Pro-gun forces peddle bad info about background checks

Commentary by Tom Buglio, philly.com, May 27, 2016

I COULDN’T help but notice the long article from Kim Stolfer, president of Firearms Owners Against Crime, in the May 18 edition of the Daily News.

Stolfer argues against background checks for gun sales. The themes that emerged are pretty simple:

* Pennsylvania background checks aren’t worth the expense and inconvenience.

* Background checks are an excuse for a gun registry.

* Just enforce the laws on the books.

As an active gun-rights advocate, Stolfer does his best to discredit background checks with 2014 statistics from the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, or PICS: 13,178 denials for purchase, 782 arrests and 367 criminals prosecuted. I am baffled; why is this a problem? Did we not keep guns out of the hands of at least 367 criminals, and many others who might have mental problems or protection from abuse orders? He mentions those who were “denied their constitutional rights” when many denials were subsequently overturned. So in Stolfer’s opinion, it is more important not to inconvenience someone delayed getting a gun than denying people who would be truly dangerous with a deadly weapon in their hands.

Stolfer decries the expense: $120 million paid since 1998 for PICS.” Compare that to a truly sobering statistic compiled by Mother Jones magazine last year – the true cost of gun violence, which includes medical expenses, insurance, police investigations and judicial proceedings: $229 billion per year! Pennsylvania’s share of that expense is at least one-fiftieth: $4.58 billion per year. Judging by those numbers, I would say Pennsylvania’s background system is a real bargain.

Gun-rights activists have claimed for years that any new background-check bill will come with an automatic gun registry.

This is, first of all, not true. Second, it is the great tool of the gun-rights advocates to strike fear into the hearts of gun owners everywhere.

What is so sinister about a gun registry? The narrative of the gun-rights crowd is that “a registry is a necessary step for the federal government to have information on every gun you own for the purpose of confiscating it.” This fear of government is used by the gun industry to rile up the troops and to sell more guns. In this way, the gun crowd does a great job of “scare ’em and save ’em,” even where there is no truth to this obvious lie that Stolfer has no trouble peddling, along with many of his colleagues.

What Stolfer is really trying to do is discredit the Pennsylvania background-check system, and this article is really part of a concerted and organized campaign by the gun lobby to do just that.

The gun lobby is pushing to disband the state background-check system. This would be a real tragedy, as it goes above and beyond the national system in some important ways:

* The national system takes a maximum of three days to do a background check, and if inconclusive, the buyer gets the gun. Meanwhile, the state system takes up to 10 days to get all data before releasing a gun. If results are inconclusive, the buyer does not get the gun

* The Pennsylvania State Police run the state system, which is efficient and accurate, and prosecutions for those who do not pass have been on the rise.

* PICS has many more records in its database about Pennsylvania residents than the national system.

Background checks on gun sales are intended for one thing: to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Ninety percent of Pennsylvanians think it is a good idea to keep guns away from terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally ill. This is why gun-violence prevention groups are lobbying very actively to close the long-gun private-sale loophole in Pennsylvania. Only long guns can be sold privately with no background check. To close this obvious loophole is just common sense.

The vast majority of Pennsylvanians, including most gun owners, believe background checks save lives. Unfortunately, Stolfer does not seem to be among them.

Tom Buglio is the director of the Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Contact information is at cccpgv.org.

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