EDITORIAL: Expanded gun background checks not a cure-all

A few recent high-profile mass shootings have put gun control back in the news. Last week, as Congress returned from recess, gatherings were organized nationwide by Moms Demand Action, part of the Everytown for Gun Safety organization funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

One of those gatherings was here in Las Vegas, as reported by the Review-Journal’s Wesley Juhl. Dozens of Las Vegas gun control activists rallied Thursday evening to promote expanded background checks, with state senators joining families and activists near a bus stop on the corner of West Sahara Avenue and Fort Apache Road.

Background checks can help prevent tragedies, particularly when they keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders. In fact, the 2015 Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 175, which prohibits any person who has been convicted of domestic violence from buying or owning firearms and stipulates that anyone subject to an order of protection cannot buy or acquire a gun, either. Further, Senate Bill 240 passed, requiring swifter reporting to the state’s background check database of people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent, among other measures.

But for background checks to work, governments have to maintain offender databases. Nevada’s database is woefully behind, as noted in a 2014 Review-Journal report on a study of more than 800,000 criminal cases, some dating back 20 years.

Regardless, as has been shown countless times, criminals are not going to follow any gun control law. Despite some of the nation’s stiffest gun-ownership restrictions, Chicago has had a rash of gun deaths in recent years, so much so that researchers from Duke University and the University of Chicago conducted a study to determine where the guns were coming from. As the Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski reported, the study — to be published in the October edition of Preventive Medicine — consisted of interviews with 99 inmates at Chicago’s Cook County Jail who had illegally possessed a gun within six months of their incarceration. The study found that most criminals only acquired guns from people they knew and trusted — almost exclusively from family, friends, fellow gang members, etc.

In other words, background checks do not deter criminals from obtaining weapons. Expanded background checks will do nothing to keep such criminals from perpetrating gun violence.

Mr. Juhl noted that Moms Demand Action is seeking support for the 2016 state ballot initiative expanding background checks. But as the Chicago study shows, what this restriction will do is further clamp down on law-abiding citizens. It will not affect the criminal who has plenty of means to obtain weapons illegally.

The outrage against gun violence is understandable. But expanded background checks, by themselves, won’t solve this problem.

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