According to a recent poll, 90 percent of Americans continue to support “universal background checks.” Given their general ignorance about all things firearm, I reckon 100 percent of the people who support “universal background checks” have no clue what “universal background checks” are, or why anybody would be against them. I say that without malice. Americans busy putting food on the table don’t have the time to examine the ins-and-outs of firearms freedom. But if there are “low information” voters who want to understand why 10 percent of Americans oppose this example of “common sense gun control,” I offer the following primer . . .
Private firearms sales are gun sales between private individuals.
At the moment, the federal government does not require a criminal background check for private firearms sales. Although there are plenty of laws against knowingly selling a firearm to an addict, criminal or mentally ill person, a private seller selling to a private buyer doesn’t have to access the FBI’s instant background system to see if the buyer’s a prohibited person
That’s on the federal level. On the state level, some states (e.g., California) require that all gun sales go through a federal firearms licensee (a.k.a., FFL or gun dealer). By federal law, all buyers who purchase a gun through an FFL must undergo an FBI criminal background check. So in states like California, all private firearms sales are subject to an FBI background check.
So there’s your first point of confusion and contention: some private gun sales are strictly private (no FBI background check or other notification to the local, state or federal government), while some firearms sales between individuals are “semi-private” (mandatory FBI background check though an FFL). It depends entirely on where you live.
To understand why gun owners don’t want a federal law that make background checks “universal” (i.e. mandatory for all private firearms sales) know this: background checks for firearms purchases made through an FFL create a gun registry. A database of who bought what gun when and where.
Strangely, it’s not the background check itself that creates the database. By law, the FBI must destroy the electronic record of all firearms-related background checks by the next business day. As long as the Fibbies follow the letter of the law, an FFL’s criminal background check doesn’t pose a threat to a gun owner’s personal privacy.
It’s The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that’s the problem. They’re the Agency in charge of making sure that all FFL dealers maintain a paper record of all firearms sales and transfers in their “bound book.” The ATF requires that FFLs enter the following information about a gun buyer into their bound book:
1. The date of receipt of the firearm;
2. The name and address of the non-licensee or the name and FFL license number of the licensee from whom you received the firearm;
3. The name of the manufacturer and importer (if any) of the firearm;
4. The model of the firearm;
5. The serial number of the firearm;
6. The type of firearm (pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, receiver, frame, etc); and
7. The caliber or gauge of the firearm
This is a gun registry.
By law, the federal government can’t use the information in the FFL dealer’s bound book to create a database (i.e., a centralized gun registry). Only they can. And do.
By law, an FFL dealer must provide sales information recorded in their bound book to various federal agencies when asked to assist with a criminal investigation. By law, an FFL dealer who retires from the business must surrender their bound books to the ATF. In both cases, records are kept, a registry (whether paper or electronic) created.
Bottom line: private firearms sales that go through an FFL dealer, recorded in their bound book, are not private, safe or secure. After Ruby Ridge, Waco and Fast and Furious, gun owners don’t trust the ATF with their personal information.
One more wrinkle: some states maintain a registry of all private firearms sales (e.g., Connecticut, New York and New Jersey).
Gun owners in states where private sales are private—and many of those who live in states with state-run gun registries—don’t see the advantages of the system. The background check system in general, and private sales background checks in specific, don’t deter criminals from illegally obtaining firearms.
The DOJ link establishing source of crime guns has been disabled by government shutdown. Suffice it to say, the oft-repeated statistic that 40 percent of firearms used in crimes come from gun shows (i.e. involving private sales without background checks) is false. Less than four percent of guns used in crimes are attributable to that source. The vast majority are obtained by theft.
More to the point, gun owners who oppose universal background checks see a tremendous downside to the mandate. They believe that universal background checks will lead, eventually, to firearms confiscation.
We can argue about the likelihood of that happening: the federal or state government outlawing and then confiscating a type of weapon (say, assault rifles). We can debate the chances of government deeming an entire class of people unsuitable for gun ownership (say, people who take anti-depressants). But there’s no doubt that a “universal background check” law—requiring all firearms sales to go through an FFL dealer—would create a gun registry.
Equally, there’s no question that gun registries enable gun confiscation. It’s common sense; it’s a whole lot easier to confiscate guns if you know who’s got what gun and where they live. From gun confiscation a loss of individual liberty inevitably flows, engendering state-sponsored mass murder. That is the nightmare that millions of gun owners fear.
Again, this is not paranoia. The formula—gun registration => gun confiscation => police state => mass murder—is a demonstrable, historical and contemporary fact of life. Click here for a post making that connection. Or ask yourself why anyone would allow themselves to be the victim of genocide if they were armed.
Gun control advocates insist that “expanded” or “universal” background checks would make us safer. The exact opposite is true. Criminals would continue to get access to firearms while the law would put us on the slippery slope to the kind of government tyranny our forefathers fought to make us free.