A mere few months after Sandy Hook, President Obama attempted to exploit that atrocity to enact stricter gun control legislation. The Manchin-Toomey bill, which would have required federal background checks for private firearms sales, was thankfully defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate, 54-46. Now, lawmakers are at it again, attempting to pass federal legislation for so-called “universal background checks.” . . .
To no one’s surprise, MSNBC is carrying gallons water for the administration:
A bipartisan group of legislators reintroduced a gun control bill Wednesday, nearly two years after the U.S. Senate failed to pass a measure that would have closed the federal loophole in the background checks system.
That “loophole”, of course, being that background checks only apply to sales of firearms through Federal Firearms License holders, and not to private sales or transfers. As one would expect, the bill’s proponents (and the complicit media) are peddling the same tripe as they were during the last attempt.
The four Republicans and four Democrats who are co-sponsoring the measure are seeking to expand background checks to prevent criminals and people with severe mental illnesses from buying guns during every commercial sale.
Never mind, that current federal law already prohibits so-called “prohibited persons” from purchasing firearms from FFLs. Just to be clear, by definition, a “commercial” sale is a sale that goes through a licensed firearm dealer (otherwise known as a FFL, or federal firearms licensee). Thus, under current law, prohibited persons are already prevented from buying guns via commercial sales. None of that has anything to do with the real intent of such legislation. To wit:
A loophole in the federal system currently allows people to buy firearms sold online and at gun shows without first passing a background check.
Since commercial sales online and at gun shows already require a background check – because all commercial sales are required to be conducted by an FFL and all sales through an FFL require a background check – all commercial sales online and at gun shows already require a background check. (Go ahead: try to purchase a gun online or at a gun show from an FFL, without completing a Form 4473 and undergoing the background check.)
The real target of such legislation, then, is not commercial sales of firearms, but rather private transfers of firearms – and yes, that’s transfers, not just sales. See also: the monstrosity that is I-594 in Washington State.
And to promote the legislation, the bill’s supporters are recycling the same tired lies:
The federal background checks system currently in place stops 170 felons, 50 domestic abusers and 20 fugitives from buying a gun each day, [Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California] said.
I’m not certain where those numbers are coming from. Here are the numbers currently published by FBI, for a period of approximately the past 15 years. They show, for example, and average of 120 denials per day for felons. Perhaps Rep. Thompson is working from a different data set. Regardless, the numbers are largely meaningless, for two reasons:
- By and large, criminals don’t attempt to obtain firearms through licensed dealers. In fact, fewer than 15% do so. The rest obtain firearms from friends and family, the black market (i.e. the street), or through theft. To the extent that the Brady Bill impacted the ability of so-called “prohibited persons” from obtaining firearms, it merely created a minor shift. Prior to federal background checks, around 20% of criminals obtained firearms through commercial sales; afterward, that number dropped to about 14%. According to the FBI Firearm Violence report, that number dropped to 11.3% by 2004.
- NICS denials don’t lead to prosecution when so-called “prohibited persons” violate the law by attempting to purchase a firearm. As NRA-ILA pointed out last year: “Out of 72,659 NICS denials in 2010, for example, only 62 led to federal prosecutions. Of these prosecutions, only 13 led to convictions.“
And as a bonus, thousands of NICS denials are actually false positives. According to the 2012 FBI NICS Operations Report, some 4,000 denials were overturned out of over 26,000 appeals of over 88,000 denials.
So in summary, background checks merely drive criminals to other means of obtaining firearms, do not result in prosecution of criminals who illegally attempt to purchase firearms, and create an unnecessary and undue burden on the law-abiding who are merely attempting to exercise a constitutionally protected right.
But the weak point in the legislation allows for those individuals to purchase a weapon online or at a gun show after they are denied a firearm from a licensed dealer.
Ah, yes, the gun show: a favorite bogeyman of the civilian disarmament brigade. By their reckoning, gun shows are absolutely teeming with criminals. Or not, as evidenced by the DOJ Firearms Use by Offenders study linked above. In fact, fewer than one percent of criminals obtain firearms at gun shows. (And note that this number has remained steady since prior to the enactment of the Brady Bill, to today. Criminals didn’t and still don’t purchase firearms at gun shows.)
Even so, as pointed out above, commercial sales at gun shows require background checks. The same is true for internet sales. Where the confusion arises (confusion that I have no doubt is intentionally abused by proponents of such legislation, by referring to non-existent “loopholes”) is that both commercial FFLs and private individuals can sell their firearms via the internet and gun shows. The need to undergo a federal background check, then, is not a matter of location (internet or gun show vs. a brick-and-mortar gun store), but rather of sale type (private vs. commercial).
To be clear, the alleged “loophole” has nothing to do with the location of a sale, but rather of the commercial-vs-private nature of that sale.
The same bill put forward by Reps. King and Thompson was introduced in the previous session of Congress. It had earned 188 co-sponsors and 90% of support from the American public. But Republican leadership blocked the bill. Its bipartisan companion bill in the Senate, co-authored by Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, failed with 54 votes in April 2013. Just four months earlier, 26 people – 20 of them first graders – were killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
When civilian disarmament advocates dance on the graves of children by invoking a mass murder, they fail to point out that the legislation they are pushing would have had zero impact on the tragedy they’re attempting to exploit. Adam Lanza, at only 20 years old, already would not have been able to purchase a firearm through an FFL because state law requires a minimum age of 21 to purchase/possess a firearm. Furthermore, Lanza stole his firearms from his mother – something that no background check would have prevented.
This time, the lawmakers are facing a wider margin of Republican control in the House, and a GOP majority in the Senate.
“If this bill violated the Second Amendment, my name wouldn’t be on it,” Thompson, who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said Wednesday during a press conference to introduce the legislation. Background checks, he added, “are our first line of defense against dangerous people.”
No, actually. Prisons are our first line of defense against dangerous people. Laws do not constrain criminals, and gun control laws – including background checks – do not constrain violent criminals from obtaining or using firearms. Expanding background checks to private transfers will not prevent criminals from stealing firearms, will not compel street dealers to conduct background checks for black-market gun purchases, and will not compel family or friends of criminals to conduct background checks for private transfers.
The measure was crafted to provide appropriate exceptions, including the transfer of guns between family members, friends and hunting partners, said Rep. Bob Dold, a Republican from Illinois and co-sponsor of the bill.
Those exceptions, which arguably differentiate this bill from I-594, would further render the legislation ineffective. Some 40% of criminals obtain their firearms from friends and family. Some 10-15% of criminals obtain their firearms through commercial sales that already incur background checks. That leaves the 40% of criminals who obtain their firearms through theft, fences, and street sales – none of which would be compelled by this or any other law, to conduct background checks.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot by a gunman outside of a Tucson supermarket in 2011, briefly addressed reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible Democrats, Republicans, everyone,” she said. “We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight.”
As has been pointed out, to much cry of foul-play by civilian disarmament advocates, the person who put Gabby Giffords’s life on the line passed the background check they are advocating be expanded beyond commercial sales to private sales.
Where Congress has failed to address gun legislation, however, state and local leaders have taken matters into their own hands. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. have extended the background checks requirement beyond federal law to at least some private sales.
And here the mask slips somewhat; the target of this legislation is not internet or gun-show sales, but rather private sales.
For more of the same, and a taste of the talking points that will be used to promote the legislation, see Rep. Thompson’s press release.