Time for mandatory background checks
The buzz on the talk shows in the wake of another mass shooting has been how those who would end the violence should turn their attention away from guns and toward better background checks.
Aaron Alexis, the shooter in Monday's Navy Yard slayings in Washington, had a concealed weapons permit and a security clearance enabling him to enter the federal facility. He would have been subjected to background checks of some sort, but they must not have turned up much about his mental health treatments and his two potentially deadly gun infractions.
So, many are suggesting that the government should beef up firearms-related backgrounding because the public and the National Rifle Association will never allow other methods of restricting access to weaponry.
But guess what? The absolutist NRA has led a national effort to block measures to expand background checks to help keep guns out of the hands of the disturbed and criminally minded. At the NRA's urging, some states have weakened gun-buying requirements in recent years.
Kansas now has no law requiring private parties or firearms dealers to initiate background checks before transferring firearms. Dealers still must satisfy federal law by contacting the FBI to initiate a check, which frustrates some buyers by delaying the process. But Kansans with concealed weapons permits can buy just about any guns they want without state or federal backgrounding.
It's time for serious background checks to be mandatory nationwide and for legislators to worry more about gunshot victims and less about sportsmen upset about having to wait a week to pick up their new rifles.
What links most mass killers is their documented histories of instability. Monday's slaughter has reawakened the gun control debate, but don't expect real progress until the NRA and like-minded people realize that keeping weaponry away from disturbed people really isn't a step toward taking guns away from everyone. It is time for them to edit their old bumper stickers to say "Guns don't kill people. Mentally ill people with guns kill people."
--The Monterey (Calif.) County Herald, Sept. 18
Income gaps can be catalysts
It's a stretch to think Americans, like French peasants or Russian serfs in centuries past, will rise up and revolt to protest economic inequality in this country. But the continued growth in income disparity should concern Republicans who already think Democrats encourage class warfare to win elections.
That the rich get richer while the less affluent struggle just to maintain their lifestyles is nothing new. But the ability of the more affluent to not only survive the last recession, but to seemingly profit from it, has poorer Americans who are still trying to recover from the downturn wondering if they are getting a fair shake.
The country's wealthiest 1 percent has recovered much more quickly from the recession, seeing its incomes increase more than 31 percent between 2009 and 2012, compared with less than half a percent of growth for the other 99 percent of Americans during that period.
Research by University of California, Berkeley, economist Emmanuel Saez shows the recession didn't slow the growth in income disparity. In fact, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, those earning more than $114,000 a year, took home more than half the nation's income last year. That's the largest share of overall income acquired by a single category since that statistic was first recorded in 1917.
Just as upsetting to many Americans as the income gap is how some companies seem to be avoiding job creation even as they look for ways to exploit the economic system to boost profits.
Once again, the rich will have the opportunity to get richer while the jobless continue to look for work.
It's not engaging in class warfare to ask companies thriving after the recession to remember that adding jobs to the economy helps to ensure their success, too. It's not fomenting revolution to want to spread the wealth. It's how to put more money in the hands of consumers to make purchases of goods and services, which is the oil that keeps this country's economic engine running.
--The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 17