Opinion | Background checks are an essential form for gun safety

Background checks are already a feeble attempt at mitigating the dangers associated with gun ownership, and removing them could come at the cost of Iowans lives.


Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones, 52, at his gun shop in Redding on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. Jones, newly elected, unlocked the doors to the supervisors’ chambers to hold an unauthorized in-person meeting to protest statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

Over the years, gun safety has been a major concern for Americans. It’s even more so for Iowans now that Gov. Kim Reynolds has rolled back requirements for obtaining a permit to purchase a handgun, which could in turn reduce background checks when buying handguns in private sales.

The law does not directly eliminate background checks in private sales, but removing the requirement to get a permit before purchasing a handgun removes the step of passing a required background check, making them unnecessary for private sales. Iowans will still need to pass a background check when buying from a federally licensed dealer.

Despite background checks being inadequate in protecting people from gun violence, they are the least we can be doing to attempt some form of gun safety — especially with gun violence being on the rise. Last year marked the highest death toll due to gun violence the U.S. has seen in over two decades.

In Iowa, 79 percent of gun deaths are suicides according to data taken as of last February. Mental health is almost always brought up in conjunction with gun violence and mass shooting. Access to guns is a risk for the people who struggle with mental health who have the potential to harm themselves.

Although access to mental health resources is a concern in Iowa, eliminating the need for background checks when buying handguns will only exacerbate the issue and endanger people who struggle with mental health.

A study from Stanford Medicine found that men who own handguns are eight times more likely to die by gun suicide than men who don’t. Women are even more at risk, with those who own handguns being 35 times more likely to die by gun suicide than those who don’t.

Additionally, gun deaths are the second leading cause of death in Iowa for children and teens, with the majority of these deaths being suicides. Further, Black youth are four times more likely than white youth to die from gun violence.

Not only are common-sense laws and background checks essential in protecting the lives of Iowans, but the majority of Iowans support these necessary safety measures. According to a poll taken in September of last year, the vast majority of Iowans affiliated with all political parties approve of background checks for all gun sales.

Reynolds herself was in support of background checks being in place in 2018 and 2019, having voted for them in 2010.

Since background checks are not a concern for the vast majority of the state, there is no reason for there to be legislation facilitating in the accessibility for Iowans to obtain deadly weapons.

Background checks are not a threat to anyone’s rights to bear arms. They are a safety measure that in and of itself has proven not to be sufficient, but it’s one form of gun safety that we need. Over time gun deaths in Iowa and nationally have been on the rise. From 2005 to 2018, gun deaths in Iowa jumped up by 38 percent.

Reynolds claimed this new legislation will uphold the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Iowans. The safety measure behind background checks are comparable to the safety measure taken in drivers’ education. They are not restrictive; they are intended to ensure people are as safe as they can be when using a gun or driving.

We should not be more concerned with protecting people’s rights to deadly weapons that cause the death of about 270 Iowans in a year than with protecting the actual lives of Iowans. Although they can be insufficient in themselves, background checks are the bare minimum that can be done to attempt to mitigate the danger of owning guns.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.