Alaskan Sen. Mark Begich (D) was one of the few Democratic senators who voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill to expand background checks for gun purchases, and recently explained he does not believe background checks are the “holy grail” of gun control legislation.
In an interview last week with The Huffington Post at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose, Calif., Begich said that background checks do not make sense for Alaskans and that there are other measures that could have been taken, but these options were overlooked at the expense of the emphasis on background checks.
Begich said the provision of the bill requiring all holders of federal firearms licenses to conduct a background check for every sale is not a viable option for small Alaskan towns where many sellers do not have high-speed internet. He also said that holders of the licenses often do not sell guns or ammunition but rather use the license for discounts — which should not have been a problem, if they truly aren’t sellers.
Despite the public’s 90 percent favorability of the Manchin-Toomey plan, Begich contends that other measures would have more widespread bipartisan support such as strengthening mental health restrictions for gun ownership, installing more stringent guidelines to prevent straw purchases and gun trafficking and keeping more documented records of habitual drug users.
Ironically, these measures would also require gun sellers to have high-speed internet access, unless the customer willingly brings in his or her records showing unstable mental health issues. Somehow, that does not seem likely.
The truth of the background check bill — as much as Begich disagrees — is that it truly was the “holy grail” for gun control legislation. With sweeping public support and a staggering number — 40 percent — of gun sales occurring without background checks, it was a simple solution, unlike monitoring gun trafficking or straw sales, that would guarantee better safety while not infringing on Second Amendment gun rights of responsible citizens. Even if those four people in Alaska have to have their background checks snail-mailed to and fro from the federal government, it would have been a reasonable compromise to ensure thousands of guns do no not make it into potentially dangerous hands.