You may be aware that firearms trainer Rob Pincus and Former Brady Campaign president Dan Gross published a piece at Ammoland recently arguing for expanded background checks. As you might imagine, that stance has stirred up a Zumbo-esque shitstorm among the gun rights community.
A well-written, representative take on a prominent gun community figure such as Pincus coming out for expanded (but not universal) background checks was written by The Gun Writer, Lee Williams. Read his post here.
For the record, my take on the Pincus/Gross proposal is virtually identical to that of Williams. I am firmly in the not one more inch column. But Pincus is adamant that the specifics of what he’s proposing does not constitute more restrictions or gun control. So I wanted to give him the opportunity to answer the most important criticisms of what he and Gross are proposing.
I sent him the following questions, and here are his answers . . .
TTAG: You wrote that the differences between those who own guns and those who don’t or would further restrict our rights “is still perceived as a culture war.”
Change is being made impossible by perceptions of a culture war that does not actually exist.
The gun control industry and the media have been attacking the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms for decades. It’s a constant battle against hunting, the shooting sports, armed self-defense, the right to keep and bear arms, and those who would exercise it. How is that not a culture war?
Pincus: There is a small group of noisy people that claim gun owners “care more about guns than children” and all that kind of tripe…and noisy people on our side have been selling the idea that everyone who votes Democrat wants to take all guns away for a couple decades. Both are lies that keep getting repeated because they are good for business and they get “the base” fired up.
But, there is no group of +/- 50% of the country that wants loaded machine guns in vending machines at the elementary school because they don’t care about kids’ lives. Just as there is no group of +/- 50% of the country that wants to abolish the Second Amendment (if there was, they would try, right? It’s literally never even talked about seriously by anti-gunners).
So, you’ve got some extremists with agendas that like attention and ask for donations with fear mongering rhetoric. That’s not a “culture war.” I’ll bet within the margin of error, 100% of Americans would honestly answer “yes” to “Do you want to reduce negative outcomes involving firearms?. Particularly if they weren’t afraid of losing freedom in the process…that’s the rub.
Our side has to admit that we care and then engage in the conversation about how we do it. The other side needs to either then be honest about their intention to restrict freedom or acknowledge all the many things that the gun community already does or can do (without any law) to work towards reducing negative outcomes.
TTAG: You wrote in support of expanded background checks for private firearm sales to strangers (but not to friends and family members).
We believe any expansion of the Background Check requirement should be focused on transfers to strangers. Sure, there are some important details to work out around exceptions such as specific definitions of “strangers,” and exceptions that would make it impossible for the government to compile a comprehensive list of gun owners; but we are confident that there are solutions that can make a huge impact if we stick to the principle and message of only keeping guns from the people we all agree shouldn’t have them.
…we believe the public face of any policy push should, as entirely as possible, be focused on background checks.
How – specifically – would something like that be implemented? How would a “stranger” be defined and a friend or family member be exempted?
Pincus: Again, that’s the conversation that needs to happen. First, it’s important to establish clearly here that the original article was intended to create conversation, just like this one that we are having. The draft was read by many leaders in the gun community.
Some offered some great suggestions about verbiage. Some asked great questions that lead us to clarify portions. Some advised me not to publish it, while others were very supportive of the idea of doing something controversial to create dialogue and thought. None of them volunteered to add their name, however.
It’s the nature of our community to attack anything outside of the orthodoxy. I stopped worrying about that a long time ago. So, I get a lot of private support from people whose jobs, business or dependence on social media support prevent them from stepping out of certain boundaries. I’m happy to play gadfly so that we can get to the important details in a context that is relevant and not just “shall not be infringed!”
As I said in my follow up interview with John Crump, if I have the power, background checks go away…but, I don’t have that power. Quite frankly, the people with the power right now want to end private transfers completely through universal background checks.
So, a couple of thing to establish first:
A. Exemptions are exemptions. Think of it like a breathalyzer device that prevents a car from starting if the owner has repeated DUIs. Most people don’t need to have one and we don’t get asked to prove we aren’t drunk when we started our car. If someone is suspected of being drunk while driving a car, it has to be investigated and proven.
A lot of people jump to: “But, how would you prove you transferred a gun to an exempted person?” You don’t have to. The burden of proof would be on any accuser that wanted to charge you with doing the opposite.
B. As a piece of any actual legislation that I would help a legislator craft, federal prohibitions against interstate transfers (for dealers or individuals) should be abolished and the BATFE should be directed that they must follow up on NICS denials. I believe these two steps are crucial to the long-term goal of abolishing background checks entirely.
Next, let’s talk about the exemptions list. Millions of people will be on it for just about any conceivable gun owner in America. That’s the primary mechanism for precluding the establishment of a gun registry.
Here’s my starting list of people who would be exempted from the need for a background check if a firearm owner wanted to transfer a firearm to them:
-Anyone who can legally carry a concealed firearm in their state of residence
-Anyone who is a member of the same gun club as the gun’s owner
-Anyone who is a member of the same competition shooting league as the gun’s owner
-Anyone who is active/reserve/retired military or National Guard.
-Anyone who is active/reserve/retired law enforcement.
-Anyone who is a licensed armed security agent.
-Anyone who is a certified firearm safety/shooting instructor by a national organization.
-Anyone who is a member of the immediate family, an intimate partner or a co-habitator with the gun’s owner.
TTAG: An incremental expansion of the current background check requirement would be a half step toward a “universal” background check mandate, and would make taking that final step politically and logistically easier. It’s clear that the only way a UBC system works is with the outright registration of firearms. And that would, eventually, someday facilitate actual confiscation. Given that, how can you support taking that next step?
Pincus: Hopefully, what I’ve already answered covers this. And in the work I’m doing to protect private gun making, you should see a pretty strong recipe for making a comprehensive gun registry practically impossible.
TTAG: Anti-gun advocates and politicians have been arguing for and achieving incremental, “common sense” restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms since the 1960s (or longer). Gun owners are told each time that it’s a small, reasonable compromise. Yet they never stop pushing for another limit, the next restriction on civilian gun ownership and use.
The gun control advocates use language much like yours when you wrote that we need . . .
…solutions that can make a huge impact if we stick to the principle and message of only keeping guns from the people we all agree shouldn’t have them.
Gun owners have seen this movie before and have taken the “not one more inch” stance in response. Why wouldn’t this be one more step on the road to toward complete civilian disarmament?
Pincus: Again, I expect that the answers provided above make it clear that my proposal actually increases freedom. There is no “incremental loss.” There is no “further infringement.” There is no “giving up ground.”
A PR consultant would tell me to end this paragraph at that last period and not offer the following, but I think it’s important to the conversation: An un-asked question is, “What is “expanded,” exactly, in your proposal?”
The only thing that I have explored expanding is information related to mental health issues getting into NICS. It’s a very tricky area that most people I’ve talked to in the mental health world are against. They don’t want people being afraid to seek treatment. I get that, but I still think it’s worth exploring.
There is also the issue of clarity around who needs to have an FFL to transfer firearms. I’ve said for a long time that this needs to be defined more objectively in some way. Either by frequency or volume of sales, duration of ownership before sales…somehow.
I’d also suggest cleaning up and relaxing the requirements for those who want to engage in the business of gun sales, but don’t want to have a traditional retail location.
Getting clarity here would prevent anti-gunners from attacking private sales, especially at gun shows, as nefarious. They wouldn’t be able to rationally accuse people of functioning as dealers without licenses just to avoid background checks, at least not without providing evidence that they were outside of the bounds of the clear definition of dealer.
Other than those, cleaning up the timelines and details of the how/when the courts and DOJ report to NICS are really the only other things that are reasonable to look at, and those wouldn’t be “expansions” in the scary sense.
So, you might be asking what in the actual *&$# all the ruckus is about? Simple: There are people out there in the gun media/social media who are willfully ignoring that I’ve been fighting for gun rights for over two decades. They are willfully ignoring the fact that I’ve regularly gone into the land of “liberal media” and successfully represented responsible gun owners by doing more than saying, “Shall Not Be Infringed!”
They are willfully ignoring the fact that my co-author, Dan Gross, left Brady over three years ago and that he stood on the grounds of the US Capitol with thousands of gun owners at the 2019 2A Rally and called out the disingenuous gun-grabbers who pretend they don’t want to take away guns.
He’s on record, for many years, even when he was still at Brady, as being against gun bans that, in his words, “take some guns away from all people.” They are going after the cheap likes with cheap shots at me… and some people eat that stuff up.
That’s what the ruckus is about… and that’s what has people talking. Thankfully, some are talking about the right things and I appreciate that you are among them.