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At one point Thursday during a CNN townhall gathering called "Guns Under Fire," Sandy Froman, a member of the board of directors and former president of the gun-industry's mouthpiece, the National Rifle Association, sounded almost conciliatory:
"There's a lot of common ground. We don't want people who are insane to have guns, we don't want terrorists to have guns. Part of this national dialogue is coming together."

But she followed up with an objection to what the overwhelming majority of Americans support, including gun-owning Americans and even NRA members—universal background checks of anyone buying a gun from whatever source:

"The NRA is not against background checks," Froman said. "We support making sure they are enforced. We're not supporting more background checks of law-abiding citizens."
Of course, you can't know for sure that they're law-abiding until the background check is run.

Froman added that the NRA has changed its views from 1999 when it supported the FBI’s National Instant Checks System that requires federally licensed firearms dealers to run background checks on anybody who wants to buy a gun from them. Froman said that system "is not working now. We have to get that working before we can add any more checks to that system.”

This would be a lot more convincing if the NRA were lobbying hard for improving the background check system. But that's not exactly high on the agenda it carries out for the gun industry that runs it.

(For more on the NRA's efforts to undermine reasonable gun-control laws of any kind, please continue reading ...)

NICS does have well-documented problems. Several states do not provide all the data required to make the system more effective. Only a handful of people who try to deceive authorities by lying on the questionnaire they must fill out to buy a firearm are being prosecuted. Better funding is needed. But that's not to say the system is an abject failure. Over 10 years and 100 million checks, it has blocked 700,000 attempts by ineligible people to buy firearms. Lately, it's been overwhelmed.

In December, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association based in Newtown, Connecticut, reported that gun dealers made 2,237,731 requests for background checks of people seeking to buy firearms. That was a phenomenal rise of nearly 59 percent over the previous December. Anybody who has been to a gun store or sought to buy ammunition or high-capacity magazines over the internet since 27 people were murdered in Newtown on 12/14 is familiar with the shopping spree gun buyers have been on. Inventories are down and prices are up as buyers try to get hold of military-style semi-automatic rifles and the ammunition and magazines to go with them in order to beat what they have been falsely persuaded is the coming confiscation.

NICS was designed to stop gun purchases by anyone prohibited under federal law from owning firearms or ammunition. That includes felons, persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and under some kinds of domestic violence restraining orders, persons deemed dangerous because of their mental health histories, fugitives, users of illegal drugs (including marijuana), undocumented immigrants and people who have renounced their U.S. citizenship. One can argue about who should and should not be on the proscribed list.

But, currently, any person in a prohibited category, including convicted murderers who have served their time, can buy a gun from a private seller, a friend, a neighbor or somebody at a gun show who is not a licensed firearms dealer without undergoing a background check. And as NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre made clear in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, his organization wants to keep things that way because, he said, criminals don't undergo background checks. In fact, as the statistics show, tens of thousands of criminals and other prohibited persons do try to buy their guns legally every year by lying on the background check and hoping that the FBI won't notice. The NRA is right about one thing, the government should prosecute these liars.

But it should also require everyone to undergo a background check before buying a firearm. Because that is the biggest failure of NICS, not an administrative failure, but a legislative failure that is the product of the NRA and its puppets in Congress.

Nobody expects that requiring universal background checks will end all the nation's gun violence. No law, no combination of laws, will accomplish that. But extended background checks will nab criminals or mentally unfit individuals who now choose private sales because they are exempt from such checks. This won't stop every felon from stealing a firearm or buying one from other criminals. But arguing against background checks because they don't stop every illegal gun transfer is like arguing for getting rid of anti-theft laws because there continue to be more than two million burglaries every year.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), and Daily Kos.

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