By Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News
I stood in line at a local liquor store this week. (I know, you’re shocked that I enjoy an adult beverage, but if you follow Alaska politics, you understand.)
The woman in front of me was chatting it up with the clerk. They were on a first-name basis. When the clerk asked for the woman’s I.D, she said she’d forgotten it in the car.
“Sorry, Kate, I gotta see it,” said the clerk.
While I waited for Kate to fetch her driver’s license, the clerk told me about all about red stripes on licenses and that she’d be fired if she didn’t check. “My bosses take this very seriously.”
When Kate returned, she apologized profusely for making me wait.
“No biggy,” I said.
I started thinking about the responsibility of owning a liquor store. When the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1933, it repealed the Eighteenth Amendment that established prohibition.
Our liquor laws are intended to prevent abuse, underage drinking and driving while intoxicated. Do they always work? Nope. Do they help? Yes, according to research.
But I have yet to hear someone screaming at a clerk for “trampling on their God-given, Twenty-First Amendment rights!”
Imagine if 40 percent of the alcohol sold in town came out of vans in parking lots, neighborhood garage sales, and off folding tables at week-end booze sales at the local school gym. No one would be asked to prove his age or assure the seller she hadn’t just received a third DUI.
Hard to imagine? Responsible liquor store owners and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers would have that shut down before you could finish your beer. And why would they do that? Out of some perverse desire to reinstitute prohibition?
You see where I’m going.
Forty percent of weapons purchased in this country require no background check. It’s literally harder to buy a Bud Light than a Glock.
(Oh, I know at least one nut just yelled “Damn right! No background checks!” But unless he’s in Congress, he’s in the minority.)
National polling shows that nine out of 10 Americans support closing the background check loophole. In Virginia, a state with a history soaked in American blood, 86 percent of Virginians in a Roanoke College poll favored background checks at gun shows — including 84 percent of gun owners.
Why? For the same reason we accept the need to show an ID to buy a six-pack.
In 1999, Wayne LaPierre, sharpshooter CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, testified in front of Congress that background checks at gun shows were “reasonable.” This week he said they wouldn’t do diddly and we shouldn’t have them.
In Alaska, we live with an outrageous level of violence against women, including gun violence. Women killed by intimate partners in states that require background checks for all handgun sales is 38 percent lower than in states that don’t require them. You may think: well, they must make up for it with all the hammer deaths, but the non-firearm rates of women killed by intimate partners is nearly identical in both sets of states.
Simply put: Background checks equal fewer dead ladies.
So here’s where we stand, Alaskans. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is so beholding to the NRA that she signed onto a bill that would keep doctors from asking potentially suicidal veterans about guns in their homes. Good idea. In 2012, an average of 22 vets committed suicide every single day, half of them with a gun.
Sen. Mark Begich, a former member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, was listed in The Washington Post as an opponent of closing the gun show loophole.
Why? Because he’s a politician and politicians want nothing more than to be re-elected. Irrational fear of gun confiscation turns gun owners into single-issue voters. And no assault weapon is as scary as the prospect of NRA ads aimed at an uncooperative senator.
The gun show loophole needs to be closed. Teachers have been asked to stand between a gunman and their students. Is it too much to ask that our senators stand up to the NRA on background checks?