Letter to the Editor: Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases

When I force myself to think about the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, when I think any of those people could have been my children or grandchildren, I get angry. I get angry because those deaths were preventable through an up-to-date universal background

check system for all gun sales.  

Universal background checks would require all firearm sales, public or private, to go through a screening process using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This system was set up in the 1993 Brady law, but it was limited. It did not include the sale of guns in gun shows or between two private citizens and was limited to hand guns. Also, the NICS system date was inaccurate, because states were not required to submit the data to the NICS system in a timely manner.  But these problems are correctable with an updated federal law.

An accurate and universal background check system would require a potential gun buyer’s name and birthdate to be checked against 10 criteria, any one of which would disqualify the buyer from purchasing a gun. Those criteria are:  1. Anyone who has gone to jail for one year. 2. Anyone who is under indictment for a crime with a penalty of at least one year in jail. 3. Anyone who is a fugitive from justice. 4. Anyone who has been adjudicated a user of an addictive substance. 5. Anyone adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution. 6.  Anyone who is an illegal alien. 7. Anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the service. 8. Anyone who has renounced their U.S. citizenship. 9. Anyone who has been issued a restraining order to stay away from another person. and 10. Anyone who has committed a crime of domestic violence.

Studies are clear about what happens when these checks are used; they reduce violent deaths. The American Journal of Public Health published a study in 2015 regarding the 1995 Connecticut background check law for handguns. It found a 40 percent decline in gun homicides and a 14 percent drop in suicides in a 10-year period. The Journal of Urban Health published a study in 2007 regarding Missouri’s repeal of universal background checks for buying a handgun and found a 23 percent increase in firearm gun homicides and a 15 percent increase in the overall murder rate. These results are not perfect, or, the total answer to violent deaths. But they are a huge step in the right direction.

Ninety-six percent of Americans support this system (Gallup 10/2017).  Ninety-seven percent of gun owner households support this system (Quinnipiac 2/2018). We need to convince our Senators and Congressmen to enact Universal Background Checks on all gun purchases. Call until it is done. Call for you, your family and children everywhere. We can do this.


Patrick Cerra

Egg Harbor, Wis.

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