Missouri study shows why we need universal gun background checks
Editorials February 18, 2014 4:58PM
A custome ris helped in shopping for ammunition at Freddie Bear Sports on February 13, in Tinley Park. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Updated: February 18, 2014 5:08PM
Around the country, states have been busy loosening gun regulations. A new study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research shows just how dangerous that can be.
The study found that in Missouri about 60 more people have been murdered with guns each year since Missouri got rid of background checks for gun sales in 2007. Previously, Missouri’s “permit-to-purchase” handgun law required all purchasers to verify they had passed a background check before they could buy a handgun..
The study is a reminder that we need universal background checks if we hope to reduce the horrific level of gun violence in America.
U.S. law requires people buying guns from federally licensed gun dealers to pass a criminal background check, which is supposed to weed out people with criminal records or severe mental health problems. But in many states, those people skirt the laws by buying weapons from unlicensed sellers, such as private individuals. The purpose of Missouri’s law, like a failed proposal last year for nationwide universal background checks, was to require people to pass background checks in those transactions as well. Only 15 states, including Illinois, have such a requirement.
The Johns Hopkins study, which will be published in the Journal of Urban Health, found that Missouri’s increase in murders began in the first full year after the law was revoked. None of the states bordering Missouri — where laws hadn’t changed — had similar upticks.
Overall, Missouri has had a 23 percent increase in firearms homicide rates, even as the murder rate dropped 5 percent nationally. The increase in murders occurred only for those involving a firearm and was widespread across Missouri counties. That translates to a lot of needless deaths.
Unfortunately, instead of implementing a legal tool that can save lives and reduce crime, many states are going in the other direction. Two candidates for Texas governor are campaigning for an “open carry” gun law. The Tennessee legislature is considering a measure to allow guns in parks. In California, a federal court last week threw out the state’s concealed-carry restrictions. Illinois’ permissive new concealed-carry gun law has produced applications that appear to meet state guidelines most recently from an applicant who has been arrested 19 times — including arrests for battery, physical harm, unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated battery — and a Latin Kings gang member who has been arrested for domestic battery, three counts of violation of an order of protection, unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a firearm with an FOID card and possession of unregistered firearms.
In recent years, gun advocates have been unrelenting in working to eliminate sensible measures to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and others who can’t be trusted with guns.
Missouri’s experience shows how tragic the results of such campaigns can be.