Gun advocate Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners Of America, spoke out against expanding background checks for gun purchases during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, arguing that the proposal would provide Americans with a “false sense of security” and waste time. Instead, Pratt encouraged lawmakers to eliminate gun-free zones in schools and self defense.
The claim shocked host Chris Wallace, who pointed out that at least 40 percent of American gun sales occur without any screening. “What is wrong with the idea, if you get a gun whether you buy from a registered dealer or a private sale, that you have to go through background checks just in case, to find out whether somebody has one or has a mental health problem,” he asked:
WALLACE: So, let’s talk about universal background checks, because, I was surprised to find out…[that] in 40% of the sales there is no such screen on the person buying the gun. What is wrong with universal background checks?
PRATT: It is false security to think somehow we’ll spot problems when there’s really no way to spot these problems. Some of the most horrendous of the mass murders that have occurred recently including the one in Newtown would not have been stopped by a background check…And, so, to assume that this is going to be our firewall against…
WALLACE: I don’t think anybody is saying that it is a firewall. What is wrong with the idea, if you get a gun whether you buy from a registered dealer or a private sale, that you have to go through background checks just in case, to find out whether somebody has one or has a mental health problem?
PRATT: We are wasting our time and going in that direction when we should be talking about doing away with the gun-free zones which have been so convenient, such a magnet to those who would come and slaughter lots of people knowing no one will be legally able to defend themselves in these zones.
Under current federal law, licensed federal firearms dealers conduct background checks on gun purchasers to prevent dangerous individuals such as violent criminals or the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. Gun transfers, “private sellers” or transactions at gun shows or online are exempt from the requirement and as a result more than 6 million gun transfers are unscreened.
An overwhelming majority of the public and gun owners support requiring a criminal background check of every individual seeking to purchase a gun.