Commentary

I’m a physician: Pa.’s Toomey needs to lead the fight for universal background checks

April 18, 2021 7:33 am

Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

By Daniel Wolk

After the high-profile shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass stronger gun laws to protect our communities from senseless violence. Since then, mass shootings have been a weekly event.

As a medical professional in the Philadelphia area, I’ve seen first-hand the trauma caused by easily accessible guns, whether from assault, suicide attempts, or emotional scars of survivors. One of my patients survived his shotgun suicide attempt, living without part of his face.

Had there been a “Red Flag” law back then, his loved ones might have been able to save him from this fate.

Research tells us that such laws provide depressed individuals a chance to choose life.  We need to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic and use evidence-based solutions to save lives from this uniquely American malady.

One of the policies Biden called for is universal background checks. Current federal law regulates gun sales — and requires background checks for sales — only by federally licensed dealers, and private sales or sales by unlicensed dealers are regulated by the states.

Some states require background checks in all private sales, some, like Pennsylvania, require them only for handguns but not long guns, and some states don’t require background checks for any private sales. This has created many loopholes, including sales between friends, at yard sales, through connections made on the Internet, and in some states (though not Pennsylvania) a gun show loophole.

The U.S. House passed a universal background checks bill, H.R. 8, in 2019 with bipartisan support but U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., refused to support the measure and instead introduced his own version of the bill, which fell far short of what is needed: requiring a background check for every gun sale and ending legal immunity for gun dealers in the event they sell defective firearms.

Even though over 100,000 people are shot every year in the U.S., H.R.8 died in then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard.

Revived this year, it passed the House again and is waiting for a promised vote under Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Senator Toomey has once again refused to support HR 8 and has reintroduced his weaker background checks bill.

As a medical professional, I do my best to protect human life.  Pennsylvania voters elected Toomey to do the same, including by supporting evidence-based gun safety solutions which are supported by the majority of law-abiding gun owners.

Dr. Daniel Wolk practices family medicine and geriatrics in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

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