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Background checks through licensed gun sellers in Wisconsin flagged more than 1,000 criminals last year, denying sales.

The same sensible screening should apply to all gun sales across our state and nation, including purchases made at gun shows and online.

In the wake of the horrific Newtown, Conn., school shootings — and so many similar slaughters in recent years — the time to act is now.

No more loopholes. No more excuses.

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation — Republicans and Democrats — should be unified in support of universal background checks, just as the American public is.

More than 90 percent of respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll favored universal background checks. Even among households with a member of the National Rifle Association, 85 percent favored screenings for all potential gun buyers.

Universal background checks won’t prevent every deadly attack by a deranged shooter. But surely consistent screenings will help. The 1,000 criminals flagged by checks at licensed dealers in Wisconsin last year proves that. Background checks also can help prevent sales to unstable people with histories of threatening violence.

Many gun advocates fear the creation of a national registry for firearms. But routine checks won’t create a vast government database. Instead, tens of thousands of individual gun sellers will keep their own sales records, just as licensed dealers do now.

Some small-time gun sellers worry about the hassle of having to run a background check. But technology is making the screening process quick, simple and inexpensive.

Congress is back in Washington with gun safety legislation at the forefront. Congress should approve this common-sense precaution.

Milfred is editorial page editor for the State Journal; 608-252-6110 or smilfred@madison.com or @ScottMilfred.

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