The House Judiciary committee voted to advance H.R. 8, also known as the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” by a party-line vote of 25 to 13 on Wednesday.
This bill doesn’t have much chance of even being brought up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, let alone getting to President Trump’s desk for signature. However, a line from one of the bill’s committee backers illustrates the kind of hubris behind this and other gun control laws.
“The president likes to rail against Chicago” on gun crime numbers, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said in opposition to a proposed amendment that would have exempted concealed carry permit holders from the bill’s background check requirements. “Chicago is only as safe as the laws in Indiana; California is only as safe as the laws in the states around us. And that’s why a federal requirement for all firearm purchases would protect Chicago as well as it would protect Indianapolis as well as it would protect Oakland, California.”
A hypothetical federal law would certainly apply equally in all those places, but the question of how much safer it would actually makes things is fair game for debate.
As I explained previously, there are already a lot of gun transactions that merit background check, and H.R. 8 would only extend those to private transactions between private citizens who are both residents of the same state. The question is, how many people who were already trying to buy a gun in violation of federal law would stop to comply with expanded background provisions?
No matter how high anti-gun states or the federal government try to stack the barriers to lawful gun ownership, those barriers are really only going to affect how the already law-abiding conduct themselves.
The guy who swipes a gun from a friend or family member and the guy who gets his hardware on a black market aren’t going to stop to run a NICS check. And people who commit crimes with guns in their possession don’t tend to get them from federal dealers or gun shows.
What the legislation would actually do, in practice, is create a bureaucratic and cost barrier for private, law-abiding citizens who want to buy, sell, or trade firearms with other law-abiding citizens. It would take away the ability, for instance, as Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., pointed out, of a domestic violence victim to borrow a gun from a friend without first getting a background check done.
In the meantime, criminals will still flout the system to get their hands on firearms, regardless of what the feds say about conducting background checks for private sales, and they can still move between different jurisdictions to do violent, criminal things.
Ultimately, regardless of what laws are passed, citizens are only free from gun violence to the degree that they can effectively fire back and neutralize it.