One instance where a background check should have stopped a firearms sale was the case of Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in 2007 on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Cho had been deemed mentally ill by a judge, which is one of the criteria used to disqualify people trying to buy a gun. But Cho's case apparently slipped through the cracks and he passed a background check, which enabled him to go out and purchase two weapons.
One instance where the "gun show loophole" was apparently exploited was the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. In that case, however, the shotguns and rifles were bought by a friend of legal age who would have passed a background check, had she been subjected to one. The crime in this case was illegally buying guns for minors. However, the woman was never prosecuted. What is the point of passing any gun law if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, even when the violation leads to horrific results?
Another adult sold a pistol to the Columbine killer and he was prosecuted. But, if the individual was going to violate the law anyway, does anyone think he would have submitted to a background check before doing so?
While Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration are urging us to pass largely cosmetic legislation that would be unlikely to save a single life, they are strangely silent about legislation needed to repel a different threat: attacks by terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers.
According to one news report, the FBI didn't think it had the authority to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev. If correct, then Congress should make it clear that the agency does have that authority. A bigger problem is that — despite efforts since 9/11 — federal agencies are doing a miserable job of sharing the information they have. Surely Congress can do something to improve on what The Wall Street Journal called a Keystone Cops routine in this case.
Congress can also do something to prod Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to do its job. According to the Justice Department's own investigation, the ATF has failed to inspect 58 percent of the nation's gun dealers in the past five years. Among those it did inspect, the agency discovered that 175,000 guns were missing and presumed lost or stolen.
P.S.: Massachusetts has the "toughest gun control legislation in the country."
John C. Goodman is President of the Goodman Institute and a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts.”