As part of our in-depth look at the gun debate in America we dig into the issue of background checks and the gun show loophole.
Gun shows are big business and gun show loopholes are a big problem. Gun dealer Dave Peterson with Greenville Outfitters says background checks are usually done inside gun shows. It's outside where checks fall through the cracks in so-called "parking lot deals.”
Virginia Prosecutor Gerry Gray says requiring universal background checks would put a stop to those kinds of deals. He also says it would cut down on straw-man purchases - where someone buys a gun for another person. "The feds are going to know the serial number of the firearm that you just purchased. If it shows up in the possession of a convicted felon or being used in a crime, then you can trace it back and you know where to go."
One thing background checks look for is mental health issues. But those checks aren't foolproof because they won't catch an illness that hasn't been reported.
Robin Widener spent 12 years as a victim advocate. She now teaches the police science course at Virginia Highlands Community College. She says helping more people to seek treatment is tough because HIPPA laws protect their privacy. "It really prohibits getting information that you need, or bringing it to the attention of someone who can help someone with an issue, because we're not supposed to butt into each other's business," she said. "We're supposed to keep our noses clean and keep to ourselves."
As for the idea that background checks infringe on our personal rights, Gerry Gray brings this perspective: "When you balance those rights with the threat of death to an innocent person, particularly an innocent child, then to me I think the innocent child wins, and the innocent child's rights ought to prevail.