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Trouble brewing with background checks to sell coffee but not to sell guns

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A friend is in a tight spot these days. With an extra mouth to feed, she's doing something she hasn't had to do since she was a teenager: sorting through want ads and filling out job applications.

The other day, she started the job hunt in earnest. First stop in the search — a coffee shop. It offers immediate and unfettered access to hot chocolate, whipped cream and cheese Danish. Downside? Nada. The manager greeted her and handed her an application. When she got to the part about previous work history, my friend stopped.

“You gonna check this stuff out?” she asked the manager.

The manager slightly raised a brow. “Yeah, usually.”

“Just to make sure you're on the up-and-up,” she added perkily.

“Why do you need all this information? About where I went to school? Where I've worked? Whether I've ever committed a crime? What if I have? What's the point?”

“Well, this is a business. If you've been accused of, say, stealing, then that's information I'd like to have.”

“Even if I have before doesn't mean I'd do it again. Also, even if someone has had a previously clean record, she could still take advantage of an open register, no?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

My friend just turned and walked out of there. She later explained that if the Senate doesn't think a background check is needed to flag the violently mentally ill or those with criminal histories when they want to buy guns, then why does she need one to get a job at a coffee shop?

She walked to a preschool a few doors down. Perfect for her. Who doesn't love the idea of playing with children all day? It'd be like getting paid to have fun — unless you hate kids. Then, not so much.

Anyway, the day care center owner loved the friend's enthusiasm. When she got the application package, however, she saw she had to fill out several forms.

“What's this, now?” she said, rolling her eyes.

The day care owner peeked over to see she was pointing to a reference to clearance forms. “Right. Criminal history check, child welfare abuse records, the usual.”

“I feel like a broken record today. Why would you need all of this from me? An FBI check?! It's just past behavior, and not even an indication or predictor of what I might do in the future.”

That's when he gave her back a little bit of the attitude she was serving: “Look, if you're going to work with other people's children, we need to know you can be trusted.”

My friend paused to digest this, then replied: “So what we're saying is that it's important to protect children from violent predators who could abuse them in a school, or for a business to protect its bottom line from potential thieves. But a background check to prevent guns from getting in the hands of potentially dangerous people isn't worth the trouble? How can both of those things be right?”

“It's important for us to know that your record is clean and that you have no previous record of child abuse,” the owner said, going from frustrated to annoyed in a breath. “This is basic stuff, lady, and if you can't see that, maybe you need to fill out an application somewhere else.

“Like the U.S. Senate.”

Nafari Vanaski is on maternity leave with her daughter, Jolie Colette Vanaski, born at 4:28 a.m. April 21 at 7 lbs., 12 oz. Reach her on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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