Trib editorial: Post-Parkland, the case for bolstering background checks |
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Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., announced at a press conference Monday, March 5, 2018, in Philadelphia that they'll introduce a bill that will require federal authorities to notify states when a felon or a fugitive attempts to buy a firearm but fails the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

If 17 deaths at a Parkland, Fla., high school are to inspire effective action to prevent more mass shootings — not just “thoughts and prayers” before lawmakers and the public move on — consensus must form for passage of new legislation. That’s a tall order in today’s hyper-polarized political environment.

But U.S. Sen Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has a good, bipartisan idea for just such a measure, which deserves to become law.

Along with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Mr. Toomey proposes requiring federal authorities to notify state law enforcers when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System rejects attempted gun purchases by felons or fugitives, according to The Associated Press. As Toomey says, this proposal respects Second Amendment rights while “making it more difficult for people who shouldn’t have firearms to obtain them.”

What’s proposed wouldn’t prevent all mass shootings or shut down criminals’ black-market gun transfers. But it would strengthen existing safeguards by bolstering background checks for those seeking firearms from licensed dealers — a system that has failed to keep guns out of the hands of some past mass shooters.

Whether the Toomey-Coons proposal will become part of a Senate background-check bill dubbed “Fix NICS,” which has bipartisan and National Rifle Association support, is unclear. But post-Parkland, strengthening background checks is an idea that all Americans can and should support — and one that Congress should pass.

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