Why I Support Background Checks

Peacham, VT gun owner Bruce Maclean shares his reasons for supporting criminal background checks on all gun sales.

I’ve been a gun owner in Vermont for close to 40 years. Guns are an integral part of the culture of this rural state. Generations of Vermonters have engaged in the sport of hunting and everyone who has lived in this state for any length of time understands the role of hunters in maintaining a healthy population for a wide assortment of wildlife.

That being said, I believe as do the overwhelming majority of gun owners in this state, that the time is long overdue for Vermont to embrace background checks on all gun sales and purchases. We don’t allow just anyone to drive a motor vehicle. Why then, do we not treat guns in the same manner? Can anyone seriously make the claim that guns are less lethal than an automobile?

Some people say the focus should not be on background checks for guns, but on increased attention to issues of mental health. Yes, there is a mental health crisis in this country, and Vermont is no exception to this concern, in large part because mental health is chronically underfunded. However, no doctor can guarantee that his or her patient/s would never pick up and use a gun in a stressful situation. Making this determination is an unfair burden to put on our doctors who work in this critical field. While measures can be taken to improve mental health services, requiring background checks is an essential step in addition to improving mental health safeguards.

On a personal note, I have travelled to over seventy countries and I can’t begin to tell you how many times, people ask me about the gun culture in the US. Most often they want to know why we accept the violence that goes with a country awash with guns and why we do not act to curb it. People abroad find it mind boggling and incomprehensible that people in so many areas of the country can buy a gun with absolutely no background checks whatsoever. Needless to say, I have no adequate answers for them. I walk away from these conversations profoundly embarrassed and humiliated.

The time has come for a Universal Background Check Law in Vermont. In states where background checks are the law, evidence shows that there is a significant decrease in violence, especially domestic violence. Vermont, which has been the leader in this country on so many issues, can and must do better.

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