Center for American Progress

RELEASE: The Gun Debate after Newtown – Assessing 6 Key Claims About Background Checks
Press Release

RELEASE: The Gun Debate after Newtown – Assessing 6 Key Claims About Background Checks

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. — The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year last December reignited the debate on whether to strengthen federal and state gun laws, in particular by expanding background checks. A new report, released today by the Center for American Progress, explores the trajectory of that debate, contextualizes common talking points from the national discussion, and recommends future steps for how we as a nation can work to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

“One year ago, 26 children and teachers were murdered in a school in Connecticut. As shocking as that crime was, what is also startling is the disjunction between what the American public, in overwhelming numbers, are demanding in terms of action to strengthen our country’s gun laws and what our political system has so far been able to deliver,” said Arkadi Gerney, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “And yet, there are many signs of progress. Because of the action of many states and President Barack Obama’s executive orders, gun laws are now stronger. The movement for common-sense gun laws is stronger than ever because Americans—mothers and mayors, gun-violence survivors and gun-owners alike—are coalescing and organizing, in greater numbers every day, around one goal: let us do more to keep guns out of hands of dangerous people.”

Following the shooting at Newtown, passing a universal background check law ascended as the primary policy proposal to combat gun violence. The debate over background checks too often devolved into sound bites, which gave rise to a number of widespread misunderstandings about the universal background checks proposal and its potential effects on gun violence. The report, titled “The Gun Debate 1 Year After Newtown: Assessing Six Key Claims About Background Checks” assesses six key claims that have been made about background checks in the past year, and seeks to set the record straight. The claims addressed in the report include:

  • 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check.
  • Few criminals visit gun shows to acquire guns illegally.
  • Universal background checks will not work because criminals will not submit to them.
  • Efforts to prevent gun violence should focus on straw purchasing from gun dealers, not gun transfers among unlicensed buyers and sellers.
  • We should not enact new laws on background checks until the federal government starts prosecuting violations of the current laws.
  • Universal background checks would harm gun dealers.

“In order to move the dial on preventing gun violence we need to help the American public move beyond misleading talking points and misunderstood statistics,” said Chelsea Parsons, co-author of the report and Associate Director of Crime and Firearms Policy at CAP. “In all the heated rhetoric surrounding the debate this past year, much of the substance about the critical role background checks play in keeping guns out of dangerous hands has been lost.”

As the nation continues to grapple with how best to address the problem of gun violence, the authors of the report strongly recommend a comprehensive solution to preventing dangerous people from acquiring guns. Recommendations highlighted in the report include:

  • Prohibit all dangerous people from owning guns.
  • Ensure that all relevant records are submitted to NICS.
  • Require background checks for all gun sales.
  • Impose strong penalties for violating gun laws.

Read the report: The Gun Debate 1 Year After Newtown: Assessing Six Key Claims About Background Checks by Arkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons

To speak with an expert, contact Katie Peters at [email protected]