A dangerous debate on gun reform is brewing in Indiana. Despite appeals raised directly by local law enforcement leaders, for the second time in two years the state’s Republican-dominated legislature attempted to advance a controversial proposal that would eliminate permit requirements to carry a handgun in the state.
In its original form, this bill would allow tens of thousands of residents who’ve never completed a background check to now be able to openly carry a handgun in public.
While I’m pleased to report that a state Senate panel nixed this controversial permitless measure from the bill in a close vote last week, it is far from the end of this eight-year effort by Indiana House Republicans.
To Illinois residents, it may sound heartening that Indiana’s already lax gun laws stop at state lines. But the harsh reality is that guns do not.
A 2017 report from the city of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department and University of Chicago Crime Lab found that nearly 60% of guns recovered in the city came from out-of-state dealers, the vast majority of which were from Indiana. Just last year, Chicago filed a lawsuit against a northern Indiana gun store, claiming more than 850 illegal firearms recovered in the city were traced back to one gun store in Gary.
We need real, federal action from Congress to pass universal background checks because, without it, our gun laws are only as good as our neighbors. And right now, Indiana is far from our only neighbor that is lenient when it comes to firearms.
The Giffords Law Center, founded by former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords, released their Annual Gun Law Scorecard this week. The report, which ranks states based on their common-sense gun safety laws, gave Illinois an “A-”. Surrounding the Land of Lincoln, however, are Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky which received an “F,” Indiana which was awarded a “D-” and Wisconsin with a “C-”.
While we can’t change what states border Illinois, we can pass common-sense federal legislation that would better protect the lives of not only Chicagoans and Illinoisans but Americans in every state.
Nearly a year ago to this day, I voted to pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, a long overdue, common-sense gun violence prevention measure that would require a background check for every gun sale or transfer in the nation. Yes, you read that right, the bill is bipartisan among representatives in the House as well as voters too, with more than 80% of Americans supporting universal background checks.
During my years working in the grassroots gun safety movement over the last 25 years as well as Moms Demand Action, I met hundreds of Americans who lost loved ones to gun violence at the hands of domestic abusers, stalkers and dangerous individuals who should have never had access to a firearm in the first place. Overruling lenient state gun laws, this bill would prevent those tragedies from ever taking place by closing gun loopholes and ensuring background checks take place for all firearm sales.
Yet, one month after it passed the House, the National Rifle Association spent $2 million on a campaign targeting senators to oppose the bill. And it is in the Senate where the bill remains today, stalled indefinitely due to the threat of a Republican filibuster. With money from the NRA funneling into their pockets, senators are doing the gun lobby’s bidding by choosing politics over the lives of the American people.
To the vast majority of Americans, the background checks bill is plain common sense, but we are running out of time. I’m not just talking about midterm elections and Democratic control in the House, Senate and White House — I’m talking about thousands of American lives.
Last year was one of the worst years for nationwide gun violence in decades. So far this year, more than 6,100 Americans have died from gun violence. Less than three months into the new year, there have been more than 60 mass shootings across our country. Americans are tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They want real, concrete legislation at the federal level.
The time to act was decades ago. The second-best time is right now.
I urge our senators to pass universal background checks before the end of the year because, without it, these dangerous bills and lenient gun laws in surrounding states such as Indiana will continue to make our own communities less safe.
Rep. Marie Newman represents Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.