On Sunday, March 13, two months after the Tucson massacre, President Obama announced a proposal to improve the federal background check system in an Arizona Daily Star op-ed. “[O]ur focus right now should be on sound and effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place,” the president wrote. “Porous background checks are bad for police officers, for law-abiding citizens and for [firearms] sellers themselves.”

The Law Center commends the president for this first step to address America’s gun violence epidemic. President Obama proposed improving background check recordkeeping, but unfortunately federal law does not even require every gun purchaser to pass a background check. As the president noted in his op-ed, “If we’re serious about keeping guns away from someone who’s made up his mind to kill, then we can’t allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else.” The Law Center urges the president to support S. 436, Senator Schumer’s bill to require universal background checks.

President Obama called on Americans to begin “a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.” The American public, however, has already voiced broad support for requiring a background check before every firearm sale. A recent bipartisan poll showed that 86% of Americans and 81% of gun owners nationwide support universal background checks. Additional polls in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia indicate that at least 83% of respondents — and over 75% of gun owners — in each of those states support this policy.

The Law Center has long advocated for universal background checks and for the improvement of background check recordkeeping. Despite Congress’ unwillingness to confront gun violence in recent years, and its consistent capitulation to the gun lobby, we are encouraged by the prospect that the president’s recent statement will mark a new beginning in federal firearms legislation.