First step in gun control: background checks

In the national argument over controlling gun violence in the U.S., most of the attention seems focused on the types of guns and the capacity of the magazines that are available.

The first order of importance, we think, should be who is buying the guns in the first place. And all too often, people who shouldn’t have guns wind up owning them.

The Star-Tribune’s front page on Sunday contained a chilling account of a Minnesota man who is probably the last person in the state who should be allowed to own guns, and the arsenal he accumulated. Christian Philip Oberender of Carver County shot his mother to death when he was 14, served time in prison and in the St. Peter State Mental Hospital. He is in jail again, after posting pictures of himself on Facebook showing his guns spread out around him, with notes supporting the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter.

Somehow, Oberender got a permit to buy guns. He simply switched his first and middle name on the application, neglected to mention his record of mental illness, and got permission to purchase all the guns he wanted.

There has to be a more thorough method of screening gun purchasers, better background checks, more access to the records of juvenile offenders and to the mental health records of dangerous felons.

Oberender was caught before he had a chance to act on the murderous urges that a note to his dead mother said were rising again. How many more like him are out there?

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