Universal Backgrounds: Could They Have Prevented Our Past Mass Shootings?
This past week police in Maryland arrested 49 year old Coast Guard Lieutenant, Christopher Paul Hasson, after discovering several firearms , specifically semi automatic guns, accompanied with drugs. Documents were found in the computer of Hasson indicating a planned attack towards several democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and several high profile news anchors from stations like CNN and MSNBC. Police have classified this as a domestic terror attack at a scale never seen before.
This incident is one of the many that have occurred in the past decade that highlights the violence guns can cause. In 2018 there was 4 major mass shootings, including the Parkland shooting that killed 17. In 2017 we had the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 and the shooting at the Sutherland Springs Church that killed 26. In 2016 we had the infamous Orlando Nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino shooting in 2015. All of these shootings, including the shooting that was planned by Coast Guard Lieutenant Hasson, have been committed with semi automatic rifles.
In hopes to see a decrease in these mass shootings, Congress, more specifically the Democrats, have repeatedly and recently presented a bill that would require universal background checks by all facilities that sell guns. Universal background screening includes screening for crimes, both misdemeanors and felonies committed in and out of state. Currently all states do conduct universal background checks in order to purchase firearms, but like everything, it has it’s loopholes. The federal law only requires licensed public sellers to conduct universal background checks, this allows for private sellers at places like gun shows to sell guns without conducting a background check. Currently only 19 states require both licensed and unlicensed sellers to perform universal background checks.
While universal background checks would assist in better selecting who should and should not have a gun, and could have prevented mass shootings from the past, gun owners like Coast Guard Lieutenant Hasson, Paddock from the Las Vegas shootings or Mateen from the Orlando shooting, the 2 deadliest shootings in the U.S and the shooting PD claimed was going to be the worst of all, would have passed their screening and ultimately committed their horrendous crime. Reason for this is because the person who buys a gun can be “just a regular person” which is how everyone described Paddock, the shooter of the Las Vegas Massacre, and Hasson. Hasson actually did have felonies but, due to a lag in the system, these felonies were not updated in the system in time, and thus they did not show when he bought the guns. These were not the same adjectives used for the 19 year old Nikolas Cruz, gunman of the Parkland. He was described as weird and odd. Evidently, he did have several traumatic events, including the death of his mom and dad, and tried to commit suicide twice. Regardless, background check or not, he would have been able to obtain his guns, and he did, because background checks don’t check for mental illnesses.
So, while Universal Background Checks will assist on who should have the great responsibility to bear arms, it will only assist to a certain point. If we truly want to decrease these mass shootings, which is a main driving force for the gun control debate, we are going to have to take this legislation and policy further, to psychological testing, banning of military weapons like the AR-15 and banning of modifications to guns. If we do not do this, we are not going to prevent mass shootings from, “the regular guy.” like, Paddock or Hasson.