Time for Baucus to support background checks

2013-08-01T00:00:00Z Time for Baucus to support background checksBy Bob Waters Helena Independent Record
August 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When I was younger, I spent countless hours hunched over a reloading vise, cranking out rifle and shotgun reloads for my days afield with gun in hand. Few experiences stirred my blood more than a trip to Herter’s in Waseca, Minn., where I’d spend my time admiring the unaffordable rifle actions and stocks that were poking out of barrels in a rear section of the store. My view of guns was closely associated with the romantic images found on the cover of Field and Stream magazine, and nobody in my small town, Norman Rockwell world ever used one for anything more deadly than dispatching a deer or a pheasant.

However, there is another side to guns that thrives outside of my Rockwell painting. There are guns in the hands of criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill. Gun-aided mayhem and murder are the malignant side of gun ownership, and I long ago emerged from that romantic painting to recognize that we have a serious problem with gun violence in America.

There was a time in this country when even leading voices in the National Rifle Association called for laws to keep dangerous people from purchasing guns. Federal legislation was passed in 1993 that mandated a federal background check that kicks in when a gun is purchased through a licensed dealer. Unfortunately, unless a state steps in to fill the void, no background check is done for guns purchased from a private seller at a gun show or via the Internet. That loophole makes no more sense than endangering public safety by eliminating the vision test for some driver’s license applicants.

The Manchin-Toomey background check bill that our own Sen. Max Baucus helped to defeat last April was an attempt to close that loophole, but debates about the bill have taken place in a fog of extraneous issues.

Contrary to what its opponents may have you believe, the bill wouldn’t have banned any guns or ammunition, prohibited legal open carry or concealed carry of firearms or kept uncle Joe from loaning his nephew a shotgun for a day of duck hunting — and it certainly didn’t set up a national gun registry. In fact, the bill laid out a stiff 15-year jail term for anyone who would attempt to create a registry. The bill was no more of a slippery slope to the limiting, banning or confiscation of guns than that mandatory driver’s license vision test is a step toward the elimination of automobiles. It’s a total disconnect.

Sen. Baucus says he voted against Manchin-Toomey because Montanans saw the legislation as an infringement on their Second Amendment rights. But the only opinion survey I’ve seen on the subject of expanding background checks indicates that the vast majority of Montanans support expansion. Furthermore, it’s difficult to understand how the couple of minutes it takes to fill out a form could be perceived as threatening to undermine our Second Amendment rights. That kind of hyperbolic nonsense has no place in a serious debate, and clear-thinking Montanans know better.

To be sure, those who lie on the Firearms Record Transaction form should be prosecuted, and background check legislation won’t stop all bad people from getting their hands on guns, but it’s likely to deter enough would-be purchasers to make a significant difference. No system is perfect, as is evidenced by the fact that your car can be stolen even if it’s locked and the keys are in your pocket. But try leaving the car door unlocked and the keys in the ignition the next time you’re in Seattle, and see if that makes you feel more or less safe. The absence of universal background checks is akin to that unlocked door with a key in the ignition. It’s an invitation to trouble.

We need Sen. Baucus to support Manchin-Toomey when it comes

up again. I ask my fellow Montanans

to join this gun owner in urging Sen. Baucus to join Sen. Tester in his

support for universal background checks.

Bob Waters is a retired educator, a U.S. military veteran and a longtime Bozeman resident.

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Grizzlybayer
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    Grizzlybayer - August 02, 2013 1:50 pm
    I was born, raised and educated in Montana. I began hunting at age 15. I belonged to the NRA until they changed from a responsible organization that advocated gun safety to become a shill for Glock and Uzi. All of my Montana friends are in favor of background checks, without exception. I have followed Sen. Baucus' record in the U.S. Senate with approval for many years but his stand on gun control, his interpretation of the 2nd amendment and his sabotaging of the medical reform legislation makes it clear that he is making a wise decision not to run again.
  2. GreatWhite
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    GreatWhite - August 02, 2013 9:50 am
    I'd like to hear that explanation as well Bob. This 'stricter background check' hooplah is 'supposed' to be to prevent criminals from getting their hands on guns, is it not?

    How about finding out where the real problem is and start there. The main problem seems to be straw purchase sales....where a person that CAN pass a background check fills out and purchases the firearm for someone that couldn't pass the background check in the first place. How are stricter laws going to prevent that?? The next largest problem is corrupt firearms dealers, although they are 'legal'. But...don't take my word for it...point is, stricter laws only make things more diffucult for those of us that abide by the laws...not those wishing to break them.

  3. wildbill49
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    wildbill49 - August 01, 2013 10:20 am
    It is people like Bob Waters who should do some research before writing about something they know very little about. How about enforcing the laws that are on the books! As a member of the NRA, this organization has pushed harder, and achieved more results in keeping guns from criminals, than our Federal Government will ever do. When less than 1% of the people who have lied on the current background form have ever been prosecuted, that speaks volumes that any new guns laws will be the first step towards more gun laws in the future.
  4. GreatWhite
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    GreatWhite - August 01, 2013 9:59 am
    "Contrary to what its opponents may have you believe, the bill wouldn’t have banned any guns or ammunition, prohibited legal open carry or concealed carry of firearms or kept uncle Joe from loaning his nephew a shotgun for a day of duck hunting — "

    I do not oppose additional background checks, nor can I endorse them. And the reasons I can't endorse them are primarily these: Your comment hides the first one, Uncle Joe may have been proud to loan his nephew a shotgun for the day...and Uncle Joe may have passed a background check to buy that shotgun, but what if his nephew, unbeknownst to Uncle Joe, decides that day that he has just had enough of life, and even though the claims he's going duck hunting, actually has very sinister intentions for that shotgun. And that is the scenario of most gun shooting incidents amongst young people. It's someone elses gun. Not theirs.

    Reason #2; and this is speculative, but, they are out there NOW! How many gunowners currently in possession of firearms at this moment, could NOT pass a background check for a new gun?

    Criminals don't buy guns online generally, nor do they buy them at gun shows. Stricter background checks will most likely have NO impact on criminals getting their hands on guns.

    But, ultimately, if stricter checks prevent so much as one incident in the future, I admit it is worth it in the long run.
  5. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - August 01, 2013 8:17 am
    Bob, please explain to me how background checks could have stopped the killing in Columbine. Those were teens not eligible to legally own guns. Or how about the Aurora killings. This man was a law abiding citizen, not a criminal so how would background checks prevented this mass killing? Newtown, yet another young man without a criminal record who essentially stole the guns he used. How many killings happen each day, either accidental or intentional, by kids under the age of 18?

    I note you, like others, have stated the vast majority of Montanans support background checks. I would reallly like a head count on that one because I seriously doubt the majority support yet another feel good law that isn't going to do squat.

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