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  1. Their culture war prevents reasonable people/fence-sitters from actually taking the first step towards being armed.

  2. I agree with Maddow that there is room for compromise in the debate. I also agree that the adversarial nature of not just this issue, but all hot-button political issues, makes reaching such compromise exceedingly difficult. Neither the NRA nor the Brady Campaign seek to find that compromise–both, understandably, push their respective agendas with zeal.

    Setting aside any “slippery slope” arguments, what is the strongest case *against* requiring background checks for purchasers of firearms at gun shows?

    • Okay, here’s one: background checks do absolutely NOTHING to curb gun violence. Talk to John Lott (we did at the NRA show). John’s made a career out of compiling the mind-numbingly boring statistics from across the nation into something that makes sense (although he’s still working on the mind-numbingly boring part). The truth is, background checks don’t catch anybody. Wanna care to make a stab at how many actual “catches” the current law has made? I believe RF told me it was about 317. Of those, I think it’s 24 that were actually “righteous” catches, in other words, they weren’t mistakes, overreaches, or other screw-ups, went to trial and resulted in a conviction. Now that’s against the total number of guns sold legally in the USA. Sure, you can argue that we got 24 potential killers off the street, but even that would be a stat that’s the product of an overactive imagination. Truth is, the convictions were for people that weren’t qualified to buy a gun, not serial killers in training.

      So, if background checks don’t work and don’t result in lives saved, what’s the problem with them? Well, they cost taxpayers money, divert law enforcement focus from things that would actually cut down the crime rate, and they inhibit law-abiding citizens from buying guns. For instance, most states make no provisions to allow someone who can show a valid, legal reason for buying a gun immediately (for instance, they have a court order showing that someone has a restraining order that supposedly prevents them from getting near the potential gun buyer). Those people that are trying to buy a gun to save their own lives are S.O.L. and many become a statistic, victims of people who simply get a gun another way (outside the legal way to buy a gun). So let’s turn the question around: why shouldn’t we scrap the entire system?

      • Brad,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. Before I respond, let me preface by saying that I own many firearms and carry (legally) my Glock 19 every day. However, I still have lots of questions when it comes to crafting sensible policy.

        You are undoubtedly correct to suggest that background checks do not do much to prevent violent gun crimes. Most gun crimes are committed by criminals who likely acquired their weapons illegally.

        However, the reason to have background checks is ostensibly to prevent those members of society from legally obtaining firearms whom we have deemed unfit for gun ownership–like felons or the mentally ill.

        So while it is undoubtedly true that the 24 people “caught” by checks were not murderers-to-be, it *is* true that they were people that society (or the legislature) has deemed unfit for gun ownership. It is not unreasonable to believe that preventing those people from legally obtaining firearms will help to prevent violent gun crime.

        Of course, the fact remains that those 24 may have gone out and acquired guns illegally anyway. But this does not counsel in favor of abandoning any obstacles to their purchase altogether. Instead, it is a question of costs and benefits. You are right to point to the expense (from taxpayers) of a background check system. However, providing a (constitutionally permissible–see Heller) legal hurdle to those unfit to purchase firearms may outweigh the cost of the background check system.

        • Ice, I have to agree with you that there are no easy answers here. Too often, one side or the other trots out “conventional wisdom” to bolster their side’s play. And too often, I’ve seen conventional wisdom confounded by all those inconvenient, overlooked facts.

          Frankly, I can see the pros and cons of a background check system. But I think we’d be better served by a system that would tie in the criminal justice/courts system – one that would ‘red flag’ anybody that’s a felon, under a restraining order, or has a court order concerning their mental health. Seems to me if there was a nationally-accessible registry not of gun owners, but of criminals and those that are certifiably mentally ill, we’d do a lot better with the background checks. I could support a system that would put those that shouldn’t have a gun on the equivalent of a “no-fly” list. However…let’s look at how well the no-fly list is working. Far as I can tell, it’s not. There should be a process spelled out for how to get off the list if you shouldn’t be on it to begin with (clerical errors DO happen). The same would be true of this “no-buy” list. If you are on it and shouldn’t be, you should be able to offer proof that you shouldn’t be on the list and get your name expunged in a timely fashion. But that’s not the way the government works.

          If you have any better ideas, we’re all ears. The “no-buy” list is my best shot. (No pun intended.)

        • “However, the reason to have background checks is ostensibly to prevent those members of society from legally obtaining firearms whom we have deemed unfit for gun ownership–like felons or the mentally ill.”

          You’ve basically answered your own question. Background checks do not stop those with criminal intent from obtaining firearms. Nor do background checks prevent the mentally ill from obtaining a firearm both after they’ve been diagnosed and gone through due process (garage sales/PPTs), or before such conditions have become apparent (inherited firearms). Background checks are largely ‘feel good’ policy that advocate perception over reality.

          It feeds into this argument that firearms are more dangerous then other tools. Knives, swords, chainsaws, blunt objects, etc. It is relatively easy to kill someone without the use of a firearm. Easier in many instances with other tools. Its also easier to kill a lot of people if one applies just a tiny bit of imagination. Derailing a train, dropping gasoline filled containers from the top of a building into the crowd below, using tannerite or other explosives, etc. Its an attempt to elevate firearms into a more dangerous category. It avoids the reality that firearms are no more dangerous than any other tool if the intent to do evil is present.

          Let us not forget that the goal of background checks is really just to add hassle to ownership. To dissuade people from buying a firearm out of their city, or across state lines. To dissuade people from being self-reliant and responsible in their own safety.

          If we want to consider public policy in this matter, let us consider opening the NCIS to citizens so that conscientious sellers have the means to make a simple phone call to check said seller. Allow people to go through the NCIS from another location so that firearms bought online do not have to be sent to your state FFL first. Let us add some sort of tax incentive to encourage self driven checks from sellers with regards to private sales.

          As a side note, the push for background checks with every transaction is only a first step for registration on all firearms. Indeed, that is the goal. For every transaction to be regulated and followed person to person, cradle to grave. That reason alone is enough to be against expanding background checks.

      • John Lott is hardly an objective source — and it’s surprising to still see him cited after the Mary Rosh scandal. The imaginary Ms. Rosh was an Internet sock puppet invented by Lott to review him on Amazon and support him on web forums. In one post Ms. Rosh gushed that Lott was “the best professor I ever had.” Very humiliating, once the hoax was exposed by Julian Sanchez, now at the Cato Institute, and Lott was forced to admit to the whole thing.

        If a man has no problem inventing an imaginary person to support his positions, what do we suppose he is willing to do with statistics? I think we know the answer to that one. Brad, do you have any reason to place any credibility in his work other than you happen to like his conclusions?

        • Magoo, I’ve oft heard it said that figures don’t lie (but liars figure). Or to put it another way, there are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” When you have access to the raw data (as Lott has provided) it’s pretty easy to check his facts, his data, and his conclusions. Someone who’s guilty of self-aggrandizement that adds 2 + 2 and gets 4 is still right.

          One of the many problems I have with the Global Warming crowd is that the data upon which their arguments were built was tainted to begin with, and then the researchers deleted the original data. Fortunately, they were stupid enough to leave a trail of smoking guns (emails) that tripped them up and exposed their deceit. I’ve seen or heard nothing about this as far as Lott goes. Until I see something that discredits his findings or his methodologies, I see no problem in finding his work credible.

        • After reading your comments, I did a little research on my own. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Lott:

          Wikipedia has a reputation for being a little harder on those from the Right than the Left. I think the whole Mary Rosh thing is pretty thin. Having dealt with the world of peer-reviewed journals from the sidelines, I can tell you I’ve seen this sort of thing go on a lot. (Not that this makes it right.) Academics live in a different world and play by somewhat different rules. Which is to say, in the real world “who cares” would be my final answer.

        • “The imaginary Ms. Rosh was an Internet sock puppet invented by Lott to review him on Amazon and support him on web forums.”

          There seems to be a lot of those around these days.

  3. Meghan’s body language throughout the interview made her look like she was uncomfortable talking to Pink Shirt.

    What exactly is a semi-assault rifle? Is that a new black gun boogeyman?

  4. Solution for the national debt:

    1. Put her and Olberman in a Thunderdome battle to the death with Beck and O’Reilly

    2. Sell tix and pay-per-view.

    3. Pay off national debt with proceeds.

  5. What shitty shitty people. They keep dropping the name “dick cheney” as if that has any value or meaning to anyone… “The NRA doesn’t necessarily support your position”, shitty shitty shitty people.

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