Why Isn’t Congress Passing More Preventative Laws?

Amzad Ali, age 14, and IndyKids Staff

Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Flickr / K3nna


After the February 14 school shooting at in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers in Congress began work on a bipartisan bill to improve the background check system for owning guns.

The current background National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was created in 1998. Since then, it has blocked the sales of over 2.4 million guns. However, the NICS does not check about 40 percent of gun sales, which can happen between individuals, at gun shows, or online.

The system has also failed in the past due to poor record keeping and different levels of state cooperation, which is why officials say that the Charleston shooter, Dylan Roof, was approved for a handgun even though he shouldn’t have been.

In a speech on February 27, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Not just a little something here, a little something there, but comprehensive background checks are supported overwhelmingly by the American people.” Paul Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting, encouraged people to contact Speaker Paul Ryan, stating that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. Advocates for more comprehensive background checks also point to mental illness and domestic violence as indicators that someone should not own a gun.

By the end of February, Senator Mike Lee from Utah placed a hold on the bill, and House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he didn’t plan to consider any new gun legislation unless the Senate acts first.

Similar bills have stalled in Congress in the past, and bills that become laws are often criticized for being too full of loopholes to be effective. One such law was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. It banned manufacturers from making assault weapons for private citizens until it expired 10 years later and put a limit on how many bullets can be stored in a magazine.

However, it didn’t prevent anyone from owning such a gun that had already been manufactured and failed to define what an assault weapon was clearly enough to ban more than 18 guns that were not often used in crimes.

Bipartisan: Supported by both political parties.

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