Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why Are These Six Democratic Senators On The Fence About Universal Background Checks?

After axing the assault weapons ban from the Senate’s comprehensive gun violence prevention plan, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is struggling to scrape together enough votes to pass the centerpiece of the plan: universal background checks. Republicans are refusing to vote for it, and even several Democrats in red states are wavering on their support. According to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, these key votes include Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Universal background checks are considered essential to the gun bill. They would close the “gun show loophole” that currently allows anyone to skip a background check if they buy a gun through a private sale. “Private” transactions between individuals or at gun shows are the origin point for 80 percent of guns used in crimes.

ThinkProgress examined data from the home states of six Democratic senators currently on the fence: Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, and North Dakota. According to the most recent data available, these six states had: 1) 1,462 gun murders in 2010; 2) 351 gun deaths since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre at the end of last year; and 3) widespread support for universal background checks (following the national trend). Meanwhile, 152 gun shows are scheduled to take place in these states this year, providing criminals who can’t pass background checks in stores with ample opportunity to stock up on guns. All of the states, with the exception of North Carolina, allow individuals to buy guns at these shows without any review:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his pro-gun regulation group Mayors Against Illegal Guns recently launched an ad blitz to encourage residents in 13 key states to lobby their senators to support the proposal. Sen. Donnelly (D-IN) is reportedly considering “a bipartisan compromise on background checks.”

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