We’re just days into the 116th Congress, and congressional Democrats have already gotten the ball rolling on gun control with H.R. 8, also known as the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” which mandates so-called “universal” background checks for gun purchases.
Who made it “bipartisan”? A handful of Republicans: Reps. Brian Mast, Fla., Chris Smith, N.J., Peter King, N.Y., Fred Upton, Mich., and Brian Fitzpatrick, Penn.
Here's the current cosponsors list for the gun control legislation introduced by Nancy Pelosi and Gabby Giffords yesterday.
— Nate Madden (@NateOnTheHill) January 9, 2019
In short, the legislation would require background checks to be performed for almost all firearms transactions with narrow exceptions for things like sales or transfers to family members. Proponents of the legislation claim that expanding the kinds of purchases that require a background check would keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, but the facts don’t really back that up in any meaningful way.
The first problem with that assumption is that the law is only going to affect the law-abiding to begin with. Around 80 percent of gun-related crimes are committed with illegally obtained hardware. Criminals with black-market or stolen guns already operate outside the constraints of the existing system and would continue to do so.
When at least 80 percent of the problem that you’re trying to solve wouldn’t be touched by the law you’re pushing as a solution, it isn’t really a workable solution to the problem; it’s legislative window dressing.
In addition, federal law already requires that background checks be conducted whenever a licensed dealer transfers a gun to someone who isn’t. Federal law also prohibits private sales across state lines unless they go through a federal licensee. This, too, will come with a background check.
(And before anyone brings up that oft-discussed “gun show loophole,” that’s a misnomer and a myth that only serves to show how little the gun control crowd understands gun laws and gun shows.)
Indeed, the only lawful gun sales where background checks do not occur are between private citizens of the same state in states that do not already require background checks for private sales. And these would be the only new territory to be targeted by making background checks “universal,” as the proposed legislation makes exceptions for intra-family transfers.
States have also been historically lax when it comes to reporting information to be added to the NICS database.
Last November, the National Rifle Association estimated that some seven million records were missing from the national database, based on past studies. A number that big probably includes records of felony convictions, illegal aliens, and diagnoses of severe mental illnesses and other such disqualifications.
Furthermore, no government action can predict future behavior. Background checks cannot catch someone who has never done anything to end up in the database, even if previous disqualifying events are properly reported, since they have no disqualifying events.
Instead, all it would do is create an added barrier for law-abiding citizens who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights by selling or purchasing firearms to other law-abiding citizens.
But why not try it anyway? After all, if the law isn’t inherently unconstitutional and might possibly stop just one person from getting a gun that they shouldn’t, then what harm would it do, aside from making private sales extremely difficult if not impossible?
This is where we have to address the cultural animus behind the proposed legislation. There’s always a push to “do something” about guns. That demand is always (or at least usually) followed the assurance that that “something” isn’t outright gun confiscation, though some lawmakers have become bold enough to suggest even that in recent years.
But what happens when the next version of “commonsense gun safety” fails to stop another bloody murder in Chicago or another mass shooting? Well, then we’ll just have to use the next atrocity to push for the next law, and so on and so forth until we’ve reached the actual endgame of the anti-gun activist cadre, which is a society in which private firearm ownership goes the way of the flintlock pistol.
Background check legislation would be incredibly ineffective at countering gun crime in the United States, but it would be very effective at making things more difficult for law-abiding gun owners.