The Daily Gamecock

Column: Close the gun loophole


Blacksburg, VirginiaAurora, ColoradoFort Hood, Texas. What do all these places have in common? Gun massacres. People whose lives were ended or severely damaged by mass shootings. And what did the gunmen in each situation have in common? Mental illnesses that should have prevented them from ever having a gun.

How could a someone so violent possibly be allowed to purchase a gun? How can guns so easily fall into the wrong hands, allowing horrific bloodbaths to happen?

One of the main issues in gun ethicality today, and one of the reasons there are unsafe gun owners, is our gun laws — specifically, the loopholes in them that allow buyers to get around the background checks.

Online sales on sites like Craigslist, Gun Trader and even Facebook, and purchases at gun shows can be made without a background check.In fact, our current background check system  only applies to about 60 percent of gun sales as per the most recent study, theoretically leaving the other 40 percent of sales unregulated.

And, of the 20 mass shootings that have occurred over the past seven years, three of the massacres had mental illness as an underlying cause.

What's truly dangerous about guns is the people who own them, and unregulated sales mean that people who shouldn't be allowed to own guns can get them easily.  Many mass shootings have happened because an unstable, mentally ill person was able to obtain a gun.

And as if it wasn't enough to have entire markets unchecked, the issue goes deeper still. Background checks aren't entirely effective. Even the 60 percent of sales that do have background checks may not be safe.

Not only are there not enough background checks, the background checks themselves are actually flawed. State privacy laws, especially those dealing with mental illness, currently block background information from being shared with federal authorities and state police. Only 22 states submitted records to the checking system, as of 2007.

And records are still spotty about buyers who tested positive for illegal drugs, or ones with a history of domestic violence.

What's sincerely scary is that this flaw in the background check system has proven fatal. The Virginia Tech shooter slipped through the loophole by legally buying a gun from an out-of-state dealer and another gun from a local gun shop, even though he had been declared mentally ill by a judge.

In fact, many such shootings have been done with legally obtained guns. Should it be legal for people with mental illness to buy guns that could be used to massacre innocent people?

This is case and point that our background check system needs to be strengthened. It should be illegal for people who are mentally ill to purchase guns. We have to extend the range of our background checks and improve their effectiveness.

But there is a confrontation that arises over tightening the gun loophole. For one, mental health advocates see submitting these necessary mental health records as ostracizing the mentally ill, since they don't account for treatment and cures and undermine civil liberties by taking away Second Amendment rights.

But what is the value of these "civil liberties" to the friends and family of the victims of mass shootings? Is it not in the interest of public safety to prevent mass shootings by the mentally ill?

What can you do to play a part in the fight against this loophole?

Ask your members of Congress to advance sensible gun laws. To reach your Congressman or woman, call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

We need the background check system to apply to all gun sales, and we need it to be effective. Loosening state privacy laws and tightening the gun loophole is the only way to know that the hands guns are in are safe and stable and prevent more massacres.

Take time to consider, reflect. You know now why we need to close the gun loophole. Make your voice heard by advocating your opinion to your senator so that they can represent your voice.

Remember Virginia Tech. Remember Aurora. Remember Fort Hood. Remember the deaths. Honor the victims. Put yourself in their places and consider how you can play a role to stop more tragic massacres like these from happening again.