Gun violence is a foremost issue in the African American community, especially for young African American men. The NAACP released a report in 2013 with these findings:
- The leading cause of death among African-American teens ages 15 to 19 in 2008 and 2009 was a gun related homicide.
- African American children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009 but were only 15 percent of the total child population.
- Black males ages 15- 19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in gun-related homicides in 2009.
Universal Background Checks
In light of these atrocious findings, the National Black Parents Association (NBPA) favors the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Bill). This law requires background checks for most gun sales. Although we support it, we believe Congress should amend it to require “universal background checks.” This amendment will close the loophole that allows gun purchases at gun shows or on the internet without background checks. Closing this loophole is critical because guns purchased at gun shows or on the internet often wind up on the streets or in the hands of people with potentially dangerous mental illnesses. The above data, as well as, random mass school shootings prove the necessity of universal background checks.
Gun Ownership By Persons With Mental Illnesses
Currently, federal law prohibits the shipping, transporting, possession or receiving of firearms by persons that courts or other lawful authorities have adjudicated as mental defectives or committed to mental institutions. This law is flawed and fails to protect the public for three reasons. First, the law does not prevent the sale of firearms to the many people with obvious but undiagnosed mental illnesses. Second, it does not prevent the sale of firearms to many people with diagnosed mental illnesses because state courts are often reluctant to adjudicate these people as mental defectives or commit them to mental institutions for fear of violating state law or their Constitutional rights. Lastly, it does not even prevent the sale of firearms to many people who have been adjudicated as mental defectives or committed to mental institutions because federal law does not require states to report such persons to the FBI. Hence, universal background checks would be powerless to keep firearms from people with dangerous mental illnesses until the government addresses these three issues.
That being said, we acknowledge that most persons with mental illnesses are nonviolent, law-abiding citizens. Their Constitutional rights to privacy should be respected, and they should not be stigmatized by the awful actions of a few. It is reasonable and makes sense, however, to disregard their privacy rights and protect the public by keeping guns away from them when they pose a serious safety threat to themselves or others due to an obvious or diagnosed dangerous mental illness.
Criminals often receive guns vis-a-vis straw purchases, a practice where one person (front buyer) buys a gun for another person (actual buyer). Federal law prohibits straw purchases including those where the actual buyers are legally permitted to purchase or possess firearms. However, federal law does not ban straw purchases when the front buyer gives the purchased gun to the actual buyer as a gift. We believe Congress should close this loophole and ban all straw purchases including those where the front buyer gives the purchased gun to the actual buyer as a gift.
Military Style Weapons
The NBPA does not support gun laws that prohibit law-abiding, responsible citizens from possessing military-style weapons. Instead, we support sensible gun laws that keep military style weapons from violent criminals or people with a potentially dangerous mental illness. Moreover, violent criminals with handguns cause the overwhelming majority of homicides in the African American community, not law-abiding, responsible citizens with military style weapons.
The Second Amendment
Recognizing that our nation once used strict gun control legislation to disarm African Americans, the NBPA believes strongly in the rights of all law-abiding, responsible citizens to possess firearms pursuant to the Second Amendment. Nevertheless, we agree with the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that the Second Amendment does not preclude states or the federal government from enacting or promulgating sensible gun control laws that protect people from senseless gun violence.
In summary, we believe firmly in sensible gun control laws and reasonable regulations that protect innocent people from senseless gun violence but do not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding, responsible citizens. We also believe strongly that gun control laws cannot provide the protection that can come from a nation that provides equal opportunity and treats every citizen justly without regard to race, ethnicity, color or class. Equal opportunity, justice, and fairness can help create goodwill amongst citizens and provide a powerful antidote to the hopeless conditions that arise from poverty, failing schools, and illegal drugs that breed senseless gun violence.