Political Focus: Gun violence

Melissa Deatsch, Political Columnist

The statistics surrounding gun violence are staggering. The total number of incidents involving guns in the U.S. so far this year has reached 40,321. Total number of deaths due to gun violence in the U.S. so far this year: 10,345. Total number of injuries due to gun violence: 21,523.  

Additionally, there have been 278 reports of mass shootings.  All of these statistics are from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit existing to provide free access to gun violence information by conducting extensive research of media, law enforcement, government and commercial sources.  

These statistics point to a problem that no presidential candidate can ignore.

The current background check system

The candidates agree on very little, but one thing they do agree on: the current background check system is flawed.

Under current U.S. federal law, a person cannot purchase firearms if they: have been convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors, are drug abusers, or have been involuntarily committed for mental health issues. From there, states have their own laws on any additional limitations.

However, the follow-through on these records being uploaded to the background check system are inconsistent. According to The New York Times, criminal records are uploaded most consistently, but there is a drop-off for records of drug abuse and even more so for records of mental illness.

Enforcement falls entirely to the states and the results vary dramatically, with many states complaining about the cost of inputting the records. When federal funding increased to combat this in 2007 after the Virginia Tech shooting, the number of prohibited gun buyers in the federal database tripled, according to the NYT article.  

The candidates’ differing strategies

In his attempt to combat the issue of gun violence, Trump wants to crack down on those who use guns to commit a crime.  In the Second Amendment Rights section of his campaign website, Trump cites a law in Richmond called Project Exile.  The program sent any person who used a gun to commit a crime to prison for five years.  

Project Exile received strong criticism by many who called it racist because it would have a disproportionate effect on the black community because of its area of implementation. However, the undeniable statistics after its first year in effect were a 33-percent and 20-percent decrease in homicides and armed robberies, respectively.   

Hillary Clinton’s main strategy to combat the problem of gun violence aligns similarly with that of President Obama: close the loopholes.

The loopholes Clinton has set her sights on include the so-called Charleston loophole, the gun show loophole and the internet sales loopholes.  

The Charleston loophole’s name comes from the incident in Charleston that left nine worshipers in a historically black church dead from a gunman who reportedly purchased his gun because of this loophole.  Under current federal law, if a background check is not completed by the National Criminal Background Check System in three days, the gun seller can move forward with the sale.  

The internet and gun show loopholes allow certain people who sell guns through those means to not have to conduct background checks on their buyers. Even though gun rights and gun control advocates have worked together to try fixing the flawed background check system, 40 percent of gun sales are still being conducted without background checks even involved.  

Clinton has also stated that she wants legislation that will allow victims’ families to hold gun sellers accountable when their negligence results in a violent crime.  Additionally, she wants to add domestic abusers to the list of those who cannot purchase a gun.  

One area the candidates entirely disagree on is the limitations on the types of guns available to the American people. Clinton has noted that she plans on limiting access to military-style weapons.  Trump, however, notes on his website that the government “has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”