On Monday, RF asked whether or not we should ditch background checks entirely. I’m generally on the same wavelength, but the question of background checks isn’t quite as simple as we’d like it to be. Even as most Americans don’t favor “stricter gun control” they support current and “expanded background checks.”
That’s because people outside the gun rights community don’t view background checks as an end in and of themselves. They consider them a tool to accomplish a specific, desirable goal: to prevent murderers, drug dealers, wife-beaters and other ne’er-do-wells from buying a gun. As for convicted criminals released back into society, they’re probably up to no good. Just to be safe, they ought to be barred from legally buying a firearm.
Now, we can have a wonderful conversation well into a night involving cigars and Maker’s 46 about how effective background checks really are.
On the one hand, the research on the subject is politicized to the point of comedy (and, given how ineffective polling was this presidential election year, I’m not sure why any given statistical survey would have more solid results.) Certainly, a lot of ex-felons released back into society seem to have the sorts of connections that make it easy for them to procure firearms notwithstanding the law.
On the other hand, I’d be committing a lie of omission if I didn’t admit that there may indeed be some people who are deterred from even bothering to try to buy a firearm because they know that they had a one-off drug conviction in their misbegotten youth, or they’re in the country illegally and don’t have the correct papers.
I’m sure a certain class of ex-felon might be deterred from trying to buy a gun because of background checks: non-violent ex-felons who have successfully re-integrated into society, along the lines of Messrs. Binderup and Suarez, who prevailed upon a federal court to restore their rights some months ago. In other words: the sorts of people who would be deterred by the law are the sorts of people who might actually be responsible gun owners.
Setting aside convicted felons, consider the other types of American citizens who are barred from possessing a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922:
– An American who smokes a joint on the weekend. Under federal law they’re barred from owning a gun. How is this materially different than someone who enjoys a glass of bourbon with dinner on the weekend?
– A person adjudicated to be “mentally defective.” Shouldn’t they be institutionalized and in the care of a competent medical professional until they are no longer judged such? And once they’re no longer “defective” shouldn’t they have the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen?
– Illegal immigrants. If the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of personal self-defense is a human right, don’t we have to respect that for everyone–even illegals? While they may be subject to deportation after due process for violating our immigration laws, what’s wrong with them exercising the right to freedom of speech, religion, due process or keeping and bearing arms?
America has a laundry list of people permanently banned from owning firearms, without sufficient recourse to remedy their legal disability. Many of those categories feel like they were created to make it easier for police to arrest someone who they suspect is a bad apple. To raise the stakes in the inevitable plea bargain. At the same time, many of these laws were created by grandstanding legislators; demagogues ready, willing, and able to betray their sworn oath to the Constitution in pursuit of political power.
Instead of getting caught up in the weeds over background checks, why don’t we push the real issue? Isn’t the real problem not straw purchasers or gun show “loopholes” or certain types of firearms or magazines, but the fact that society’s wasting precious time, money, and effort to enforce a ban that can’t be effectively enforced?
Background checks are a manifestation of our problem with both practicality (arrest all gun-owning dope smokers?) and priorities (what good would it do?). Law enforcement shouldn’t be charged with enforcing the dozens of largely ineffectual prohibitions on firearms possession, sale, and ownership as contained in 18 U.S.C. § 922. Instead, they should be focusing on crimes of violence and theft that actually impact the lives, health, and safety of our citizenry.
A man can dream, right?