Background checks for guns: reasonable, responsible

April 18, 2013
Ernie Lopez represents District 6 in Delaware State Senate.

Over the course of my election efforts for the state Senate last year, voters heard me repeatedly stress that if elected to office, I would do all that I could to protect our most vulnerable populations. I meant it. Since being sworn into office and taking an oath “always to place the public interests above any special or personal interest,” it has become clear to me that as a means to improve the safety of the public and to protect the seller of a firearm from liability, a background check is not only reasonable but responsible.

More importantly, nothing about background checks or anything else in House Bill 35 prevents a law-abiding citizen from obtaining a gun or infringes upon the 2nd Amendment. Nothing.

As a member of the National Rifle Association and someone who serves a district where hunting and sporting traditions run through generations of eastern Sussex County families, my decision to support the expansion of background checks did not come without consultation from those I respect and represent. I heard from hundreds of constituents with strong feelings both for and against the legislation.

Yet at the end of the day, the simple facts, not the emotions of either side of the argument, rang true. By expanding background checks to protect private sellers and adding an amendment forbidding background checks and the related paperwork from being used for any type of gun registry or gun owner database, I believe we have reached the point that all legislators strive to achieve: the improvement of an imperfect process that demanded our attention.

In 1999, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime and made the following remark: “We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere. For anyone.” Sounds reasonable, right? Since that time, though, Mr. LaPierre has changed his position and brought us, along with the anti-gun lobbying groups, to a debate deserving meaningful discussion.

We saw just last week how two United States senators from different parties came together to propose just the kind of pragmatic solutions that many of us were craving, as Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey emphasized when he said he didn’t consider “criminal background checks to be gun control. I think it’s just common sense.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Let me also say, however, that the same common-sense approach does not ring true about the other proposed gun legislation before the Delaware General Assembly, such as purporting to ban certain weapons already widely owned and used. Those bills will do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of those who intend to do us harm and are not consistent with the 2nd Amendment.

I am honored to represent over 42,000 constituents in the 6th State Senate District. Among those constituents are lifelong hunters and firearm enthusiasts and the grandmother of one of the children killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. My friends, we get elected to office to make tough decisions and while my vote may upset a few, including leaders in my party, I will stand firm knowing that the vast majority of my constituents felt as I did on this bill and will not yield in addressing the needs and concerns all of us share.

I am humbled to share my views and set the record straight about my positions on this matter which have been smeared and distorted by those who choose “cafeteria style” which portions of the Constitution to cite and defend for their own purposes.

I do not represent any one party or position, but all of you in the 6th District, and I am honored to do so on such an important issue.

  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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