by Johnny Zokovitch
in National Catholic Reporter
NOTE: This op-ed was written prior to the events in Atlanta this week.
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate our nation’s health and political news, we need to be looking ahead at some of the issues that have affected our society for decades, such as gun violence. Since passing the assault weapons ban in 1994, Congress has shrugged its shoulders after every mass shooting and every horrific murder that has made headlines. Instead of taking action, our politicians have stayed mum or offered “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families.
As a Catholic, I know the power of prayer, but our representatives owe us more than thoughts and prayers. They need to take action to protect all of us.
Two bills that passed the House of Representatives last week aim to do just that. Many people incorrectly believe that we already have a system in which a gun buyer is required to successfully undergo a background check before purchasing a weapon. In reality, private sellers and most internet sales are exempt from background checks under federal law. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 is a bill that would subject all firearm purchases to a background check, regardless of the seller. Another draft law, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, would close the “Charleston loophole” in which a gun buyer is considered to have passed a background check if the check is not completed quickly.
Those bills passed the House last week and will now move to the Senate, where they face an uncertain future.
These regulations are all too necessary. In Odessa, Texas, in 2019, a man who failed a background check at a gun store was able to purchase a weapon from a private seller and shoot 32 people, seven fatally. The Charleston loophole is so named because a man in Charleston, South Carolina, who should have failed a background check, was cleared and allowed to purchase a firearm in 2015. He went on to kill nine people at the Emanuel AME Church…