Shot Heard Throughout NYS: Enhanced Background Investigations & Gun Control
“Shot Heard Throughout New York State”
Not since cannons boomed along the Erie Canal in 1825 to celebrate its completion – a feat that took 90 minutes to travel from Buffalo to New York City – have the hills and valleys of New York State resounded with so much gun powder blast on one momentous day. On Saturday, January 11, however, advocates of the 2nd Amendment were not celebrating but instead protesting the one year anniversary of the of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act.) Thousands of gun enthusiasts and SAFE Act detractors gathered at gun clubs throughout New York State to simultaneously shoot their guns at 12 noon.
The rallies were in response to the anniversary of the January 15, 2013 signing of the SAFE Act which became law following the Newtown Connecticut elementary school shootings in December of 2013. The measure gave New York the strictest gun laws in the country instigating outrage by gun-rights activists and spurring a statewide battle.
One of the new SAFE Act restrictions calls for expanded background investigations for private sales. In his blog, Mario Pecoraro discusses the SAFE Act, how enhanced background investigations will impact gun control and asks if it will mitigate our risk to gun violence.
Enhanced Background Investigations: How will they impact Gun Control and Will it Mitigate our Risk?
by Mario Pecoraro, CEO of Alliance Risk Group.
Background investigations have significantly changed the landscape of business hiring practices globally. Years ago, only a small percentage of businesses conducted employment screenings and very few, other than those in key positions, underwent any type of background investigation. Our world and the dynamics of security and risk have shifted through the years. Since September 11, 2001, there has been a steady increase and today, more than 80 percent of businesses have a background investigations process in place.
Industries ranging from healthcare, finance, retail, manufacturing, technology, and others have made background investigations part of their routine process. These occur not only for pre-employment purposes, but also throughout the course of employment. Ongoing employee screenings after a person is hired is referred to as Infinity Screening in the investigation industry. Does all this extra scrutiny help organizations mitigate the overall risk? That question may be answered differently, depending on the industry and specific businesses that have implemented this process. Investigations are vital but they must be done as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
Can this risk mitigation apply to gun control and violence? As we all know, New York has taken the lead in passing very restrictive legislation causing much debate in Albany. The highlights of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE ACT) include the following:
- Assault Weapon Definitions
- Magazine Capacity and Sale of Ammunition, including very restrictive controls and registrations
- Statewide Gun License/Registration Database
- Mental Health/Mandatory Suspension Clauses
- 5 year rectifications
- Limiting disclosure of licenses
- Expansion of background checks for private sales and more…
Many legislators have received feedback that the restrictive laws are not going to change the overall landscape of gun violence, and if anything will limit the ability of those legitimately licensed to protect themselves and society. As United States’ legislators endeavor to follow the path of New York, the National Rifle Association and its president, David Keene, have been actively lobbying to protect our 2nd amendment rights. Part of that protection includes limiting the government’s ability to continuously impose restrictions.
This matter was litigated in the US District Court by Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, in a lawsuit challenging the Act. The lawsuit questioned the SAFE Act and its constitutionality. On December 31, 2013, a Federal judge struck down parts of the SAFE Act, including one of the most controversial pieces: the seven-round ammunition limitation. Judge William Skretny struck down the limit and said that it was “an arbitrary restriction that impermissible infringes on the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.” One of the other results of the court decision is that a clarification on the definition of “assault weapon” was made. Said weapons were clearly defined to be legal and lawful firearms involved in common use.
The current process when purchasing a weapon involves a person undergoing a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. The NICS is all about saving lives and protecting people from harm—by not letting guns and explosives fall into the wrong hands. It also helps to ensure the timely transfer of firearms to qualified gun buyers. Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998, the NICS is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives. Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to make a purchase.
More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials. Through the years, there has been significant debate in the accuracy and thoroughness of the NICS system and whether it in fact includes all possible criminal records against all individuals. While there is no question that NICS checks have indeed kept some criminals from obtaining weapons, there is room for improvement when it comes to inclusiveness of records and precision of information. Investigations conducted by private, reputable companies are known to be much more reliable when properly and thoroughly handled. The debate and question that remains, however, is whether what has been implemented is enough?
The new legislation requires that a Federal Registry be created of weapon owners and mandated background checks be conducted when there are weapon transfers between family members and neighbors. This has prompted opponents to wonder if this would solve the problem. Significant discussions have arisen over whether the guns sold in the United States used in violent crimes are legitimately registered. Would these guns even appear on such a national registry?
Individuals and businesses must follow the lead of our country and be proactive in mitigating risk…but where do we draw the line when it comes to our right to protect ourselves and how is that line measured properly? Contact us at allianceriskgroup.com to learn more about mitigating risk in your organization, from pre-employment throughout the course of employment.