Editorials

Background checks thin protection for kids at school

President Barack Obama pauses Tuesday as he speaks in the East Room of the White House about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence.
President Barack Obama pauses Tuesday as he speaks in the East Room of the White House about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. AP

President Obama cried Tuesday when he remembered the first-graders of Sandy Hook. There is a lot of emotion invested in the gun control debate, and the mass shootings put almost everyone somewhere on the spectrum of terrified to woeful to irate.

Obama used his executive powers to order increased background checks and make more gun sellers subject to conducting the checks. He invoked the many mass shootings and also the daily carnage in his native Chicago. On the same day the U.S. Senate minority whip, Sen. Dick Durbin, was in one of Chi-Raq’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods to push the president’s executive order.

What no one is hearing from the chief executive or minority whip is how background checks would have stopped Sandy Hook, San Bernardino or the other mass shootings. He is not explaining how adding a few background checks will make a difference, but is asking for faith that even one life saved is worth it.

It is easy to understand the imperative to “do something,” but unabashedly bypassing Congress is not the way our nation was intended to work. Obama vilifies the National Rifle Association and its clout in Congress, using that as an excuse to act unilaterally. The democratic path of convincing a majority that his measures are correct and will be effective is too steep for this late-term president and his low approval ratings.

If you were to extend the logic that background checks will create safety, then only universal checks would work. What’s democratic or effective about treating some sellers and buyers differently just because they are at a store or gun show or private home?

It would be so easy to believe that “doing something” will accomplish something, but Durbin grew up in East St. Louis. Obama spent his adult life on Chicago’s streets. Both know how easy it is for a motivated killer to get a gun regardless of background checks.

The greater threat may be bypassing democracy so you can create the illusion of safety.

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