Universal Background Checks: An upgrade from “thoughts and prayers”
TW: Mention of gun violence
*This article contains the opinions of the author and does not represent PSN’s opinions*
First grade presented itself with spelling tests, behavioral scolding, and celebratory pizza parties. It was in these classrooms that we were taught how to grasp a pencil, multiply, and how to distinguish nouns from verbs. The concept was simple: nouns are either a person, place, thing, or idea and verbs are actions.
US lawmakers clearly missed the lecture.
Following the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting, an incomprehensible tragedy, those in political power coined the phrase “thoughts and prayers.” The expression was intended to express their condolences to those who’ve suffered; it was never meant to solve the problem. 23 years have passed since Columbine, and the government continues to fool the general public into thinking these two nouns will solve gun violence. School shooters have been taking advantage of the federal government’s idleness since the notorious 1999 shooting. At least 1/8 of gun-related massacres in post-Columbine America were executed by gunmen that never had a background check.
Those shootings killed a minimum of 446 people.
Reciting the same useless mantra each time a tragedy happens is the equivalent to placing a bandage over a deep wound. It doesn’t work. The US needs to combat this bloody epidemic, but not with thoughts and prayers, rather closing the background check loopholes. Federal law doesn’t require private parties (gun shows, online dealers, etc.) to conduct background checks on prospective buyers. This is because the decision is given to individual states and most states don’t require universal background checks. I live in Florida, a state nicknamed the “Gunshine State.” Following the Parkland tragedy, Florida lawmakers enacted “Red Flag” laws— laws that allow court officials to ban a “dangerous” individual from owning a firearm. These laws did absolutely nothing in preventing 3 gunmen from entering my high school campus with assault rifles, ready to massacre the student body by the first lunch wave.
Recently, the house passed Rep. Thompson’s (D. CA) Bill H.R.8: Bipartisan Background Checks of 2021. The bill was designed to prohibit firearm exchanges between private parties unless a licensed individual, importer, or manufacturer conducted a background check. H.R.8 grants some grace; for example, transfers of firearms between spouses are allowed so long as the transfer is in good faith. At this moment, H.R.8 is being read by the Senate for the second time and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders as of May 2022. But even with their slim majority in numbers, Democrats are still struggling to get lawmakers on board. If the US passes H.R.8, then gun violence would be reduced because it would make firearms more scarce.
We at JEP encourage you to contact your senators, especially if you live in a Republican state, and urge them to vote in favor of H.R.8. Research gun legislation, attend protests, and support mental health treatment for gun violence victims. Your actions have the power to end thoughts and prayers. At JEP, we provide various resources for activists who seek to get involved in the movement. Visit our website for research, toolkits, and webinars that provide more information regarding gun violence in America and other ways you can help.