Background checks on gun sales are a clear infringement on Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms (which is not subject to arguments on social utility). Background checks are also useless; in a country with more than 150 million guns in circulation, bad guys can get guns, whether they’re drug-addled spree killers, homicidal Chicago gang bangers or death-seeking ISIS-affiliated terrorists. Anyone arguing that increased background checks for firearms purchases – for gun shows and private sales – decreases the possibility of terrorist attack is . . .

either seriously deluded or hiding their desire for civilian disarmament. Or both. The “logic” of “universal background checks” is so fundamentally flawed that even those who champion it can’t bring themselves to sell it without qualifiers. Check out the conclusion of the bostonglobe.com editorial Background checks could help prevent terrorism:

Closing the gun show loophole obviously isn’t a cure-all for terrorism. No single measure or action is. Still, the loophole is something terrorists are aware of and could well exploit. It should have been closed long ago. There is no excuse for not doing so now.

Terrorists are also aware that they could hijack a car or large truck and ram it into a crowd of people. Or pour poison into the water supply. Or release deadly gas in a subway. Or detonate a pressure cooker bomb at a major sporting event. Or fly jetliners into skyscrapers and government buildings. There’s no reason to believe that making people fill-out paperwork whenever they buy or transfer a gun would prevent terrorists from killing people.

There is no excuse for degrading and destroying Americans’ gun rights – especially when you consider the fact that gun control leads to government tyranny. More than that, let’s swap this thinking around. Would removing background checks from gun purchases prevent terrorism?

I’m thinking no. Dramatically increasing the number of armed Americans – by eliminating all background checks – might change the terrorists’ choice of target. They’d have to look harder to find “soft targets” (e.g. New Jersey and Hawaii). But the presence of concealed carriers would do little to stop them from launching attacks, anyway. The more important point: armed Americans might – might – limit the carnage during a terrorist attack.

Your thoughts? [h/t JA]

57 Responses to Question of the Day: Would Eliminating Background Checks Help Prevent Terrorism?

  1. Its just a feel good type of check. Since its rarely enforced as is.
    How many thousands, millions of sales stopped?? Of those stopped due to a criminal history. How many are actually prosecuted?? A miniscule amount to matter for sure.
    The background check is ridiculous and easily by passed by a few different straw purchasers alone every day Id be sure.

    • Agreed. Instituing them has done next to nothing to bring crime down, taking then away will have almost no effect on crime as well.

      A movement to lower crime begins with individual morality and individuals being armed and capable of defending themselves when encounting one with little morality.

  2. “more than 150 million guns in circulation”

    While this statement is accurate due to the ‘more than’, the number cited is so far below the real figure that it should be revised upward. Hopefully it was just a typo and should read 350. There are people on the anti-side who will happily cite this lowball 150 million figure from a trusted pro-gun site.

    • Yeah, that was the first thing I noticed as well.

      As an aside, it’s funny to imagine the antis considering 150 million to be a “low number” (remember, beloved gun grabbing Australia had a paltry 2-3 million) but you’re right, I’m sure they’d try to spin it that way.

  3. Terrorists – particularly suicide bombers – have no qualms about walking or driving into the center of a large group of heavily armed soldiers and blowing themselves up. I don’t think that any rational person – gun owner or not – sees civilian armed carry as preventing terrorist acts. It just gives us a fighting chance to stop them or to minimize the damage.

  4. So you think 19 guys on student visas as in 9/11 should be able to walk into a shop and walk out with 19aks, no questions asked, and you think that is the same risk profile as what currently exists? That those 150 to 300 mm existing guns in the closets of Americans are as good as in the hands of isis?

    This seems to me to be a nutty and unsupported set of views

    It may well be that there just aren’t any terrorists to speak of trying in the us, but If there are this would make it shockingly easy for them

    And the first time it happened would make for extremely strict gun control as a result

    I do not belive articles like this really help the cause

    • You mean the terrorists that were capable of putting 19 people through flight school? Had enough intelligence to know which flights and flight paths were preferred to reach their intended target? Executed their plan with enough coordination to ensure all those planes struck their intended targets within 30 minutes of each other?

      Those terrorists aren’t buying guns over the counter. They aren’t that stupid.

    • If those 19 guys on student visas had wanted (semiauto) AKs, all they needed to do was recruit one permanent resident with a clean record to buy the guns for them, which their well-funded backers could certainly have arranged for them. This is obviously illegal, but it would have defeated the background check system.

      Of course, they didn’t need AKs because AKs would have been counterproductive to their CONOPS.

    • “…So you think 19 guys on student visas as in 9/11 should be able to walk into a shop and walk out with 19aks, no questions asked,”

      Honestly? Yes. Yes I do. Last time I checked shooting people is illegal so unless or until they start shooting people it is no business of yours or mine what they bought, how many, or why.

      • And even if TSA is pure security theater, 19 people with AK-47s hijacking four airplanes from American airports is a non-starter, and every terrorist knows it. They would get a higher body count just wading into the terminal while it was crowded and opening fire.

  5. Criminals want a gun fast and not attached to them in any way. A terror organization will want a shipment, not a one-off purchase. Progressive gun-haters live in a world of make believe. They all refuse to use simple deductive reasoning to ferret out cause and why. All attitude, no rationale.

    • I fail to see the logical train of thought that makes buying a bunch of rifles on the black market, in the us, as easy as walking into a cabelas

      I can see the arguments for freedom and regulation impinging upon , but that is a different argument

      Though I have not actually tried to buy a black market ak, Looking at the assortment of crappy guns reported used by criminals on sites like these gives me no reason to doubt my unsupported impressions,

      • Ya, you aknowledge the freedom / impingement aspects of the opposition, but fail to note that, even if you track the post-Cabela’s sold weapon 24/7/365, you have no control over it once sold. So your side has to ban weapons, so we have to ban you and yours from making decisions for the rest of us, especially since we didn’t ask.

  6. Eliminating background checks would do nothing at all to prevent terrorism or to promote terrorism. The only tangible effect of background checks is to slow down the purchase process at Christmas time.

    • There are people who believe in democracy, and there are those who believe in bureaucracy. Things like background checks and registration were invented to satisfy the latter sort. They need desperately to be reassured that, whether it’s a child setting up a lemonade stand or a lunatic broiling a kindergarten class, the proper procedures were followed and the paperwork filled out.

  7. Yes, yes it would.

    But at the same time terrorist only ever go after the soft targets of opportunity. If there was an official ‘how to’ for terrorism it would pretty much step one! If we actually go Israeli here then we’ll probably not see any a Paris in anywhere in America that still has gun rights.

    So then we’d just see a lot of bombings… Or bio-terror… or hell… maybe dirty bombs, if they can get them in… And that will require things that we just don’t have in the US at the moment… and administration that’s willing to actually tackle the problem instead of using it for more gun bans.

  8. When Shannon gives up her armed security, puts a “NO GUNS HERE” sign in front of her Zionsville, IN home, I mean Demanding Mommies HQ, and travels to Syria sans burkha telling the bad guys how dangerous guns are, then we can discuss background checks. Otherwise, this suggestion is out of order

  9. They could break into a rail car on a siding and steal an entire shipment of firearms. Wait, hasn’t that already been done? No background check possible

    • I fail to see the problem here. Just add a line to the 4473: “Are you planning to use this weapon as part of a terrorist attack within the borders of the United States of America?” Y/N

      Problem solved.

  10. A background check has nothing to do with and does not address human behavior or intent. A person intent on using a firearm with criminal action will do so, the same as a person without intent will not. It is a flawed argument to attempt or suggest to correct or discover human behavior by means of how it correlates with a database. The essence of the background check is exactly like asking a clairvoyant to gaze into crystal ball or have a palm reading.

  11. Backgroud checks prevent me from stealing ‘military-grade’ weapons from US Military Reserve Centers, but not others.

    /sarc

  12. I am ok with background checks as useless as they appear. Do you really want Juwon and Ahmed tooling up at your LGS? Make them use the black market where you can charge them with a felony if you catch them. I would change the law to a check on the buyer and not record what was purchased though.

    • You do realize that the BC system produces far, far more false positives, preventing law abiding citizens from exercising their basic rights, than it stops ‘bad guys’ from purchasing, right?

      So, basically, your statement is “It’s okay with me if folks get falsely accused of being prohibited persons who must spend their own time and money to get OFF the list, so long as it makes me FEEL better about the possibility of urban yoots not getting gunz.”

      Figures. Statism is statism…

    • Another opportunity. Thank you.

      If you agree that in spite of specific wording in the Second Amendment “…shall not be infringed.” any government agency has the authority to create, maintain and enforce a list of persons who, in the opinion of that agency, may not exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, how, EXACTLY, will you keep YOUR name off of that list?

    • All Ahmed needs is a metal file and Google to make his straw purchaser rest assured. Even if they buy off of black markets do you think it enforceable at all? If the cops can search any Ahmed on the street we have a greater threat than terrorism. A law won’t prevent this government from recording us freedom lovers as HVT, as is evident by what the NSA has been doing “illegally” all these years. Background checks are essentially pre-crime. Is should not apply to any American citizen. If you agree to background checks, you are just giving the government an extra inch of infringement on freedom while we get no return on security whatsoever.

    • Background checks are the first layer of defense against Juwon and Ahmed and like all first layers in a layered defense its purpose isn’t to stop anyone. It is to slow them down. Just ask anybody who served in a Cavalry outfit in the Fulda Gap. The background check system forces a prohibited person to engage in a risky transaction that could lead to his apprehension before he gets further down the line. Each layer gets progressively tougher to penetrate until he gets to you barricaded in your house with your 12 gauge.

      To paraphrase General Patton Juwon isn’t buying a gun to exercise his natural, civil and Constitutional right to self defense. He is buying to give you the oppirtunity

      • I’ve got to agree TD. Imagine what happens in the media and public opinion when some terrorist’s weapons get traced back to the local gun shop where there was no background check required. Then imagine that happens half a dozen times in quick succession. I love the 2a as much as anyone and see it as absolute but in reality public opinion matters. Lose public opinion far enough and you’ll lose the spirit and practice of the 2a even if you don’t lose the letter of the law. At least now if some gun gets traced back someone had to pass through the background check system. It ain’t perfect but it’s reality.

        • Plenty of mass murderers and spree killers have used legally-owned guns that they bought with a background check from gun stores. Is it going to be that different when someone kills twenty people because they say a man in the sky told them to, rather than the voices in their head?

          The fact is, any shooting is used as an attempt to restrict our rights, no matter how the shooter obtained his gun. If they buy without a background check, the cry is “universal background checks!” If they buy with a background check, the cry is “put more people on the prohibited list!” Meanwhile, background checks have prevented approximately zero deaths, produce hundreds of false positives for every prohibited person they catch, and cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money every year. And they’re unconstitutional.

      • I understand your point. And yes any restriction on 2A rights will slow Ahmed down in his process of buying guns, that’s no doubt. But here you are on the assumption that Ahmed does it with guns. And he is likely to be busted, provided he is a prohibited person, when buying guns on an FBI sting. (If he’s not prohibited, which is more than likely if he is recruited for the scheme after careful selection, he can buy guns legally anyway and be dead after the attack. And tracing his guns may not do too much good after the fact.) The fact is that guns, while being a valueable tool for self defense and defense of freedom against prepared attackers, is not essential is Ahmed is planning on killing the unsuspecting, untrained, unprepared public. A simple example is that you can take out sentry with blades, but you’d never use a knife against charging enemy soldiers. Ahmed can still do it with pretty much anything with enough horsepower. On the other hand, while we do gain “something” from background checks, what are we giving up in return? Even a free lunch given to you takes time to eat. Everything has an opportunity cost. We, the VAST majority of the public, only suffers from such checks. It unnecessarily complicates our process of buying gun for self defense. It designates people who are not a threat at all as being prohibited. How many lives have been lost because the victim was erroneously designated as prohibited while they are felons of non-violent crimes, or was the check a false positive altogether? We never get to know. Background checks do something to prevent such terrosit attacks, but the cost of it way outweighs what we gain as a free society.

        • This is simply a continuing cluster flop of people dragging red herrings across the trail of the straw man!

          People who want guns for nefarious reasons will get guns, no matter how many barriers you throw in their way.

          The ONLY THING you accomplish with agreeing to “Background Checks” is to tacitly agree that the Second Amendment does NOT mean what it says, was NOT intended to prevent the government from deciding who it was willing to permit to exercise their supposed right to keep and bear arms, and does NOT apply to any person the government decides is unfit. It is pre-crime, pure and simple and as I will keep repeating – if the government creates, maintains and enforces a list of people who in the opinion of that same government are not allowed to exercise their 2A right, HOW IN THE HELL WILL YOU KEEP YOUR NAME OFF THAT LIST?

    • The purpose of background checks is, like “security checks” at airports, purely symbolic. The idea that we should have them because they “might” do some good is similar to the inherently failed logic that reducing magazine size “might” save some lives in a spree killing situation. As effective measures they are so limited as to be almost silly, but as symbols of the presence of state power they are very effective. Background checks, like magazine size restrictions, are especially meaningful to supporters of gun-control because they are tangible demonstration of gun-controllers’ ability to force gun owners to acknowledge their power and and obey their rules. It really doesn’t matter whether the symbolic measures actually work on not—that’s not their most important purpose.

        • What we are dealing with is very different from military defense. Back at Fulda, everyone on the other side is an enemy. Any proper defense is good defense. Here, 99.9% of everyone on the other side of the big brother is NOT an enemy, while the “defense” is mounted against them indiscriminatingly. Any effective defense is hindering upstanding Americans while gaining not enough to justify that.

      • “Almost silly” did it for me. As a layer, it’s a farce. That said, FFL BCs are here and well established. Are we going to succeed in rolling them back any time soon? We have to think about that question.
        We might be better off using the FFL BCs as a foil in opposing UBC and other gun controls. Hold the FFL BC up to ridicule. Make the gun controllers defend the FFL BC. You wasted the public treasury on security theater; now you want to waste more on still more security theater? Keep it up; we will continue to point out that crazy people bought their guns at LGS after PASSING your precious BC!
        I doubt that American voters are any more willing to drop FFL BCs then they would be willing to eliminate the showing of ID at alcohol or tobacco shops. All 3 are equally ineffective; but, probably part of our culture.
        We ought to put our efforts into rolling back the 20 year retention for 4473 forms and advancing National Reciprocity. More effort on curtailing gun-free zones (criminals and crazies free-fire zones).

  13. You either accept and support the Second Amendment EXACTLY as it was intended and written, with the potential safety issues that implies, or you do not. If you do not then you should be working for repeal or revision of the Second Amendment, not condoning the government ignoring it or re-interpreting it the their advantage when it was intended to give the advatange to the citizens whose natural and civil right to self defense it was intended to protect.

    I’m sure the Founding Fathers understood the risks and determined that if EVERYBODY had the right to be armed then the percentage of those armed citizens who would use those arms for criminal activities would be minimal and easily countered (remember, there were no police forces then). The proper response is not to attempt to judge people before the crime, but to deal with them during or after the crime. Innocent until proven guilty.

  14. While the black market obviously exists, I honestly don’t know how to obtain an illegal firearm. I’m sure I could do it if I was really motivated, but I bet that the U.S. government secretly runs a lot of the most obvious options in order to bust people. I’ve seen numerous stories over the years of Islamic terrorists getting arrested while trying to buy weapons from undercover agents. If you had your way and you could buy an AR-15 as easily as a bag of potato chips, then I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that Paris-style mass shootings would increase.

    If you really want to reduce gun murders and mass shootings, then a comprehensive Czech-style regulation process would be needed (not to mention vastly different demographics). I think that the Czech Republic strikes a good balance between gun rights and regulation. They allow people to own AR-15s and conceal carry handguns, but they force you to go through a strict vetting process first. As a result, they have pretty widespread gun ownership but extremely low gun murder rates and barely any mass shootings. And they accomplished this despite being relatively poor. So, so much for the common liberal argument that poverty fuels America’s inner-city gun violence.

    • ” , , , but they force you to go through a strict vetting process first . . .”

      Sorry, but given our recent history I’m unwilling allow our progressive-leaning-to-fascist government to have this kind of control over my constitutional rights. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Government never returns rights that it takes away.

    • Their system is not necessarily a reason for things being better or worse. There are many other variables involved when talking about different countries and cultures. They might very well have no significant change with a true 2A equivalent and a government that actually honors it. I know one does not currently exist. Not even a single state in the US says no to federal infringement of the 2A.

    • If you had your way and you could buy an AR-15 as easily as a bag of potato chips, then I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that Paris-style mass shootings would increase.

      Considering that the worst terrorist attack on US soil was carried out by terrorists who managed to get through flight school undetected, I daresay that obtaining an AR-15, legally or otherwise, is essentially as easy as buying a bag of potato chips.

      Paris-style mass shootings happen because the intended victims are massed and disarmed in defenseless victim zones. They have nothing to do with the relative ease or difficulty of obtaining a given firearm.

    • Please remind me of the part of the U.S. Constitution that says the right of Syrian refugees to enter without question the United States shall not be infringed.

      • It’s apparently an amendment to the Constitution that is only posted on the Statue of Liberty, or so I have been told by several politicians…

  15. I’ve long contended that background checks are more politics than crime prevention. They won’t stop a terrorist. They don’t even stop common thugs that circumvent the system.
    I think the background check was a good experiment, but it’s only told us what we knew from the start. Now it is a victim of its own success since it mostly hampers innocent people while being ineffective at anything else.

    I suspect that was the point all along.

  16. What if the 5th amendment case; Haynes v. United States, 390 U.S. 85 (1968), is the reason convicted felons are not prosecuted for attempting to purchase firearms from FFL holders and others.

    What if, eliminating background checks resulted in a notable drop in the number home and business burglaries to obtain firearms.

    What if eliminating background checks led reduced crime rates due to an increase in the number of law abiding armed poor people able to stop criminal assaults.

    What if…

    • What if…Congress, POTUS and SCOTUS actually adhered to the Constitution they swore on their oath to defend, including the Second amendment?

  17. For a background check to be effective, first you must have a list of prohibited people. All a background check does is prevent someone who “you” already know is dangerous from obtaining a firearm through legal channels. The rub here is: if you know a person is so dangerous you must bar them from possessing a firearm, denying them the number 2 civil right in the bill of rights, why are they out and about and not sharing a hole with a bag of quick lime? And people who end up on that list, generally, HAVE ALREADY DONE SOMETHING ILLEGAL.

  18. Terrorists are also aware that they could hijack a car or large truck and ram it into a crowd of people. Or pour poison into the water supply. Or release deadly gas in a subway. Or detonate a pressure cooker bomb at a major sporting event. Or fly jetliners into skyscrapers and government buildings.

    These are definite possibilities and they all share one feature in common: once a terrorist hits the “go” button, there is no turning back and their attack creates their final casualty tally in a matter of one or two seconds … the attack and carnage is quite literally over before anyone even has a chance to react.

    On the other hand, a terrorist that uses a firearm creates their casualties over the spread of something like dozens of seconds, if not minutes … and armed victims, who can easily begin returning fire within four seconds if not sooner, can end the attack and carnage long before its unopposed outcome.

    To summarize, a terrorist who uses:
    — bombs, planes, trucks, and poisons is NOT vulnerable to armed victims.
    — firearms IS vulnerable to armed victims.

    As horrible as it sounds, that is why I prefer terrorists use firearms rather than other methods.

  19. Background Checks are useless political theatrics whose only dubious value is that they dupe the stupid and cowardly into thinking Politicians have “done something” to make them “safe”. The Islamic Terrorists have organization and funding behind them that is unprecedented. They can, and will, get guns in the US despite any background checks any Politician or Bureaucrat could devise.
    Personally, I think we’ll only see very minor Jihadi gun attacks in the US. They will go for larger scale attacks using bombs, arson and chemicals.
    Meanwhile Background Checks only affect those who obey the many illegal and Un-Constitutional “gun control” laws because they are honest, law-abiding Americans who have no criminal intentions at all. ALL these laws should be swept away.

  20. Closing the gun show loophole obviously isn’t a cure-all for terrorism. No single measure or action is. Still, the loophole is something terrorists are aware of and could well exploit. It should have been closed long ago. There is no excuse for not doing so now.

    There is no such thing as a “gun show loophole.”

  21. My problem with background checks is the same problem folks here have with another Gun Control trope: registration.

    But instead of registering firearms, we’re registering people. We all know what happens when guns are registered. We all know why guns are registered, the underlying, “unspoken” goal of gun registration. So, in that light, registering people is even worse and more foreboding.

    Folks seem comfortable with the state maintaining lists of people simply for their status, rather than some administrative reason (such as taxes or social security).

    Just criminalize everyone and maintain meta data about them, Just In Case. Bad precedent, bad policy.

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