a hunch he might be. Why not ask a few more questions before we sell him a gun?

Those who would defend his right to buy a gun because the government only asked questions and had no proof of imminent danger, might turn that reasoning around and ask why should any law enforcement officer suspect anyone of anything. And we don’t follow that policy elsewhere. If law enforcement sees a suspicious person, they have a right to question them and stop them in petty theft cases. Why don’t we apply this standard to someone who might commit mass murder?

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., brought attention to the issue with a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor that ended Thursday morning. He said he has secured an agreement for two votes on the Senate floor to toughen gun laws.

One would close background check loopholes for gun show sales, but the other would allow the FBI to have more discretion in cases where there is a terror suspect from allowing a person to buy a gun. They could delay the gun sale on suspects.

These are modest and reasonable proposals that polls show nearly 90 percent of Americans agree with. These proposals in no way impinge the rights of honest American citizens buying guns. We hope Congress has the courage to approve these proposals.

Murphy pointed out we did nothing with toughening gun laws after the massacre of children at Sandy Hook in his home state. Now, we have the largest mass murder in the United States.

If we can’t toughen gun background check laws now, when will we?