“Every marathon starts with the first step. What the governor wanted to do is expand background checks. And this has indeed expanded background checks and led to an arrest. I would say that’s a good day’s work.” – Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran in Only 1 private gun buyer denied, arrested in voluntary background checks at 41 Va. gun shows [via fredericksburg.com]

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49 Responses to Quote of the Day: Virginia Taxpayers Getting Their (Anti-Gun) Money’s Worth

  1. This is confusing. We complain loud and long that checks don’t work, that violators are very rarely prosecuted, and now we have the BGC working as designed, but still complain. Are we saying that even if BGCs were 100 % accurate and effective, and if every violator were convicted and jailed, we would still declare the BGCs ineffective? The fact that only one person was prosecuted means what we always say….gun owners are the most law abiding demographic in the country. Do we just like complaining?

    • If they fail to reduce violent crime, then they are ineffective. That is, after all, the stated goal.

      Regardless of how many people are prosecuted, regardless how seamlessly the system works for lawful buyers, if violent crime is not reduced then the law is a failure, a waste of public resources, and an unnecessary infringement on the rights of lawful gun owners.

      A high school student should be able to understand this: If you have to ask the government for permission to exercise a constitutionally protected right, then it’s not really a right.

      • My understand of the “goal” of BGCs is not to directly reduce/prevent violent crime, but to prevent some amount (unstated) of firearms from being transferred to people who are not permitted to have a firearm. The indirect effect would be that a person who would otherwise commit a crime would be unable to buy the guns through legitimate outlets, would be prevented from crime by virtue of being locked-up. Regardless of the chain of event (crime reduced directly or indirectly) if a person violates the law, and is jailed, is that not a success? We talk about the lack of efficiency, but how many jailed felons would constitute a success?

        • “if a person violates the law, and is jailed, is that not a success?”

          Not if the resources consumed for discovering, arresting, trying and imprisoning these people could be better used in other ways to achieve more convictions of more dangerous people.

        • It is illogical to imagine that if one government program is abolished, the “savings” will be applied to support a more effective method of achieving a specific goal. Government does not look at “cost” in the same way you do. To government “cost” is something borne by others, and matters not to government. To government program “cost” is a good thing because it supports larger budgets and staffing.

        • “Government does not look at “cost” in the same way you do. To government “cost” is something borne by others, and matters not to government.”

          Except when it actually *does*.

          Canada had a very expensive long gun registry, costing hundreds of millions. They got nearly nothing for that expense.

          The Canada long gun registry is mostly history, now…

        • Canada did not/does not have the problem we face in this country; thousands and thousands of mass shooting everyday. With few privately owned guns, Canada could not come up with a feel good reason to keep the registry. Wild-eyed, raving gun owners in the US provide plenty of incentive to “do something”. Why can’t we all just get along?

        • Sam I Am,

          “With few privately owned guns, Canada could not come up with a feel good reason to keep the registry.”

          Um, no. Canadians own a LOT of firearms, especially long guns which is the subject of the LONG GUN REGISTRY that we are discussing. Canadians finally realized that they spent hundreds of millions of dollars and received literally ZERO benefit … so they have stopped pursuing their long gun registry.

        • Have not read anywhere that 1/3d of the population of Canada are gun owners, nor that they had 6 guns per person (or some such). But notice….Canada dropped their registry, and mass shootings are up. Direct cause? Has to be. Same would happen here if BGCs were eliminated. Oh, the horror, the horror.

        • The real issue is if a persson can be trusted to walk the streets drive a car but an axe I machete why can they not exercise there constitutional rights? If a person can’t be trusted with a gun they shouldn’t be free.

        • “If a person can’t be trusted with a gun they shouldn’t be free.”

          Would you trust the random street person with a gun? No? Lock ’em up? All of them?

        • You have articulated the rationale; at least, this is the only one that makes any sense to me. However, I’m convinced that its futile. Traffickers can always grind-off the serial number of a gun before selling it to a criminal. If criminals wouldn’t buy such guns then traffickers could find clandestine manufacturers who would finish 80% frames and counterfeit makers’ marks and serial numbers. Then, disassemble a straw-bought gun and re-assemble it on the counterfeit frame. These work-arounds would always succeed in protecting straw-buyers. In any case, tracing can’t work in the case of a used gun bought at a gun shop. Therefore, it wouldn’t work in the case of a private sale officiated by an FFL performing a UBC. To make either work would require something equivalent to a “national registry” that could trace a serial number to the last FFL who transferred that serial #. That’s when we will see soaring defaced serials or counterfeit serials.

          Effectively, the dawn of CNC machine tools have doomed any possibility of controlling the manufacture->distribution->retail control over guns. The sole remaining – potentially effective – form of gun control is felon-in-possession (or, unlicensed-person-in-possession). If the criminal justice system will not make the penalty high enough then there can be no control over the gun supply at all.

        • I have no illusions that anyone other than the mental giants over-represented in the criminal demographic would actually use the legal system to buy a gun. We simply cannot get around the fact that the checks exist, will exist, and there is only “hail mary” hope that they would be eliminated. We constantly get beat up over BGCs, so why not own the process, make it as efficient as it can be? Take the issue away from The Shannons. Get the thing running right, then demand every voter be subjected to BGC at every election. When the other side squeals, offer to make a deal, deal.

      • I would agree that resources are likely wasted in processing BGCs. However, since the fallback position of much of the pro-gun-rights movement has been to “prosecute the laws already on the books” – it’s a bit duplicitous to then move the goalposts and claim, “Well, you caught a bad guy, but you’re not catching enough bad guys!”

        In truth, BGCs have very little chance of catching felons, since felons don’t usually get their guns through those sources. The most likely scenario is for someone to find himself on the prohibited list for a plea-bargained crime committed years ago. This actually happened to a friend of mine – someone caught in some unusual consequences at a time when a plea bargain seemed better than to fight the supposed infraction – years later he had to spend a bundle to get his record cleaned up.

        Moving forward, the proper response to fighting legislation we don’t like does not include the phrase: “Enforce the laws already on the books!” Because many of those laws are just as bogus. But – we really can’t have it both ways and complain when they do as well as complain when they don’t.

    • I’m not seeing proof here of background checks “working as designed.” I see one guy, with a minor criminal record, arrested after a voluntary background check because he has an outstanding felony warrant for failing to appear before a grand jury. Reportedly he’s had other felony charges lodged against him in the past, all of which ultimately were withdrawn by prosecutors. I’m not seeing a would-be spree killer in this guy or someone, as the Virginia Sec. of State Troopers said, who would go out and cause mayhem.

      Background checks are meant, in the big picture, to reduce violent crime, not just to block transactions for their own sake. Incorporating the actual crime stats is important because it reveals whether criminals are just using different channels to acquire their firearms.

      • When you fire a silver bullet (prove crime goes down because of BGC), be aware someone just might fire a golden BB between your eyes (prove, indisputably, a direct connection between the number of guns in circulation, and lower crime rates).

      • Background checks are not meant for anything except to reduce the number of gun owners that buy new guns. The real reason we had background check is to track who buys what guns so the .gov knows where they are.

    • I would not complain if background checks we free and never falsely denied someone who is legally allowed to purchase a firearm. 98% of all denials in NICS are resolved. So if there was a cancer test that cost $$ and was wrong 98% of the time, would u support it? I also would not complain if EVERY denial due to a felony conviction was prosecuted. I also would not complain if after I passed the check my purchase was not recorded for future registration data base for possible confiscation.

      • As I understand it, if everything were perfectly executed, and free to boot, you would consider the outcome worth the price of the dance. Else, if an unknown number of bad guys get a gun through a legal outlet, and commit crimes, well, o-key doe-key.

        • Aren’t crimes illegal? Nobody said “okey-dokey”, what is well-known by now is that BGC accomplish NOTHING, at huge cost. And after all that, you still have to arrest the criminal and prosecute him for the freaking CRIME! Somebody should take a single year and document every single prosecution of people caught by BGC, I think it’s usually significantly fewer than 50 (while they claim hundreds of *thousands*!), should be interesting reading, why those particular people were chosen and what was the outcome of the cases. I have heard that the conviction rate isn’t real sterling, either.

        • I would consider a cop at every retail gun outlet, arresting anyone who fails a background check. Like a DUI. Whether or not the breathalyzer is accurate, you will be arrested, carted off, and jailed. You will be allowed to go to court and challenge the failed breathalyzer/ BGC. In either case, you would not be free to go on down the road at possible risk to others. Would that idea not improve the possibility of taking bad guys off the street?

        • Why would they need a cop at every gun shop? There’s already plenty of evidence on the 4473. It’d be cheaper to send the cops to the (infrequent) violator’s house than to post cops at gun shops.

        • This is really basic: catch the bad guy at the scene of the crime. Police don’t notice erratic driving, jot down the license number, go back to the station, launch detectives to track down the driver and issue a summons. Letting the perp out the door adds costs to bringing the BG to justice.

    • The system did not “work as intended”, unless the intended purpose of the system is to cause those with outstanding warrants to self-identify to law enforcement.

      He was arrested for the outstanding warrany, not for the BGC per se. (If he was unaware of the warrant, then there would be nothing BGC-related with which to charge him. He could have truthfully answered 11b and 11d.)

      There is also no word on the charge included in the outstanding felony warrant. There is a good chance that the charge is not indicative of the person being any particular danger if armed.

      • I hear you, Chip. But to the public, “felon” is “dangerous felon”. One good move was Californica lowering the level of crime for being a felon in possession of a stolen gun from felony to misdemeanor. Progress, I tell you; progress.

    • Washington Stae passed a universal background check law two years ago. To date there has been one arrest. However, the gun is missing and so is the person charged. Meanwhile, the law has had no impact she n crime.
      A 2013 review of the NICS background checks:
      https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/239272.pdf
      Illustrates some problems. Out of 6,000,000 plus checks about 76,000 were denied. Many of the denials were later cleared. The remaining cases had over 90% plus dropped with no action. In the end a total of 13 guilty pleas were obtained.

    • Great! Now, if we can just get voluntary BCG instead of required, and then get the cost below $300,000 per arrest, we could worry about what caused this perp to volunteer (I’d suspect he did not know he was wanted), and what is going to happen to him, (I suspect the charges will be dropped, but the $300,000 cost will remain).

  2. $30,000 for one arrest. And if he were someone intent on committing a violent act with a gun we could talk about the balance but…

    “It was unclear what legal penalty, if any, the Richmond man faced after being denied the purchase of a gun and arrested at the Henrico gun show in November.”

    None, I’m betting. It’s not a crime to try and buy a gun without realizing you have a warrant for your arrest. So this system essentially did what a traffic stop on the way for a broken taillight would have done.

  3. “Last year for example, the 321 people who were denied and the 100 people arrested represented 0.76 percent and 0.23 percent, respectively, of the 41,919 transactions.”

    What was missing from the article is the actual conviction rate, did anyone actually go to jail for their violation of the law?

  4. Red herrings stink! The entire discussion is a red herring drug across the path of the true issue in order to obscure the obvious violation of the Second Amendment in all of these cases, prosecuted or not.

    The argument should NEVER be whether or not background checks are effective or whether or not persons who “fail” these checks should be prosecuted. The argument should ALWAYS be that the NICS system is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment protection against government infringement of the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

    • If the Constitution is your only argument, then the only means of enforcing it is the Federal Court system. In some parts of the country, their only hope is SCOTUS itself. What if that fails? What if we have a majority of Supreme Court Justices who construct arguments of “public safety” to counter the 2A Absolutists.

      If we can gain a few victories in the court of public opinion, if we can convince a majority of Americans that background checks are a waste of their money (which they are), if we can prove that the “public safety” argument is without merit, then we increase the odds of preserving the Second Amendment.

      • You and I agree, here. The caution is that one must not underestimate the public’s thirst for feeling good about themselves. “If it saves only one…”, “We’ve got to do something, even if it doesn’t work…”. Like it or not, those are powerful arguments for restricting gun ownership. Proving BGCs don’t work only reinforces the notion that “We are not doing enough.”

        • ” “If it saves only one…”, “We’ve got to do something, even if it doesn’t work…”. Like it or not, those are powerful arguments for restricting gun ownership.”

          10,000 die annually in the US by drunk drivers. Why is there NO call for alcohol ignition interlocks to be mandatory on vehicles?

          And make bypassing the interlock a criminal offense with a mandatory 10 prison sentence.

          How many lives would be saved, annually?

        • Arguing apples and oranges is what we accuse the other side of doing. If vehicle death and injury were completely eliminated, how would that improve the pro-gun position? The fact that there is not a large public opposition to automobiles has no bearing on the political challenge we face. Pointing to other sources of death an injury as a means to persuade anyone that private ownership of guns is a good thing simply does not work. “Yeah, but….yeah, but….yeah, but….” Never gains adherents.

        • Geoff PR and Sam I Am,

          “10,000 die annually in the US by drunk drivers. Why is there NO call for alcohol ignition interlocks to be mandatory on vehicles?”

          Why? Because there isn’t much public outcry/support over those drunk driving deaths.

          We should hedge our bets and go after BOTH courses of action: we should tell people both the philosophical argument AND the practical argument. And fortunately for us, we have the facts on our side for both arguments.

        • “How many lives would be saved, annually?”

          My guess would be none. Like so many other BS laws, it would be ignored. Lotsa people here are too young to recall the “seat belt/ignition interlock system” mandated by Congress sometime in the ’70s. Lasted one year, due to the fact that an “on the sly” questionnaire passed around Congress, 90% of Congressmen and their assistants admitted they had already disabled the system on their own vehicles. They promptly repealed the requirement, manufacturers promptly stopped installing them. I don’t drink and drive, I would disable such a ridiculous intrusion the first day. Passing this kind of law (prior restraint, either drunk driving or firearms, or many other feel-good subjects) will never accomplish anything except making government larger and more expensive.

    • The argument that BGCs are a blatant violation is moot. BGCs exist, have been challenged in court, and still exist. The SC is never going to take on the notion that any action that impacts the second amendment is ipso facto unconstitutional, that the second amendment is absolute. There is no upside for politicians to even approach legislation that would eliminate all limits on the second amendment. There is no stomach among legislators for legislation that would force the courts to apply strict scrutiny in second amendment cases. What is left is either improving the efficiency of the limitations, and maybe preventing (through communication with legislators) further erosion. “Back to basics” is, and will be, a non-starter.

  5. I wonder if the person even was aware of the felony warrant? Some states(or individual judges) make a “failure to appear” into a felony warrant after a set time to make sure that the person is brought in. I can’t imagine anyone going through the process knowing they had a felony warrant, that is just asking to get caught. The fact that they will be dropping the felony charges spells set up, to me.

  6. But, but, but, anyone can go to a gun show and buy a gun without a background check, right? Isn’t that what they always say?

  7. The government’s ‘compelling argument’ of ‘public safety’ is, IMHO, at issue here. I am not a lawyer, however, I would expect that even though the government is the ‘defendant’ in these cases, the government would have to provide reasonable evidence that John Q. Public passing a background check improves public safety. Obviously, as this story suggests, it can improve the appearance of public safety. The question, then, becomes, how much improvement is necessary for justification. 1 is just as arbitrary as 50 or 100 or 1000.

    Bottom line, BGC provide ‘security theater’. Even if billions of dollars were thrown at the problem, the government cannot, with 100% assurance, provide ‘public safety’. The Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting is a great example: vetted multiple times, and STILL able to kill.

    The courts have ruled that a BGC is Constitutional, regardless of the belief (which I agree with) that asking permission from the government turns a ‘right’ into a privilege. No different, IMHO, from asking permission to conceal carry. Or obtain an NFA item (oh, and let’s tax that RIGHT, for added infringement…).

  8. The background check was done because the seller asked the potential buyer to have one before he sold him the gun. They potential buyer apparently looked or acted suspicious to cause the seller to have him get one. I suspect that the seller would not have sold the potential buyer a gun without a background check regardless of where the sale was being done. When something doesn’t seem right, you don’t sell.

    • Might want to read the article, that’s just wrong. It was a test program and cost the taxpayer $300,000, where the cost of what you described would be near zero.

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