The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, among the biggest names in gun control advocacy, released its post-Newtown legislative wish list Friday, just a few days before Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to release the recommendations from his gun violence task force.
As expected, Brady’s number one goal in the wake of Newtown is universal background checks on firearms purchases. Background checks have been the main focus of gun control advocates since the national political conversation suddenly shifted to gun violence in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults.
Advocates for a more sweeping background check requirement cite statistics that up to 40 percent of gun sales slip through loopholes in the current background check system.
“Convicted felons, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally ill and other prohibited purchasers can easily purchase guns with no questions asked,” reads the Brady campaign statement. “Universal background checks’ on all gun sales would have a clear positive impact on public safety, and is also clearly compatible with the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns.”
Brady also calls on legislators to “limit the availability of military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines that are designed for mass killing.” Gun control groups have said that a so-called assault weapons ban (favored by many Democrats) isn’t as important to them as bolstering the background check system.
Background checks are likely to be a focus of Biden’s recommendations when they come out next week. Beyond the statistics cited by the proponents of universal background checks, there’s a political calculation behind the push: polls show background checks enjoy broad public support, even among members of the National Rifle Association. The NRA itself, however, is not in favor of more background checks.
“What the anti-Second Amendment movement wants to do is put every gun sale in he country under the thumb of the federal government,” Wayne LaPierre, NRA vice president, told Meet The Press in December. “Congress debated this at length. They said if you’re a hobbyist or collector, if someone in West Virginia, a hunter, wants to sell a gun to another hunter, he ought to be able to do it without being under the thumb of the federal government.”
Brady wants to “provide legal mechanisms to prevent those dangerously mentally ill” from buying guns, an area where gun control advocates and the NRA may actually agree. Brady would also like to extend bans on firearms possession to certain violent offenders beyond current bans that apply to domestic violence. The group also wants to strengthen enforcement of existing firearms bans related to “violent juvenile offenders, and some substance abusers.”
Brady wants to open guns up to federal regulation like other consumer products, as well as strike down laws barring gun manufacturers from some civil lawsuits.
The post-Newtown era is the first time in a long time that the nation has engaged in a serious discussion about gun control. Brady Campaign president Dan Gross praised Biden’s group and urged Washington to move quickly on new legislation.
“The recommendations we are presenting to the White House reflect what we believe are the changes that can have the biggest impact right away,” he said in a statement. “We cannot wait any longer. The American public wants this conversation to be taking place, but more importantly, they want action.”