Americans’ right to keep and bear arms does not depend on arguments of social utility. Attacking gun control laws on the basis that society would be better off without them is a bad landing at the wrong airport. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why academic John “More Stats, Less Readers” Lott went down the road in his New York Times editorial Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence. But his arguments are far from convincing. For example . . .
The background check measures before Congress aim to improve enforcement of existing law and increase such reporting by imposing financial penalties on government officials whose agencies fail to provide required information. That’s a good goal, but any proposal should also fix another major problem with the background check system: false positives that stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families.
The background check system confuses the names of law-abiding individuals with those of criminals, resulting in thousands of “false positives” every year. Relying on phonetically similar names along with birth dates just doesn’t allow for much accuracy.
See what I mean? By reaffirming the FBI’s mandatory background check system for firearms purchases from a federally licensed gun dealer, Lott is giving aid and comfort to gun control advocates.
Lott’s not saying the NICS protocol’s a joke, nothing more than expensive security theater. A fact that he, of all people, should know. He’s saying it should be better. Which opens the door to “common sense” comments like this (from a NYT reader named Howard in LA):
All processes of checking are subject to “false positives.” Mr. Lott’s argument would mean that no doctor could ever test for any disease or injury, no police force could ever check for outstanding warrants, no mechanic could ever put your car on the computer to see why its engine is losing power, and no terrorists would ever be identified by any agency whatsoever.
Checking Americans to see if they “qualify” to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms is a violation of the Seocnd Amendment. Chew on that Howard. Instead, Lott offers the idea that background checks discriminate against the poor.
To get some idea of what background checks add to the price of a weapon, look at the fees for checks on private transfers in states that already impose checks. In New York City and Washington, those fees cost at least $125 for private gun sales.
If people believe that background checks reduce crime and benefit everyone, everyone should pay for it, out of general government revenue. Pushing background checks on private transfers as proposed during the hearing disarms many law-abiding poor people.
True but — not convincing. Certainly not to The Times’ well-heeled, over-educated readers. Who must wonder what, exactly, Mr. Lott wants the government to do to “fix” NICS — other than a general admonition to do what they shouldn’t be doing in the first place, better.
We do need to fix the background check system. But let’s really fix it. Let’s make sure that rare cases like Devin Kelley can’t slip through the cracks, but let’s also make sure that the government stops preventing millions of law-abiding citizens from buying guns for protection. Adding more names without fixing these problems will only disarm law-abiding Americans.
What was it Sun Tzu said? When invading hostile territory penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way means dispersion.