Would You Submit to a Background Check to Save a Child’s Life?

Every year in this country, over 4,000 children die as a result of guns. Approximately 60 percent of those deaths are due to assault, with the remainder being the result of suicide. Only automobile accidents cause more deaths among children than guns. It is in that context that Barack Obama said that the worst day of his presidency came on December 14, 2012 when 20 children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He also said that his failure to pass common sense gun safety measures is his biggest regret.

According to a study published in Pediatrics on Monday, if congress had passed universal background checks for buying a gun following the Newtown shooting, it is possible that almost 1,000 of the children who have died since then as a result of guns would be alive today.

Children living in states with strict firearm laws are less likely to die from gun violence than those in states with more lax restrictions, according to a study in Pediatrics published Monday. The more rigorous the rules, the lower the risk, the researchers showed…

States with stricter gun control laws had 4% fewer pediatric deaths, and those with universal background checks for firearm purchases in place for at least five years had a 35% lower risk, the study found…

In the new study, every 10 point increase in a state’s gun law score correlated with an 8% drop in firearm-related deaths. The protective effects remained even after the researchers took into account other variables, like gun ownership, education levels, race and income levels, registering a 4% drop in firearm-related deaths.

“These data suggest that strict firearm legislation may be protective of children even in areas of high gun ownership,” the researchers wrote.

With data like this, it is impossible to fathom why this country fails to pass even the most modest gun safety measures, like universal background checks. There is no explanation other than the fact that those who oppose such legislation place a higher value on gun ownership than they do on the lives of children. That is unconscionable.

Of course, all of that presupposes that we all believe in science, research, and data. If that were the case, the U.S. wouldn’t be the only country in the world that isn’t a signatory to the Paris climate agreement. I’d postulate that there is a lot of overlap between those who are willing to destroy the planet rather than accept what scientists tell us about climate change, and those who are willing to sacrifice our children’s lives to gun deaths for the same reason.

But here’s the problem with that: even if you don’t buy this research, what would it cost you to agree to a requirement that all gun purchasers be subject to a background check? On the chance that it could possibly save one child’s life, wouldn’t that be worth it?

I don’t understand the people who object to something so basic. If most of them didn’t also claim the mantle of being “pro-life,” it might make a little more sense. But honestly America, can’t we take this one small step and save a few lives?

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.