The ad above, put together by VoteVets.org, is currently running on social media, and asks viewers to contact Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and urge him to support universal background checks for all firearms. Featured in the ad is Glenn Kunkel—an Iraq War veteran who received two Purple Hearts during two tours of duty—firing an AR-15 at a water-filled mannequin. Before and while bullets tear into the mannequin, Kunkel says:
I had to pass a background check to join the Marine Corps, before I could carry a weapon similar to this one in Iraq. Here at home, anyone can purchase this weapon, no questions asked.VoteVets says it may expand the ad to other senators.
I support the Second Amendment, but we've seen what can happen when these fall into the wrong hands.
I needed a background check to carry similar weapons in combat. We should require the same here at home. Call Senator Flake and tell him to support Universal Background Checks.
Some gun-rights advocates will quibble about "similar weapons," arguing that a selective-fire assault rifle is not the same as the semi-automatic AR-15 depicted. But, while automatic fire is faster, a shooter with just a bit of practice can empty a 30-round magazine from the firearm depicted in the ad in fewer than five seconds. Please read below the fold to see why a universal background check is so badly needed.
The ad also claims "no questions asked." Anyone who buys an assault weapon from a federally licensed dealer must answer the same questions as the would-be buyer of any firearm regarding whether he or she is a fugitive from justice, a felon, adjudicated mentally defective, a drug addict or user (including marijuana, alcohol not being considered a drug), an "illegal alien" or the actual buyer of the gun. And then, there's the required background check by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that seeks to verify some of that information.
But the motivating reason for the VoteVets ad is that people who purchase their guns from someone other than a licensed dealer don't get asked any of these questions and, as ABC News discovered in 2009, may not even be asked for identification.
ABC followed Omar Samaha around for a year as he purchased weapons at gun shows that allow unlicensed private sellers to sell guns to anyone they wished, with no background check required. Samaha's sister was one of the 32 killed at Virginia Tech by a lone gunman in 2007. ABC gave him $5,000 to go into one gun show in Richmond, Virginia. He emerged with 10 firearms, including a Colt AR-15 and a pistol like the one used to kill his sister. No background check. And the only time he was asked to show I.D., he said he didn't have any, and the dealer went ahead with the sale anyway:
"He's like, 'Give me $100 more and I'll let you go and take the risk.' I got two guns for $600 without any identification check," Samaha said.In 33 states, that's still the law. Or rather there is no law governing private gun sales, including private gun-show sales. Seven states require background checks for all gun purchases; four others require them solely for handgun purchases.
But, while nationwide polls in the past three months show that between 83 percent and 92 percent of Americans support a universal background check to stop these kinds of sales to all comers, the National Rifle Association—the mouthpiece for the gun manufacturers—gun-rights advocates, all or most Republicans in Congress and some Democrats oppose universal background checks.
The NRA and some others do this without qualification. Others say they oppose expanding the checks to private sales if there is to be any associated record-keeping. They claim record-keeping will establish a registry that would be a prelude to gun confiscation. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic sponsor of the background check law now with a precarious handhold in the Senate, says the law would not establish a registry.
Even if it did, however, the existing gun registry—for fully automatic firearms, gadget guns and silencers—has been in effect in one form or another for 78 years, and the only confiscations have been from individuals who committed felonies or otherwise lost their right to own guns.
Meanwhile, various conduits for the NRA and its backers, have gone bizarre in their attacks on advocates of the universal background checks. An ad put together by Mayors Against Illegal Guns was first blasted by senior opinion editor Emily Miller at the Washington Times and subsequently by The Daily Caller, The Blaze and Fox contributor Katie Pavlich. The critique also showed up on "Fox & Friends" and the NRA's "Cam & Company" on the Sportsman Channel.
The claim is that the man in the ad sitting on the tailgate of a pick-up and holding a shotgun, is violating basic tenets of gun safety by having his finger on the trigger of a loaded weapon even though he isn't preparing to fire it and he isn't pointing the muzzle in the air or toward the ground. Thus, the claim goes, MAIG is contributing to irresponsible gun handling.
But, despite the NRA's apparent agreement with the critique, knowledgeable gun-owners are aware instantly that the man's finger is not on the trigger because they are familiar with how firearms are constructed. There is also no way for the viewer to know if the gun is loaded or unloaded. Moreover, where one points the muzzle depends on the circumstances, according to the NRA's own safety tips.
But in their efforts to keep even the mildest, most sensible laws from passing, the gun lobby and its propagandists will do anything to make people who want effective gun-safety and gun-control measures appear stupid. All the while they support the status quo of giving paroled murderers and domestic abusers every opportunity to buy guns without checking into their background. You decide who is really stupid.