Steven David, the Democratic nominee for US House in TX-08, has faced a lot of questions about guns on the campaign trail. The facts matter.
Texas’ 8th Congressional District is a giant district. If I leave my house in the southern part of the district and drive straight north, it will take me two hours to get to the northern-most city. On top of that, there are very rural areas and very urban areas in the district.
In all areas of the district, I get a lot of questions about guns. “Do you want to take my guns away?” “Do you want to ban assault weapons?” “How do you plan on stopping gun violence?” “Do you think teachers should carry guns?”
After months of fielding questions like these, I have noticed a few trends that I will discuss.
First, in the absence of facts, people will make up something that seems reasonable to them. Sometimes their conclusions are correct, and sometimes they are very far off base. For example, a common misconception is that we need to focus on “keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people.” I have even heard this line from fellow Democratic candidates, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. What studies have found is that people with mental illness are 11 times more likely to be a victim of violence than others. Separately, people with mental illness account for an extremely low portion of gun violence.
Second, the FBI, ATF, and registered Federal Firearm License (FFL) holders generally do a good job with background checks. The FBI hosts a hotline called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that someone with an FFL will call to verify whether or not the person in front of them is a felon or has a domestic assault conviction. Like all government programs, this one could use more funding for modernization, but it is a good way to make sure that gun sales that are transacted through an FFL are above board.
Third, there is a massive loophole with background checks. A recent study has shown that roughly 22% of all guns obtained in America were done so without a background check. This is accomplished because there is no federal background check requirement on private sales. Until we fix this, millions of Americans will continue to purchase firearms without a background check.
Finally, talking about guns isn’t hard, but talking to people about their guns can be difficult. I routinely field ad hominem attacks regarding my stance on guns. People think that I can’t speak about guns because I don’t have a hunting license, or don’t live in a rural area, or that I’m a Democrat. My suggestion to all candidates, and the general public, is to learn about guns. Learn that it is more appropriate to call them ‘firearms’. Learn that ‘assault rifle’ refers to fully automatic weapons (which are already banned), and ‘assault weapons’ refers to semi-automatic long-rifles. Learn that most gun owners truly are responsible and that we aren’t trying to punish them, but make sure that bad people are screened out from being able to own a gun.