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Sheriff Reacts To Background Check Proposal

January 16, 2013, 6:11 PM by Derek Olson

Sheriff Reacts To Background Check Proposal

On Wednesday morning, President Obama unveiled his list of proposals and executive actions to help curb the gun violence in our country. One proposal calls for mandatory universal background checks on anyone buying a gun.

Right now, federal law only requires that licensed gun dealers run a background check on customers before they can be sold guns. That means that about 40 percent of gun sales in this country don't require the checks. And now the President wants to  extend that rule to include gun show vendors and private citizens.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS is a national database that licensed gun dealers use to check out customers before selling them firearms.  It's intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

But if Congress acts on President Obama's proposal for universal background checks, it would close loopholes that allow some gun sellers to bypass the database.

"I think there's merit to discussing it.  What the final out come is, again, the devil is in the details," Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.

Thom says he's still digesting the President's suggestions, but that he isn't sold on the idea of holding individuals to the same standards as gun dealers.

"Are we going to give every person the ability to go run a background check, and then who pays for that cost?  Again, you get into privacy issues and it seems like an overreach by the government," Thom said.

Some also have concerns about whether the national database is effective, as many states don't update the list to reflect those determined to be mentally ill.  According to a report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, South Dakota had just two people submitted to NICS for mental illness as of 2011.

Thom says he's not sure if the system is broken, but believes that if any of the proposed solutions to gun violence is to work that everybody needs to be involved.

"The federal government is not going to solve this problem by itself.  The state and local entities are the ones who are on the front line in the trenches everyday, so to speak, so it really has to be comprehensive but I think the brunt of it is going to fall on the state and local entities," Thom said.

Before universal background checks could become mandatory, the proposal would have to be approved by both the House and Senate and then be signed by the president. No one expects that to be an easy process.

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