Originally Published: April 3, 2013 10 p.m.
The U.S. Senate might actually pass legislation that has a chance to reduce gun violence.
Some advocates of stronger gun laws were discouraged recently when the Senate dropped provisions to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines from legislation that will be considered starting next week.
But what remains - a bill that would expand background checks when guns are purchased and stiffen penalties for straw purchases - is perhaps the single measure that could do the most to tamp down the shootings in America's neighborhoods.
Mass shootings with assault weapons are awful when they occur, but over the course of a year far more Americans are killed by handguns, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Look at it this way: virtually all firearms start out as legal, but gaps in our laws allow guns to flow from legal to illegal hands. We need universal background checks, because we need to stop making it easy for criminals to buy guns.
Under the "gun show loophole," no record-keeping is required in private gun sales, which now account for two out of every five firearms transactions, according to the Sun-Times. Plus, a "straw purchaser" - someone with valid credentials who buys guns for those who can't legally purchase them - can easily operate in the nether region where no records exist.
That's a huge loophole, and truckloads of guns are driven right through it - such as with the flawed Fast and Furious operation.
The NRA opposes universal background checks. According to the Associated Press, it helped push through a measure that prohibits the FBI from hanging on for longer than 24 hours to records of those who pass the existing background check system. That makes it hard to spot a pattern of straw purchases.
Waiting for the U.S. Senate to act, though, is not enough. We need to act on the state level, too. Even if the U.S. Senate bill does advance, its prospects are uncertain in the U.S. House. Arizona is among 33 states that have a gun show loophole; you can buy a gun at a gun show and not have to pass a background check. Arizona's HB2381, which would have closed the loophole, died in the state House; in fact, it was not even heard in committees.
Still on the table in Arizona is HB2326, which restricts the ability of political subdivisions to keep records that identify people who own, sell or transfer firearms. It passed out of the House on March 7 and is in the Senate right now.
What remains missing are requirements that gun owners report lost or stolen weapons and something to at least prop up mental health aid and tracking.
We can only pray at this point.