Weaknesses in the background checks required for gun sales recently took center stage in Congress, and Mayor Bloomberg was a major part of that.
According to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns advocacy group, the House Judiciary Committee will meet with the Obama administration to discuss whether gun laws are sufficient to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and those prohibited from buying a gun. Bloomberg, the group’s co-founder, and more than 500 mayors signed their names to support their two-part plan to improve the background system and require background checks for all gun sales.
“Despite the law, all the records are not in the system,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “I look forward to working with members of congress and others who have endorsed our approach to finally fulfill the intent of the 1968 law.”
Since the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the federal government has made laws to address the issue of gun violence. The 1968 law bars felons, dug abusers and the mentally ill from purchasing guns and the Brady bill in 1993 created a system of background checks for gun buyers, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
In the system is a database of information on people’s criminal and health records, provided by the state, for gun shop dealers to screen perspective buyers.
Despite the current law, however, mentally ill gunmen like the one behind the Virginia Tech shooting and the accused shooter in Tucson, Arizona, have been able to walk into a gun shop and buy a weapon legally with no problem. They were able to get around the law because it does not require states to update the NICS with the person’s record and also because unlicensed dealers, usually at gun shows in the South or Midwest, are not required to do back ground checks on buyers, a major loophole in the law.
Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) said he is a well aware of the loopholes in the law and worked with Bloomberg two years ago on gun control legislation that limits buyers to one purchase every three months. The new provisions would require states to put all individuals’ records in the NICS and do background checks before all gun sales, including at shows.
“I support the mayor in his effort to cut illegal guns,” Vallone said. “Those guns end up in my streets and kill our kids.”
According to Police Department figures, in 2010 there were 100 homicides in Queens and more than half of them involved a gun. Murders here increased from 82 in 2009, ending the previous years-long drop in murders. Citywide there were 536 killings.
To show just how lax gun control laws are, the city also conducted a undercover investigation recently. The probe found that undercover buyers were able to buy guns, like the Glock pistol with a 33-round magazine used in Tucson, at an Arizona gun show even after they openly admitted they would not pass a background check.
Still there are people that oppose increasing gun regulation. Thomas King, the president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, said the laws in place do not need to be changed. He claimed the problem is enforcement and a lack of funding to the city agencies, which do not update background check systems because they don’t have the resources and labor.
“Writing new laws doesn’t do any good; it’s feel-good legislation, King said. “There’s enough regulations already — they are just not utilized properly.”