This week, a House-passed bill is up for discussion in the Michigan Senate that eliminates background checks and licensure for buyers of privately sold guns. Though the nationally licensed gun dealers still would fill out the routine paperwork, House Bill 5225 would eliminate these prerequisites for buyers purchasing from private sellers — in person or online. Michigan’s current model is not the most effective at preventing and solving crimes, but this law would make purchasing guns even easier while increasing the difficulty of tracking down criminals. Our country needs a stricter and more organized form of gun control — Michigan is no exception. With the passage of this law, we would not only be ignoring this need, but taking a step in the opposite direction.
One of the major arguments for the bill is that the current system is expensive to maintain and that this money could be put to better use. Supporters say that with the federal restrictions already in place, the money spent on the state system is a redundant waste. However, statistics show that almost half the gun sales in Michigan are transacted through private sellers, and documentation for these sales would no longer be required. The police argue that these records are sometimes the key factor in finding and prosecuting criminal suspects. The claims that funding is being squandered on this system crudely discount the urgency of bringing a violent criminal to justice.
The faith in the competency of the federal gun control system as a catchall for criminals is misplaced. In numerous instances, such as the Aurora shootings, people with criminal intent purchased guns at federally registered stores. The problem is that background checks only question the existence of mental illness or a criminal record. Underlying mental stability or intentions for purchase aren’t considered relevant. But even with these gaps in the system, a flawed paper trail is still better than none at all. In Indiana, where a similar bill was passed into law, buying a gun is as easy as picking one from a gun show.
Our country is quickly being singled out for its resistance to gun control. In other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, most firearms are banned outright. Civilians who wish to purchase a gun must prove a genuine need to do so and usually must prove they are trained in handling the weapon. Although the data connecting restrictive gun laws to fewer violent crimes is inconclusive, the call for stricter gun control is not only logical, but also is supported throughout the world.
The state senate should not pass this proposed law. Relaxing gun control is the exact opposite of what needs to be done and the passage of this law could lead to further attempts to weaken the system. The federal system itself must be strengthened so that people like James Eagan Holmes no longer slip through the cracks. Many countries have already realized the dangers behind the free sale of handguns and have taken appropriate measures. It’s time we follow their lead.