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The Nation's New Gun Rules Have Come At The State Level


Often, a terrible incident like this starts - or more accurately, reignites - debate about whether there is a political solution or not. This time, President Obama articulated a political case right away in an emotional appearance before the press on Friday.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

MARTIN: Despite President Obama's calls for action, efforts to tighten federal gun laws have been largely unsuccessful in recent years, but state legislatures are a different story. To find out more on that, we called Dan Gross. He's the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and he's been working for some two decades now to pass laws requiring background checks nationwide.

DAN GROSS: Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, six states have actually expanded Brady background checks to all gun sales. And some have been through the state legislatures, and some have been through ballot initiatives. And then for next year, it's already on the ballot - the expansion of background checks to all gun sales is already on the ballot in Nevada. And the proposal is sitting with the Secretary of State in Maine.

MARTIN: And that includes all gun sales, including at gun shows - not just in freestanding gun shops. But what about person-to-person gun sales, or selling a gun from one individual to another?

GROSS: So right now the law - you know, the Brady Law that was passed in 1993 and implemented in 1994 requires background checks at every federally licensed firearm dealers. The problem is that gun shows, since then, have become big commercial business, and the Internet has become another opportunity for that. So that's really what we're talking about. You sometimes will hear it referred to as the gun show loophole or the Internet loophole. That's what we're talking about. The business that is conducted under the guise of private sales, where people are selling guns without background checks - which amounts to thousands in this country every day.

MARTIN: Is the main goal of people who are working in support of more restrictive policies to get universal background checks - is that the main goal?

GROSS: Yeah. I'd rephrase that. I don't want to use the term goal and restrictive policies in the same sentence. The goal isn't to restrict anything other than keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And the greatest opportunity to do that is to expand background checks to all gun sales.

MARTIN: What about on the other side of it? Are there initiatives to make gun policies less restrictive, and are those also taking place, and if so, where?

GROSS: That's not how we keep score - in terms of more restrictive or less restrictive. Nobody's seeking - at least my organization is not seeking to restrict gun use or gun ownership other than to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

MARTIN: OK. We can argue about that, but that is a restriction, I mean, whether you think it's a worthy one or not. I'm just looking for a sort of a neutral language that doesn't embrace an ideological point of view, which other people may not agree with. You see my point? I'm not trying to argue with you.

GROSS: Right, but restrictive isn't an ideological point of view.

MARTIN: But you are trying to restrict them from people you consider dangerous or that other people commonly consider dangerous.

GROSS: Right. OK. So if you want to talk about it like that, you know, are there laws that are making it more permissive...

MARTIN: Right.

GROSS: ...For dangerous people to be able to get guns? We have no problem with people having - who can pass background checks and, you know, aren't a threat to have even concealed carry licenses. So there's some people who consider granting of a concealed carry permit making gun ownership more permissive. You know, that's not a concern of ours. To us, this is not as much a matter of keeping certain guns away from all people as it is a matter of keeping all guns away from certain people. And it's the certain people that we all agree shouldn't have them.

MARTIN: That's Dan Gross, he's the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Dan Gross, thanks for speaking with us.

GROSS: Thanks, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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