Background checks do make sense

I am writing to point out the flawed logic and inaccuracies in a letter from a reader on the subject of background checks for firearm purchases. Mr. Todd Welch’s letter, “Hysteria isn’t common sense,” was a rambling juxtaposition of accusations and selective statistics that never really reached a conclusion, other than accusing those who advocate for common sense background checks, as your April 18 editorial did, to engaging in “emotional hysteria.”

Assuming his vaguely referenced statistics are correct, Mr. Welch’s brand of common sense goes something like this: since “only” about 14 percent of guns used in criminal acts came from outlets such as gun shows, pawn shops, flea markets or retail outlets, why bother making their firearms transactions subject to background checks?

Chief among his flawed assertions were his observation that states with the most stringent gun laws had the most gun-related murders. There’s a slight chicken and egg problem there. His logic also completely ignores the fact that firearms can very easily cross borders from states with less restrictive regulations to states with more stringent gun laws. His insinuation also happens to be false. A recent study by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health researchers (JAMA Internal Medicine, May 13, 2013) concluded that “a higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually.”

Finally, as polls consistently show, most people think having someone mildly inconvenienced by a background check prior to purchasing a gun is reasonable, just as we ask someone who owns a car to take a test before allowing them to drive a car. The only people who take issue with that are the hysterical ones.

Larry Wechsler


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