Following President Barack Obama’s proposal this week of more stringent gun laws, we asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network: Could Obama’s proposal for more background checks help reduce gun violence in Florida? Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.
We have other laws to protect our safety. We need a license to drive, we have to wear seat belts, babies must be secured in car seats, drinking and driving is against the law. It’s outrageous that the NRA has manipulated well-meaning people to believe that background checks are just the first step on the road to the government taking your guns away. We can honor the Second Amendment and still pass common-sense gun laws. Or we could if we had representatives who had common sense. It is a travesty that we are the only country in which 30,000 people a year die from gunshot wounds. It’s past time for us to do something. In our country more people have died from guns since 1968 than all the people who have ever died in war for this country. I don’t know an adjective strong enough to express how that makes me feel.
Debbie Wehking, West Kendall
I just purchased a gun at a gun show within the past year and everything was handled exactly as it would have been at a gun shop. Everything was recorded and registered. Nothing that Obama has come up with would have made any difference in any of the recent horrible tragedies. How about instead of having all those extra FBI agents checking registrations and background checks, instead use their time to track down the people who they already have their sights on as terrorists. The FBI has said they do not have enough agents to do the job.
Donna Merritt, Dania
In the short term I don’t see where background checks would have much effect, especially in heavily armed Florida. There are simply too many guns out there. I also doubt that it would do much for gang shootings. The gangs are small armies, well armed and with stockpiled reserves of weapons. I think it would be of some help against domestic violence if only by providing a cooling off period for a party who felt aggrieved.
For people who are committed to violence — criminals and terrorists — I think the immediate effect would be minimal. The weapons used in San Bernadino were purchased five years before they were used against humans. In five years even I could figure out how to buy a gun through a non-licensed seller. I think the idea of research into guns that would recognize their owner and won’t be usable by someone else is more promising. That’s because gun manufacturers have a stake in developing such guns before someone figures out how to apply the Seventh Amendment to them. Working in tandem, government and the gun manufacturing industry could really achieve a breakthrough in preventing criminal or terrorist violence.
Arnold Slotkin, Hollywood
First, known felons aren’t going to go down to the local Bass Pro Shops and pick up a gun. Second, the background check system has been around since 1998 and how it works is very well known to everybody who would like to purchase a firearm. How many known felons are stupid enough to go into any place that they know is going to do a background check? Are you hoping they forgot they were a known felon and you might catch them when they fill out the paperwork? And lastly, by way of example, in 2012 only 44 people were convicted because of their background checks to purchase a firearm. There were 19.5 million background checks performed that same year. Who, other than a government agency, would see a ‘success rate’ of a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of one percent as the basis for expanding the system?
Charles Kerr, Hollywood
Truth be told, with time, we’ll start hearing stories about people who were denied purchasing rights and telling how they had planned on harming someone if they could have gotten the gun. Common sense tells us that of course gun violence will be reduced. I would love to see a rational argument showing that background checks will not help reduce gun violence in Florida. Now, why do people have to have their eyes checked before they drive a car? Poor vision causes accidents. Poor vision can be caught, corrected, or [cause people to be] prevented from driving. No right to drive is being taken away for any reason other than to protect individuals from getting into car accidents; individuals who fit a certain pattern. Background checks find those patterns and help. Not perfect, but they help.
Jay Pellis, Coral Springs
I think the statistics Obama quoted speak for themselves. In Connecticut, there were 40 percent fewer gun deaths after background checks were instituted. I wholeheartedly support his proposals, but sadly, I don’t think it’ll happen in Florida until the Legislature is more evenly balanced. My biggest concern is mental health, and I’m thrilled that Obama addressed it in his speech. However, I fear that HIPPA laws now in place are so ingrained in doctors’ minds, that mental health records will not be at all easy to obtain. Plus, more people need to open their eyes to the potential of violence rather than hoping it’ll just go away.
Julie Simon, Miami
I don’t necessarily oppose more background checks but it’s illustrative of the administration’s poor grasp of the issue and their misguided agenda. Two-thirds of firearm deaths are suicides. A background check is not going to do very much to help a person who may hit a severe depression years after buying a gun. This person doesn’t need his rights restricted. He needs treatment and support — support that too often isn’t there. And that has tragic consequences.
Trevor Reid, Live Oak
I used to attend gun shows at the old Coconut Grove Convention Center. Way too many of the people I saw there lovingly fondling guns looked seriously unhinged. If I was a licensed and insured vendor, I would have refused to sell to at least half the people I saw there.
Seth Gordon, Miami