Watts in Op-Ed on Recent Shootings: ‘We cannot change the past, we can demand a safer tomorrow’

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, penned an op-ed in CNN Monday that blamed lax gun laws for the recent shootings in Charleston and Chattanooga.

Here is what Ms. Watts had to say:

Less than a month passed between Charleston and Chattanooga — two tragedies that shook their communities and the nation at large.

In America, we are constantly tallying up the senseless toll of gun violence. Nine killed in Charleston. Five killed in Chattanooga. A spotlighted fraction of the 88 Americans, on average, killed every day due to gun violence. They don’t all make the same number of headlines, but every one of these lives matter.

That’s why it’s up to all Americans — political leaders and each of us — to understand what enabled these tragedies, but also to look forward and ask: What can we do to prevent future shootings such as these — and the everyday gun violence that doesn’t make as much news?

We’re still learning the facts about what happened in Chattanooga, however, recent media reports indicate the gunman took advantage of the online gun sale loophole and purchased at least one of his firearms where he knew he could buy a gun with no background check, no questions asked.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.  (Photo: MDA)

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. (Photo: MDA)

And a month has passed since the Charleston shooting, and we’re learning a lot about the white supremacist who violently disrupted the sanctity of a Bible study and about how he got his gun. We now know the accused killer bought his gun from a federally licensed dealer with an incomplete background check.

That bears repeating: Dylann Roof was able to buy a gun with an incomplete background check.

Confused? You’re not alone. To understand fully how this could have happened, it’s important to know the history behind the background check law.

The 1993 Brady background check bill requires gun dealers to run background checks on all gun buyers through the FBI.

But when Congress was debating the bill, the National Rifle Association sponsored — and successfully pushed through — an amendment that effectively allows a licensed firearms dealer to sell a gun after three business days, even if the FBI has not yet confirmed that the buyer is legally allowed to have guns.

Most background checks are completed within a few minutes, but in rare cases a check can take longer than three days. In those rare cases, there is something in that potential buyer’s background that is uncertain — something that requires a little more investigation. This doesn’t mean that everyone who receives that “to be determined” flag is a prohibited purchaser, but it does mean something in that person’s background requires a closer look.

The bottom line is that — thanks to the gun lobby — the FBI only gets three days to complete this potentially life-saving process before a gun dealer has the authority — but not an obligation — to complete the sale. This arbitrary three-day rule, which the gun lobby fought for, has allowed more than 15,000 guns to be sold to dangerous people between 2010 and 2014 alone, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Can you imagine this kind of policy in any other industry? A loan officer would never go ahead and give out money to a bank customer after three days because a credit check was incomplete. A doctor wouldn’t tell someone she’s cancer-free because her lab results weren’t available after three days. And, as a parent, would you want your child’s day care worker to be cleared for duty with an incomplete background check?

The NRA was able to strong-arm this amendment into the Brady Bill, making it easier to sell guns and, as a result, American lives are at risk. Congress was wrong: Background checks should be pass or fail. You shouldn’t be able to buy a gun with an “incomplete.” It’s critical that Americans stand up and demand that Congress fix this dangerous loophole so that not one more criminal can buy a gun this way. In fact, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina has recently proposed legislation that would do just that.

But we’re not just sitting back and waiting for Congress to act. We’re also calling on gun retailers to end this dangerous practice and only make gun sales once a background check is fully completed. Despite federal law, retailers have the right and responsibility to set their own policies to help ensure people buying guns from them are not criminals, domestic abusers or dangerously mentally ill.

Many retailers have already had the foresight to close this loophole, such as Walmart, which worked with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to develop a 10-point code to help prevent dangerous people from buying guns, including no sales without a completed background check. But other big-box retailers in the gun business have not put such a policy in place and continue to put the public at risk.

Moms are asking the rest of the nation’s largest gun retailers to close this Charleston loophole with our #NoCheckNoSale campaign. First up: Cabela’s. In just a few days, we’ve already gathered more than 100,000 petition signatures, generated nearly 1,000 calls into Cabela’s and have taken to social media to spread the word about the retailer’s policy. When customers speak up, retailers have an obligation to listen.

After tragedies such as Charleston and Chattanooga, as the details unfold about how something so horrible happened, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hypotheticals — the what if we had done something differently. The truth is we cannot change the past, but we can demand a safer tomorrow.

It is up to everyone — from political leaders, to gun retailers, to average citizens — to demand we close every single loophole that allows dangerous people to get their hands on guns. It’s common sense, it’s gun sense, and it will save lives.


If I’m being honest, Ms. Watts pens a pretty persuasive argument.   No check, no gun — right?  Makes sense, at least at face value.

But when you think about it a little more you begin to realize that on keeping and bearing arms is a right, not a privilege.  It’s not a loan, or a job, or lab tests results — it’s a Constitutionally-protected right that every law-abiding citizen possesses.

It’s a big deal.  And quite frankly, a three day limit on the check is quite generous.  Can you imagine a domestic violence victim waiting three days to get a firearm she desperately needs to protect herself and her children because the government can’t get results on her background check?

I can’t.  And to me, that’s the real issue here.  Not the background check itself, or the three day limit, but the fact that the government can’t do its job.  Everytown, Moms, Ms. Watts should be pointing the finger at government ineptitude, not the law itself.  Why aren’t they outraged at the FBI?

That said, I’m also a believer that even if Everytown got its wish and all the so-called “loopholes” were closed, these deranged shooters would still find a firearm.  It’s not hard to do in the Internet age with a rampant black market.  All it takes is some cash, an Internet connection and a determined individual to get a firearm, as there are plenty of shady websites that connect nefarious individuals with one another.  Needless to say, they don’t care about laws or background checks (Does Watts really think laws, background checks will stop terrorists and hardened white supremacists?).

At the end of the day though Watts is right in the sense that we can’t change the past, but we can demand a safer tomorrow.  How do we do that?  Encourage responsible citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense.  Turn gun-free zones into gun-friendly zones, thereby turning soft targets into hard targets.  While it won’t solve everything, it’d be a pretty good start.  Now that’s common sense.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Lee G Smith July 15, 2016, 7:24 am

    So much to say and so little timr to say it. I”ve owned firearms since 1956, handguns since 1961. Can you believe it? Ididn’t even get to shoot AR anyone yet! But, because I’ve been so lucky is no reason to stop carrying. I’m sure you wouldn’t cancell your car insurance because you haven’t had an accident. In fact, the government won’t let you. Why then, does the government not require you carry for protection? Without some form of 3-Day Wait, you might grow old and die before you’re approved.
    The less than reasonable anti=gunners will never be happy until guns are banned. But mayby they are right. Look how wonderful life became in Germany, once Hitler had all the guns.

  • shrpshtr July 28, 2015, 3:56 am

    If miss Watts really is concerned about deaths in the US and would like to help, maybe she should turn her energy and opinions toward the automobile. In 2010, an estimated 30,296 fatal crashes resulted in an estimated 32,999 deaths. In 2011, the estimated death toll was 32,479. (data provided by the NHTSA). This is a outrageous number of deaths compared to the estimated, dare I say paltry, 88 annual deaths cited by Miss Watts! But most likely she would not wish to address this problem because she owns and depends on her vehicle everyday. She is just as guilty as I am, or anyone else, for driving a vehicle. But yet it seems to matter more to her to take on an emotional issue such as guns than the automobile! This I believe is especially true when you try to present facts to someone who can only counter with an emotional response. Too bad the national media will not compare firearms related deaths to those by automobiles!

  • Jim Lindsey July 27, 2015, 7:30 pm

    His statistics are all wrong. The correct number of Americans killed by a gun is 283,784.275 per day. I have some guns and they have most all been acquired as ‘treats’ or ‘favors’ in boxes of cereal or Cracker Jacks. I did, however, find a full auto AK-47 with 5,000 rounds of ammunition while I was walking my dog. Sometimes, if I have been extra good, the Gun Fairies will leave me a Glock or Sig.

  • Lopaka Kanaka July 27, 2015, 6:28 pm

    Ms Watts has never purchased a guns on line or a retail gun store to see it is not that simple to purchase a gun. If you purchase a gun on line it will be shipped to a Federal Firearms License dealer and you fill out the require FBI form at the FFL dealer and when your background check has cleared, you wait the number of days (10 in CA) pay the transfer fee to the FFL dealer. Also you are thumb printed on the form to receive your gun and you sign the form that you have received your gun. And if they miss something in your background check, they (FBI) will be on your door step to pick up your guns you have purchased. IF you are not a NRA or your State Gun association member, today is the time to become a member and help fight the watch dogs from taking away our guns we all love and will not give up with out a “FIGHT”.DEFEND OUR GUN RIGHTS

  • Former GI Joe July 27, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Ms Watts failed to mention a very important fact about all of these “incomplete” background checks resulting in firearm sales to “prohibited” people. FBI has the responsibility of completing the NICS check regardless of what the retailer does regarding the sale. If the check results in a determination that the sale should not have been completed, FBI communicates that information to ATF who sends a couple agents to the retailer to review the 4473 (form completed as part of a firearm purchase) for the buyers’ address. The ATF agents then go to the buyer and collect the firearm. It is, perhaps, a bit cumbersome, but given the small number of sales that occur that should have been prevented by NICS, it seems to work in the large majority of cases. Ms Watts quotes figures from her own heavily biased organization to support her position. It strains credulity that in a 4 year period 15,000 firearms were sold to people who should not have been able to complete the purchase. Of that number, though, and assuming it to be accurate, I wonder how many were retrieved by ATF within a day or two of the completion of the sale.

  • bob July 27, 2015, 1:22 pm

    What about the 3000+ abortions that kill children every day in the Great USA. Why are we not seeing this every day in the NEWS? The Government and Women against GUNS should refocus on something that is a problem with human life. God will take care of that when your time is up. Good luck.

  • paul July 27, 2015, 11:49 am

    This law was written to try to overcome the stalling practices of governmental officials. We see these practices everywhere. There are many in the government who want to limit our rights and will do thier best to keep us from these permits, like the tax stamps for marijauna use and machine guns. We must have rules on government officials to limit these abuses. If the databases were right, the guns would not have gotten into bad hands.

  • Buck July 27, 2015, 10:44 am

    Yes, in both these instances the government failed in its responsibilities.
    There’s another instance with a difference, though. Gun retailers are/can be put out of business by background checks. During the Fast and Furious Fiasco the sales people in the gun shops were telling the Gov’t Background Checker they didn’t want to sell the guns – in some cases dozens at a time – to a person who couldn’t speak English and didn’t comprehend what the yellow sheet was asking. The Gov’t TOLD them to sell the guns. Is the retailer going to tell the organization regulating his business,”NO.”?
    Another thought: Where do all the guns collected from the ‘turn in your guns’ program go? There’s no paperwork, no tracking. What do the ‘authorities’ do with them? Redistribution. Just like Fast n Furious, just like taxes. It’s an established gov’t procedure.
    The twisted sister who penned the latest complaint about incomplete tracking thinks the gov’t is there to help and protect her and hers. She’s aiding and abetting the exact opposite.

    • shootbrownelk July 27, 2015, 4:14 pm

      Roof was given his gun from his father, Roof couldn’t pass a background check. Roof senior made a “Straw Purchase” for his son. Why isn’t he charged with violating a Federal Gun Law? None of these murderers got their guns through Armslist without going through a FFL holder. She’s a lying weasel, like all the Gun Grabbers….she makes up her own facts. At least Sarah and Jim Brady aren’t here to twist the facts, looks like Shannon Watts is picking up where the Brady’s left off.

  • Kimberpross July 27, 2015, 9:00 am

    Internet sales without a bakcground check, tell me where. This is a lie…

  • Gary July 24, 2015, 9:48 am

    “Can you imagine this kind of policy in any other industry? A loan officer would never go ahead and give out money to a bank customer after three days because a credit check was incomplete”. They wouldn’t? Isn’t that pretty much exactly how we ended up in the financial mess we are still in back in 2008?
    “It is up to everyone — from political leaders, to gun retailers, to average citizens — to demand we close every single loophole that allows dangerous people to get their hands on guns. It’s common sense, it’s gun sense, and it will save lives.”
    I agree. It will only make things easier for those of us who are law abiding gun owners if we stop getting the reflected bad press from idiots, however who gets to decide who is dangerous? Personally I feel anyone trying to take away my right or tell me how to live is a danger to me and mine.

  • Mark N. July 22, 2015, 12:37 am

    I can buy a firearm through the internet without a background check??? Oh boy! Sign me up!. But of course it is not true at all for interstate sales, nor for sales from FFLs, only for private sales, and not in all states (e.g. Washington, Oregon, and California which require background checks for all transfers.) Such lies, I am surprised her nose hasn’t started growing.

  • John July 21, 2015, 10:10 pm

    My late dad always said: WHEN YOU PAY MY BILLS , YOU CAN TELL ME HOW TO LIVE. Now, more than ever, this statement rings true. Everybody wants to tell me how to live my life but they never send me any money. Basically, this women and others like her should mind their own damned business. It’s my choice to own firearms. Just like they can choose not too. This is all about freedom of choice. The 2nd amendment grants us all this freedom. They should mind their own business. I think my dad was a very wise man. His words apply to all S&. A really nice way to tell people to mind their own damned business. My dad left me his favorite gun . Dad’s gone now ,but I think of him whenever I look at it. It’s S&W model 10 5 in mint condition. I hope that all young people will have the opportunity to experience gun ownership and the good memories they bring. Please join the NRA and help fight these foolish people.

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