The Truth About Registration

by Joan Peterson

It’s that season again. You know- the Presidential election where myths and lies are being spouted as the truth. We are witnessing the dumbing down of American politics where one of the candidates is actually fomenting violence at his rallies- that would be one Donald Trump of course. Here is a comment that should be frightening to us all from an article I read this morning:

Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power. When an evicted protester appeared at the doors of the Peabody, it was like a scene out of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: gazing down at a sea of rage, the demonstrator descended the stairs and the crowd tensed to pounce.

American history is filled with ordinary people doing unspeakable things: a country where wholesome families treated lynchings as social occasions and witch trials as spectacles. As the voice of a demagogue blared from a theater, protesters were beaten and his supporters laughed, cheered and cheered. Trump proclaimed it good.

Extraordinary fury was unleashed by the ordinary, in plain sight, in the midday sun, and political darkness rose.

Yup. This sounds about right for some Trump fans who are ramped up by their candidate’s violent rhetoric and allowing violent protests at his rallies so he can make demeaning and racist comments about the protesters. This is just not OK.  Armed citizens at rallies or forming an angry militia for their candidate is not only dangerous and speaks of insurrection, it is ludicrous and should be alarming to us all.

Let’s make America nice again ( I have seen caps with this slogan on them).

What I wrote above is about a real situation and a possible threat and not a myth. But let’s talk about the oft promoted myth by the gun lobbyists that closing the private seller loophole in our gun laws will just inevitably and certainly lead to gun registration followed by, of course, confiscation of their guns. Check, for example, this article in City Pages, a Minnesota publication,  about the criminal background check bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature last week. A comment from the article goes like this:

At the same time that Latz and Schoen introduced their bill, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus launched the predictable shrieking in opposition.

“Senator Latz and Representative Schoen have unveiled a gun control bill that is being portrayed as a comprehensive gun safety measure. In fact, this bill is nothing more than a gun owner registration bill, requiring law-abiding citizens to submit government paperwork for any purchase or transfer of a firearm,” said executive director Bryan Strawser.

Yes. Predictable and wrong. Since 1994, federally licensed dealers have been required to perform Brady background checks on sales of guns. There was a provision in that bill that protected private sellers from requiring these criminal background checks because it was thought that collectors and occasional sellers should not need to go through the bother of the paper work ( which takes about 3 minutes).

But things have changed since 1994. There are many many more private sellers selling the same guns as federally licensed dealers without asking sellers to go through background checks. That allows for people to slip through the cracks who could be domestic abusers, felons, adjudicated mentally ill or other prohibited categories for gun buyers. Sellers have no idea to whom they are selling guns without that background check.

Further, the system now in place for over 20 years has not resulted in gun confiscation. That is the nonsensical part of this mythical argument. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen under the new laws. It is not happening in the states that have passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales. So why keep saying it? Because they have gotten away with it in the past. But we know better and we are telling people the truth.

The truth matters just as lives matter. In fact, the truth matters to save lives. Look at the photo in the article of 3 people who are friends of mine. They have all lost loved ones to bullets just as I have. There is a club of survivors that has a membership based on the devastation loss of a brother, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, father, child. The membership dues are high.

There is no doubt, based on facts, that background checks and other gun laws can save lives. Just this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was an interview with the former Prime Minister of Australia who changed the gun laws in his country just 6 weeks after the heinous mass shooting in Port Arthur,Tasmania. Since that time, there have been ZERO mass shootings and the gun homicide and suicide rates have gone down measurably and accountably.

Also on the CBS Sunday Morning show, there was an interview with the parents and boyfriend (Chris Hurst) of Alison Parker, the Virginia journalist who was shot on live TV. Alison’s shooting and that of cameraman Adam Ward, was a violent and live shooting that affected many Americans but most especially and tragically their family and friends. This is why we need to change something in our country. Where else do citizens watch shootings on live TV?  I have met Andy and Barbara Parker and Chris Hurst and admire them very much for their advocacy on behalf of the many victims of gun violence in America.

But back to gun registration….In the proposed federal background check law that passed in the U.S. Senate in 2013 ( 54 votes should be passage but because we need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, the bill failed to go forward) there was a provision specifically stating that there would be no registration of guns:

“If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry,” the lobbying group Gun Owners of America said. (The group added the name of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, one of the co-sponsors.)

Actually, the amendment outlawed any such registry. In fact, a registry was alreadyoutlawed, and the amendment extra outlawed it.

It declared that nothing in the legislation should be construed to “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry

But never mind. The NRA and others in the gun lobby got busy and opposed a law that could have saved lives because…..rights? Since the Sandy Hook school shooting which prompted this common sense bill, over 100,000 Americans have been shot and killed by bullets. Where were the rights of all of those people to the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

No one on my side of this debate about saving lives believes that passing a background check bill would save all lives. What we are advocating is to save as many as is possible with background check laws, safe storage of guns, awareness about the risks of guns in homes for children and vulnerable or dangerous adults, suicide awareness, or whatever else it takes. But we are NOT pushing for gun registration. Though some would say that registration would work to save even more livesMost other democratized countries not at war do require licensing and registration and other measures for the sake of public health and safety. And the result? Far far fewer gun deaths and injuries. And people are still allowed to own guns for hunting and sport shooting.

So let’s talk the truth. The majority of Minnesotans (82%) and Americans (90%+) want background checks on all gun sales. We have been held hostage by the corporate gun lobby. Or rather I should say that our legislators and Congress members have bought into the myths. Why? Follow the money and influence. It’s the American system at its’ worst. It not only leads to needless and avoidable gun deaths it leads to mythical thinking about other important issues of our day. As Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen said from the above linked article:

“You can’t lose faith that there’s an opportunity for people to see the wisdom in doing the right thing,” Schoen says. “Rep. Cornish and I actually have a really good working relationship on many issues. He has what he puts out in public, and we all know where that’s at. We have to convince legislators that their citizens will send them back to the state Capitol and they won’t be targeted because of their vote, that the outside interests’ money shouldn’t be the issue.”

Exactly. Thanks to Representative Schoen for speaking the truth. It’s time to hold our leaders and candidates responsible and accountable for their words and their actions. If they vote in favor of laws that allow dangerous people to be able to get their hands on guns, they should be called out. If they stand with victims and survivors they should be congratulated and voted back into office.

We have had #Enough. Lies, deceptions, myths, promotion of violence and dissembling can’t be the way we run our country. We are better than this.

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