By: MILES PREKOSKI
Every year, multiple tragedies cause the death of many innocent people, bringing up the constant debate of gun control and background checks.
But what do these background checks even consist of? And why do these shootings happen so much in the U.S, but not in any other developed country? I looked into this, in search of finding a way to change what is going on.
In order to have a privately owned gun in the U.S., you have to complete Form 4473. This brief form consists of only 16 questions, ranging from criminal history to your background and drug use. The government then contacts the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Once you’re approved, you may purchase a privately owned gun.
Sixteen questions determine whether you can own a gun. That seems inadequate.
While researching this I couldn’t help but think about the most recent Las Vegas shooting in early October. Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old man who committed the tragic mass shooting, passed all his background checks, allowing him to own over 20 guns. Paddock, who brought over 10 different bags full of guns, killed over 50 people.
Even though Paddock wasn’t formally diagnosed as mentally ill, and there isn’t a way of knowing, we could assume to some degree that there was a mental illness associated with Paddock.
Background checks need to be more in depth to ensure that people like Paddock can be prevented from owning over 20 guns. Just filling out a 16 question test is not enough. When looking into what background checks entail, I found that, although 275 million background checks have been issued, only 27,992 applicants have been denied from purchasing a gun because they were mentally ill, according to The Trace, a non-profit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States.
There are simple ways to make sure that a patient is not mentally ill; however, asking them a mere 16 questions can’t do that. No matter what, better screening for mental health patients is a crucial step to reducing gun violence. As of now, simple things like owning a car, disposing of batteries, even recycling all have more regulations than buying a gun in the U.S.
These background checks are not only inadequate, but are also conducted more than any other developed country in the world. A study by the Small Arms Survey, a mandate that looks at aspects of gun violence, conducted in 2007 shows there are 88 privately owned guns per 100 people in the U.S., the most guns per capita in the entire world, almost doubling Yemen, with 54.8 guns per capita.
A similar study by Josh Tewksbury, director of Future Earth Global Hub in Colorado, showed that the ratio between guns per 100 people, and gun deaths per 100,000 people, are extremely high. In fact, more gun-related deaths occur in the U.S. than any other developed country. Ever.
The unusual obsession with guns in the U.S. has gone too far. We can change this by issuing more in depth background checks and making sure background checks are reasonable and adequate.