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The fundamental truth is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their loved ones. But the Biden administration and congressional Democrats are once again taking aim at these rights within their first 100 days of taking power.
It’s important to remember why this right is so important.
We should find it outrageous that liberal Democrats would make it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against anyone who could do them harm. Firearms are, after all, the great equalizer. They help ensure that the strong do not prey upon the weak.
America’s founders spoke on this issue extensively. Benjamin Franklin warned that, “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” He was right. The American tradition of self-reliance, self-determination, and self defense has been fierce. It’s been what makes this country so exceptional and so great.
March 8, 2021, the House passed two bills that would undermine this right. The first was H.R. 8. It was sold as “universal background checks.” It would impose harsh penalties like six-figure fines and jail time for the simple act of handing a firearm to another person, even for temporary use. The exemptions under H.R. 8 are woefully inadequate to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. For example, if you loan your firearm to a victim of domestic violence because their abuser is being released from jail; or if a suicidal friend asks you to take possession of their firearm; or if you loan your cousin your gun after a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. These new transfer penalties would turn law-abiding Americans into criminals.
House Democrats also passed H.R. 1446. This bill claims to close the so-called “Charleston Loophole,” by making retail gun stores wait 10 business days before completing a transfer instead of the current three day standard. The bill would also change existing law to mandate a may-issue transfer system for firearms. That would empower the FBI to indefinitely delay a purchase—even after the increased 10 day window has expired without a failed background check.
This delay adds additional levels of bureaucracy on citizens before they exercise their constitutional right to own firearms. Under current law, the government has the burden of proof to stop you from buying a firearm. Increasing the waiting period to 10 days—while giving the FBI veto power without due process—would reverse this standard. Imagine asking for federal permission before you exercised your right of free speech, free expression, or religious activity. That would be unacceptable and un-American.
What’s worse, both of these bills would not have prevented recent mass shooting tragedies across the nation. In those awful events, the criminals either passed a background check or stole their weapons.
Our founding fathers knew better, which is why they explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights that our freedom to keep and bear arms, “shall not be infringed,” and the Supreme Court affirmed this individual right in 2008. The Second Amendment is an indispensable constitutional safeguard in defense of every American’s individual liberty.
We must not sacrifice our rights by passing laws that criminals will ignore and will make our families less safe. We cannot punish good, honest Americans who have every right to protect themselves and their loved ones. With Democrat majorities in the House and Senate and Joe Biden in the White House, we must remain vigilant to protect and preserve our Constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights.
Some background information on the Democratic stance on Gun Control and the Second Amendment.
As I stated above, the second amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees its people the right to “keep and bear arms.” The extent to which this phrase allows government control of firearms in America has been a highly contested issue, especially in recent years. The Democratic Party wishes to see a stricter regulation of firearms, especially assault weapons. The Democratic views on gun control are centered around the belief that “the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.” The Democratic Party hopes to “focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and…work together to enact commonsense improvements–like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole–so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.” The 2012 Democratic Party Platform did explain that the Democratic Party does not wish to override the second amendment. Instead, they wish to see gun control reform that they believe lies within the scope of the second amendment, stating, “We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms.”
Democratic Legislation On Gun Control
The Democratic Party passed both the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban. The Brady Law, formally known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, was signed by President Clinton in 1993, and instituted federal background checks for all firearm purchases within the United States. In 1994, the President Clinton signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, commonly known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, authored by Dianne Feinstein. The act banned the manufacture of semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons under the law for civilian use. The ban expired in 2004, and Democrats have made several attempts to renew it, all of which were unsuccessful. These efforts were most recently renewed in 2013. The ban was proposed shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting of 2013, and was part of a broader gun-control bill proposed by President Obama. The Assault Weapons Ban failed on a vote of 60 to 40. In 2014, the House did come together and pass an amendment providing better funding to the background check system by $19.5 million. This amendment was passed in response to the public’s desire for action after a shooting in Isla Vista, California in My of 2014. The additional money will be used to ensure that states have the resources necessary to submit additional records of prohibited firearm purchasers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, states that the amendment will “help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and make us all safer, but we need to do more. Congress needs to listen to the American public and expand federal background checks to include guns sold online and at gun shows so that any improvement to the background check system applies to all commercial gun sales.”
The Democratic Party hopes to see a good deal of gun control legislation in the future. Their goals include to incorporate mental-health criteria into the existing law regarding who can and cannot own guns. They hope to expand the federal prohibition on gun sales to include those convicted of misdemeanor stalking. They also hope to prohibit gun sales to those receiving involuntary mental health services on an outpatient basis, if a court deems them dangerous. Many states have already implemented these restrictions on a state-level basis. Democrats also hope to see states grant money to help local authorities bolster gun-violence prevention programs.
Barack Obama and Gun Control
President Barack Obama stands in firm support of stricter gun control laws. He adamantly believes that stricter laws will prevent further shooting tragedies. He has faced great opposition from Congress on this front, which he plans to override in the long run, stating, “citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.” Obama has made it clear that his hope is not to diminish the second amendment, but to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. In his debate with Mitt Romney in 2012, Obama stated, “We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves. My belief is that we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.”
Hillary Clinton On Gun Control
Hillary Clinton believes that America is in dire need of stricter gun laws, stating that access to guns in the U.S. had grown “way out of balance.” She hopes to see a balance between respecting the second amendment and keeping guns from criminals, stating, “respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands.” She says, “We’ve got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime, and I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people.” Once a firm proponent for a National Gun Registry, Clinton positioned herself more conservatively than President Obama in the 2008 primaries. She believes that gun crime reductions in the 1990’s were because of the stricter gun control laws, and hopes to recreate this today.
Younger voters have put the pressure on Democrats to deliver solutions.
Democratic presidential candidates are both renewing their gun control proposals and pushing for more progressive plans in the wake of recent mass shootings in Odessa, Texas, El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left more than 30 victims dead.
Here are the current and former candidates who have put out proposals so far and what we know about the candidates who have yet to do so. The list doesn’t include every Democratic candidate, but highlights candidates who have significant positions or experiences that set them apart — whether they were the first to support a policy, switched positions over the years, held office at the time a mass shooting occurred or have experience with guns through military service.
Former candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., carved out one of the most ambitious paths in the gun policy debate ahead of 2020 — a plan he called “the most comprehensive gun violence prevention plan of any candidate for president in decades.”
Booker’s policy, announced in May, would have required all gun owners to acquire a license through the federal government. Currently, 16 states have similar laws to varying degrees.
His plan ultimately pushed federal licensing into the conversation for Democrats, prompting Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke to echo their support for a national gun licensing program or include it in their own policy announcements.
O’Rourke, who also ultimately ended his bid, demanded banks and credit card companies to stop processing assault weapons sales and firearm transactions without a background check. O’Rourke’s plan was to drum up public pressure by calling on these financial institutions to deny services to all gun and ammunition manufacturers that produce or sell assault weapons. This call appears to be the first of its kind among the Democratic candidates.
Some have also issued support for buyback programs, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Biden, who authored the 1994 assault weapons ban, is in favor of universal background checks and renewing a ban on assault weapons. However, he has yet to release a detailed plan on gun control reform.
Another candidate who is no longer in the race, Castro, who unveiled a gun policy after the El Paso shooting, also came out in support of buybacks. In the past, Castro has described buybacks as having “had mixed success,” but as being “good policy” in some circumstances.
Warren, who did not include support for buybacks in her gun policy announced in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, described her focus on reducing the power of the NRA, putting $100 million annually toward gun safety research and reducing gun deaths in the country by 80%.
“Historically, when Congress works to address big national issues, we don’t simply pass one law and cross our fingers. Instead, we continue the research — into new policies and around the consequences of our existing policies — and then come back on a regular basis to update the law,” she wrote in her plan. “We don’t do this with guns.”
“This ends when I’m president,” Warren said.
Warren, who was born and raised in Oklahoma and has said that she values the rights of “law-abiding citizens” to own guns, was one of the last front-runner candidates to unveil a gun policy, despite her efforts to be out in front of a host of other 2020 issues by dominating the arena of plans.
Before announcing her policy, Warren had gained support of gun control advocates for her work in the Senate. After the deadly 2017 shooting in Parkland, Florida, Warren wrote letters to several major companies that invested with gun manufacturers and asked them to pressure the industry to change.
“I encourage you to take action to ensure that the gun companies in which you invest are taking steps to reduce gun violence,” Warren wrote to Fidelity, BlackRock, Vanguard Group and others.
In her presidential plan, Warren echoed Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in pledging to act on gun control within her first 100 days through executive action. Harris, too, has since ended her presidential bid.
Harris, who announced her plan in April, said she would also require near-universal background checks to be run by people selling more than five guns in a year and revoke the licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers that break the law. She has also talked about renewing the 1994 law that banned assault weapons but expired in 2004 — an idea with near universal support among Democratic candidates.
For Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., judging gun control legislation is about what would “hurt [her] Uncle Dick in the deer stand,” a perspective that comes from her state’s value of the outdoors, including hunting and fishing, Klobuchar said in a CNN town hall in February.
“And so I come at it from a little different place than some of my colleagues running for this office,” she said.
But those factors don’t keep her from supporting universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, she said. In the past, Klobuchar has applied the same rule about her Uncle Dick to other laws, like preventing people on a terrorist watch list from buying guns.
“Would closing off the loophole in the terrorist watch list hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand? Not at all,” Klobuchar said in 2016.
Much like Klobuchar, Sanders has many constituents who hunt. According to Vermont’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are 66,000 residents who hunt and the state rakes in nearly $4 million in hunting license revenue each year.
In the past, the rural connection has led to criticism by some progressives that Sanders was too moderate on gun control, especially in his early career. The Vermont senator has made a point since kicking off his 2020 campaign to show he’s evolved.
During the 2016 battle for the Democratic candidacy, Sanders frequently was attacked for repeatedly voting against a 1993 law that established federal background checks. At the time, Sanders told a local newspaper that he supported background checks but was opposed to the federally mandated waiting period that came along with it because it might affect local gun shop sales.
Sanders often brings up his lengthy record to prove a different point: He has consistently voted since the 1980s to ban semi-automatic assault weapons.
An issue that affects candidates and voters nationwide
Only one of the nearly two dozen major Democratic presidential candidates has not seen a mass shooting take place in their state while in office: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
For the purpose of this analysis, ABC News defined a mass shooting as an incident where four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.
Harris, for example, who has made gun control a key part of her 2020 platform, held office in California when two of the state’s most deadly mass shootings in recent history took place: 14 people were killed in San Bernardino in 2015 and 12 people were killed in a shooting at a college bar in Thousand Oaks in 2018.
Colorado has also seen some of the most notable mass shootings in the country and there were two candidates in the race from the state: Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race on Aug. 15 and later announced that he would run for a Colorado Senate seat in 2020.
After a shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012 claimed 12 lives, Hickenlooper signed gun control measures that required background checks for private and online gun sales and banned high-capacity magazines. Bennet also voted to ban high-capacity magazines, but in 2010 voted to oppose restricting the right to bear arms and in 2009 voted to allow Amtrak riders to check bags containing guns.
During Biden’s nearly five decades in public office, there were dozens of mass shootings, which has in turn made Biden a longtime advocate for gun control. As a U.S. senator, he introduced the assault weapons ban, which was signed into law in 1994.
And after the deaths of 20 first-grade students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, then-Vice President Biden led a new task force on gun violence. Four months after the tragedy in Connecticut, Biden’s modest measure on background checks passed the House, but didn’t make it out of the Senate.
Who has switched their stance on guns?
For O’Rourke, a minor switch came just a few months into the 2020 cycle, after Booker announced his proposed plan, and again after the shooting in El Paso shattered his hometown.
Asked about establishing federal gun licensing in May, O’Rourke initially told reporters on the campaign trail that it went “too far.” But after a night of reflection, he changed his mind.
“What I think Sen. Booker has done is to push us past that to seek to do even more, and I’m grateful that he’s done that and I, you know, as I’ve thought about it, I really think that we should be looking at everything,” O’Rourke said the next day on the trail.
After the shooting in El Paso, O’Rourke also came out in support of a buyback program.
For the former governor of Colorado, the evolution on guns was a longer, more-complicated process.
“This wasn’t a Colorado problem. This is a human problem,” Hickenlooper told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in 2012, in the wake of the Aurora shooting. “Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. … He would have done something to create this horror.”
Since then, Hickenlooper has adapted his tone, and more than once. Colorado has passed measures expanding background checks and limiting magazine sizes to 15 rounds, despite backlash from gun rights groups.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the presidential race on Aug. 28, has also evolved, tumbling from an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association to an “F” — a point of pride, she’s said.
“I didn’t have much of an understanding about what gun violence actually looks like in a community,” Gillibrand said in a 2016 podcast about her past pro-gun stance, when she represented a rural upstate New York district.
She was changed by conversations with families who’d been devastated by gun violence in cities, she said.
Gillibrand was joined by fellow former presidential hopeful Rep. Tim Ryan, of Ohio, who was also formerly given an “A” rating from the NRA. Ryan shifted his stance more recently than Gillibrand, speaking out after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. He has since donated roughly $20,000 to gun control organizations.
How veterans who were trained to use guns view them on US streets
There were three candidates in the race who were trained to use guns in combat. Even though their legislative records differ, all three support a ban on military-style assault rifles.
After 49 people were killed at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, Marine veteran and current Rep. Seth Moulton tweeted a photo of himself in uniform holding a military-grade rifle, saying, “I know assault rifles. I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America’s streets.”(MORE: Kamala Harris proposes executive actions to curb gun violence)
The rifle the Massachusetts congressman was holding is not available to civilians and was not the same gun that was used in the nightclub shooting.
Moulton, who dropped out of the presidential race on Aug. 23, also authored bipartisan legislation to ban bump stocks, an accessory that increases the firing rate, after the device was used in the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people in 2017.
“There are common sense reforms, there are common sense laws that we can pass, that are respectful of gun rights but still will reduce this public health crisis in America,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with co-anchor Martha Raddatz after the Las Vegas shooting.
Also after the shooting in Las Vegas, Buttigieg, a U.S. Navy Reserve veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan, similarly denounced AR-style rifles.
“I did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen,” he tweeted.
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has come under criticism for not sponsoring gun control measures that are widely supported by other Democrats in the House. But she has voted to ban assault weapons, and, shortly after the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17, Gabbard added her name as a co-sponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018.
The Current Bill does little to actually change how guns are being purchased.
I am going to explore the top nine reasons this latest piece of gun control legislation is a bad idea.
Federally mandated universal background checks won’t end gun violence nor stop the criminal misuse of firearms, but they will significantly increase the burden of millions of law-abiding Americans who wish only to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-defense.
1. Demands For New Gun Control Are An Admission That Gun Control Doesn’t Work
Background checks are used to ensure that a potential firearm possessor is not one of a class of “prohibited persons” who are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law. This class includes felons, fugitives, those subject to certain restraining orders, those convicted of crimes of domestic violence, and more.
This means current gun control laws already make it illegal for these people to possess a firearm. Requiring more background checks is an admission that the current law prohibiting these people from possessing firearms is not enough to prevent their possession. This is true for all gun-control laws, because if we know one thing about criminals, it’s this: they do not care if they break the law.
Every mass killing is caused by one thing: an evil person intent on killing many innocent people. The tool, whether it be an airplane, a pressure cooker, or a firearm, can change. Making even more laws restricting access to the tool will not stop mass killings, but it will make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from potential violence. By definition, criminals don’t obey the law.
The horrific mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, was not prevented by banning murder, banning guns on schools, banning the theft of firearms, nor requiring so-called universal background checks for every gun sale (Connecticut is one of the states that requires this). Adding yet another law on top of dozens of other laws that failed to prevent mass gun violence is an admission that these laws simply don’t work.
2. Gun Dealers Already Conduct Background Checks
Federal law, promulgated via Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rules, already requires all gun dealers to meet stringent requirements for getting their Federal Firearms License (FFL). As an FFL, they must ensure that a customer has satisfied the background check requirements prior to allowing the customer to have possession of a firearm.
Under current federal law, gun dealers are required to confirm, prior to any and all sales, that a customer has passed a background check as part of every FFL transfer If you head into a gun store to purchase a new firearm, that dealer must confirm that you have satisfied the background check requirements before you can take possession of that new gun and take it home. This is the case regardless of where you live.
If you’re traveling across state lines and see a gun in another state that you’d like to purchase, you must either have that gun shipped to an FFL in your home state if it’s a handgun or, if it’s a rifle or shotgun, you must still pass a background check there before you can purchase and possess the firearm.
Nearly two dozen states place additional requirements beyond federal law on firearm transfers and already either require a background check to be conducted for every firearm transfer (even between private same-state resident individuals, like the Universal Background Check bill proposes) or a valid firearm possession license that is issued contingent upon a background check.
3. There Is No ‘Gun-Show Loophole’
When someone brings up a desire for more background checks, it is often offered as a solution to close the “gun-show loophole.” There’s one big problem with that claim: there is no “gun-show loophole.” It is a myth.https://7e82fc55e1129616f0216342700faf88.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
As covered above, federal law requires that all sales from firearm dealers, or sales between residents of different states, must satisfy the background check requirements, regardless of whether those sales happen in a gun shop, at a gun show, or out of the back of somebody’s trunk in a parking lot. Many states also require background checks for individual sales.
There is simply no law anywhere that says if a gun is bought at a gun show, then the buyer doesn’t have to undergo a background check. A dealer who tries to sell a gun at a gun show without confirming that the buyer has passed a background check would be breaking the law.
Furthermore, federal law also prevents sales to anyone that any seller (not just FFLs) believes to be a “prohibited person” (e.g., a convicted felon). As a result, gun dealers regularly turn away potential customers if they think they are not legally allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. There is simply no special exemption or “loophole” in federal law that allows gun show sales to occur without background checks. Therefore, there’s no loophole to close.
4. There Is No ‘Online Gun Sales Loophole’
Another common call for universal background checks is based on a so-called “online gun sale loophole.” Similar to the “gun show loophole” above, it doesn’t exist. Firearms can be legally purchased (paid for) online as long as the purchaser is not a “prohibited person,” the firearm is legal to possess in the purchaser’s state of residence, and the state otherwise allows the sale.
The current legal process for online gun sales requires that the firearm be shipped to a federally licensed dealer (FFL) in the purchaser’s home state, where the purchaser must show up to fill out the required federal paperwork and satisfy the background check requirements prior to possession.
Just because you click “BUY” on a website that sells guns doesn’t mean you’ll have it shipped to your door without having to process the transaction through a federal gun dealer, who is required to confirm that you have passed a background check before you take possession of that new gun. Again, no loophole equals no loophole to close.
5. Universal Background Checks Won’t Stop Criminals From Getting Guns
There are two categories of people looking to purchase a firearm: law-abiding citizens with clean criminal records and therefore not a “prohibited persons,” or people who are already legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm. As discussed above, the former category follows laws. The latter doesn’t.
Even under a legal regime that requires universal background checks, the person who is banned by law from owning a gun will continue to get a gun the same way criminals do today: by stealing it, having someone else by it for him or her, or purchasing it in the black market. A federal background check requirement will do nothing to prevent that already illegal sale.
Thinking this will stop the criminal misuse of firearms is like insisting upon a background check before someone can purchase crystal meth. Users of crystal meth, much like criminals with guns, act contrary to the law. If they can’t legally buy it, they’ll do it illegally. And the people in the business of illegally selling aren’t about to start complying with laws that require them to conduct their black market sales in a particular way.
Remember, it’s already illegal for a prohibited person to possess a firearm. If that law doesn’t stop them, requiring background checks in more types of transactions won’t either.
There’s also a real problem with “straw purchases” of firearms, wherein someone with a clean record buys a gun from a gun store for someone who can’t legally purchase it on his or her own. This is already illegal and our nation’s gun dealers are the front line of defense against these illegal transactions. However, despite the current background check requirements for gun dealers, straw purchases still happen, and illegal straw purchases will only become more popular and more difficult to discern if H.R. 8 becomes law.
6. Background Checks Won’t Stop Mass Shootings
Demands for more gun control typically seem to follow mass shootings. It makes sense that we want to do something—these mass shootings are horrific, and we should do what we can to stop them. However, universal background checks will not end mass shootings nor gun violence.
Before proposing a new law that will create a hurdle to the exercise of a fundamental right, we should at least ask if the law would have prevented in the past whatever we’re trying to stop in the future. For example, universal background checks would not have stopped the deadliest mass shootings following the enactment of federal background check requirements in 1994:
Las Vegas 2017: Shooter purchased his firearms from a gun dealer (where background checks are already required).
Orlando 2016: Shooter purchased his firearms from a gun dealer.
Virginia Tech 2007: Shooter purchased his firearms from a gun dealer.
Sandy Hook 2012: Shooter stole his firearms.
Sutherland Springs 2017: Shooter purchased his firearm from a gun dealer. He had a criminal record and the background check system failed to stop him (the same system that would be used for private transfers).
Parkland 2018: Shooter purchased firearm from a gun dealer.
San Bernardino 2017: Shooters’ firearms were “straw-purchased” by someone else.
Fort Hood 2009: Shooter purchased firearm from a gun dealer.
Columbine 1999: Shooters’ guns were straw-purchased for them by someone else.
Thousand Oaks 2018: Shooter purchased firearm legally with a background check.
Navy Yard 2013: Shooter purchased firearm from a gun dealer.
Aurora 2012: Shooter purchased firearms from a gun dealer.
Democrats often cite stopping these mass shootings as a reason for enacting universal background checks. However, after seeing that universal background checks would have had zero effect, it invites the question: why are they really so eager to add burdens to lawful gun ownership?
7. In-State Commerce Is a State Issue
Under current federal law, only firearms transactions between private, non-dealer residents who reside in the same state are exempt from federal background check requirements. That is because the federal firearm licensing system and background check requirements apply only to interstate commerce.
This is not because the federal government doesn’t want more power (since when has that happened?). Instead, it is a valid constitutional restriction on what types of activities and commerce the federal government may control.
As noted above, many states have their own gun laws and have placed additional restrictions on firearm possession above and beyond what the federal government already requires. These purely in-state transactions between private residents of those states should continue to be handled at the state level, as different states have different challenges that are best addressed with local solutions implemented by local representatives.
Furthermore, each state should retain the authority to decide whether it is willing to incur the additional costs and burdens that will arise from new gun control restrictions.
8. Universal Background Checks Are Too Burdensome
The current National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) used for firearm background checks can only be used by federally licensed gun dealers or government entities. This restriction by the FBI on their system is due to them not being able to handle the burden of additional checks.
Opening the background check system, which already experiences significant backlogs and delays, especially with the record-breaking gun sales figures lately, will introduce an extra burden on the government, and on those who wish to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The universal background check bill will amount to a delay and a tax on the exercise of a fundamental right.
First, a seller and buyer must find, and travel to, a local gun store during the store’s hours and wait for paperwork and a background check to be processed. Second, unless the federal government intends to force dealers into servitude, the dealer will charge a fee for his services conducting the background check. This fee, typically around $25-50, will be, in effect, an additional tax on every sale of a firearm.
There will also be a burden on gun dealers. Most gun dealers are small business owners who are focused on keeping their businesses running. This extra burden will take their time away from customers and other business duties including helping to spot and stop straw purchases. It will also significantly increase their ATF compliance burden, as they are liable for every piece of paperwork and transfer that takes place.
9. Universal Background Checks Create a De Facto Federal Gun Registry
It is currently illegal for the federal government to maintain a database of ownership of standard firearms (not including silencers, machine guns, etc. that require an FFL to have an “SOT License”). There is a good reason for this ban on a federal gun registry: a tyrannical government can only confiscate firearms if it first knows where they are all located.
Although a registry is not mentioned in the bill, it is a logical conclusion. After all, how could such a universal background check law ever be enforced absent a national gun registry showing who passed a background check, when, and for which particular firearms?
For law enforcement to prove that a firearm was purchased in a private transaction, they would need to know who was the most recent lawful possessor. Of course, someone with a lawfully possessed firearm could have a receipt from a gun store, but that could be lost or faked.
The natural conclusion to this law’s enforcement would be the creation of a database tracking the lawful transfers, and therefore current possessors, of all firearms in this country. It would be bad enough if the government were to maintain and use such a list, but what if hackers stole that list, just as they stole the personnel records of millions of federal employees? Suddenly, violent criminals in search of weapons would have a perfect map showing which homes to ransack when nobody’s home.
Mass shootings and gun violence are horrible, and we should try to stop them. However, demands for more gun control only make plain the truth that gun control cannot stop violence.
Current gun control doesn’t stop criminals. The latest gun control proposal is no different. It would do nothing to end gun violence, but it would drastically increase the burdens on law-abiding citizens who only wish to defend themselves and their families from violent criminals who don’t care whether something is against the law.
The Truth About Democrats’ Support for Gun Control
According to gun rights advocates, Democrats support gun control because they’re statists. They believe the government should take care of citizens’ safety (as well as most everything else). They don’t want to take on the responsibility of armed self-defense, and don’t think anyone else should either (excluding the police and the military). Which is true enough but not the whole truth. As the investor.com poll above indicates, Democrats cling to their anti-gun animus for another reason: they believe more guns = more crime. This despite the fact that . . .
the opposite is demonstrably true. Both individually (as evidenced by defensive gun use) and America’s falling crime rate (even as gun ownership rises to unprecedented levels).
Facts schmacts. With the disappearance of pro-gun Blue Dog Democrats, the Democratic Party has become dominated by left-leaning big city voters. Thanks to racist gun control laws and cultural antipathy, these supporters have no practical experience legally and responsibly keeping and bearing firearms. All they “know” is more guns = more crime. So gun control! Because less guns means less crime! Like this:
The vast majority of Democrats think gun control makes them safer. The vast majority of Republicans think gun control makes them less safe. It’s obvious who’s right (in both senses of the word). As I said before, the facts of the matter don’t matter. Like all people, Democrats are listening to WII-FM (What’s In It For Me). For the Democrats re: gun control? Nothing. There’s nothing in it for them. They don’t have guns.
Which is why big city Democrats have no interest in stories of defensive gun uses: they can’t identify. How could they? In most Democrat strongholds, voters can’t keep and bear arms. It’s too expensive, too bureaucratic and/or illegal. For those [mostly white] Democrats in Blue State strongholds who can afford gun ownership, those who know how to jump over bureaucratic hurdles and pull powerful strings, the anti-gun gestalt runs rampant. Owning a gun is simply not the done thing. Someone might get hurt!
All of which means asking Democrats to oppose gun control is asking them to defend your right to keep and bear arms, not theirs. Again, they don’t have guns. In effect, they don’t have a right to keep and bear arms. Worse, all they see is bad guys using guns to threaten, wound and murder. So Dems are quite happy to sacrifice your gun rights to see if gun control’s promise of less bad guys with guns pans out. Again, what have they got to lose?
As for the convincing pro-gun control Dems that privately held firearms are a bulwark again tyranny, most big city Dems aren’t educated enough to know what a “bulwark” is. Or, for that matter, tyranny (even though they live under the soft version of same). Those Dems who do understand the concept of armed defense against government tyranny are over-educated. They’ve been brainwashed to believe that civilian gun ownership isn’t relevant to questions about the government’s power.
There’s only way to change this pro-gun control Democratic dynamic: put guns into the hands of inner city Democrats. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the NRA and other pro-gun groups must reach out to minorities and other traditional Democratic voters and teach them how to keep and bear arms. Until and unless that occurs, the political divide on guns will continue, and the balance could tip in either direction. As the antis like to say, it’s guns for everyone! Especially our “enemies.”
Why gun control might backfire on the Democrats
America’s debate over guns has gotten so stale that a secondary argument over “thoughts and prayers” had to break out to keep it interesting. On one side, there are largely law-abiding firearms owners, frequently immersed to some extent in gun culture, who fear being disarmed in response to crimes mostly being committed by other people. On the other side are people who largely lack familiarity with guns who don’t see why certain weapons are necessary for civilian use or how mild restrictions would really disarm or even inconvenience anybody in the first group.
The two camps have largely talked past each other, using the same set of arguments, for decades. When the predominantly gun-free suburbs were the important swing vote in national elections, the gun controllers had the upper hand (that’s how the Brady bill and the since-expired assault weapons ban in the 1990s came about). When the battleground states were more gun-friendly, Second Amendment activists regained the advantage (that’s why Democrats quietly shelved this issue for most of the 2000s).
Mass shootings threaten to break this stalemate. It’s no longer just about reducing the supply of guns in rural areas that could illegally flow to already gun-controlled urban areas to promote public safety in the nearby suburbs. Tragic events like El Paso or Dayton can happen anywhere to anyone, with many of the highest profile incidents occurring in schools. Their randomness can cause data otherwise showing a decline in violent crime to fade into irrelevance. At some point, though perhaps not right now, the frustration will boil over into action.
The gun controllers will regain the upper hand, especially as the suburbs shift their allegiance from Republicans to Democrats, partially over this very issue. Then one of two things could happen to cause the pendulum to swing back in the other direction: 1. The “commonsense” gun reforms that nearly everyone agrees on — enhanced background checks, bans on certain types of weapons viewed as especially conducive to mass shootings, bump stock regulations, improved mental health screenings, “red flag” laws — don’t have their desired effect on these types of crimes; 2. The gun controllers overreach.
The second outcome could be a byproduct of the first. There has always been a disconnect between what gun control activists consider the root cause of gun violence — the vast number of firearms in America compared to Europe — and the solutions they propose. Background checks and waiting periods are politically viable, but they don’t really match the diagnosis about our country’s gun supply.
Progressive writers and, increasingly, even politicians talk about gun buy-back programs, invoking Australia as an example. The odds that this policy can be successfully, voluntarily replicated in the United States are low, partly because the gun ownership rate is so much higher here than there. So that could lead to policies that really will impact law-abiding gun owners, with unpredictable political results.
Even closing the so-called gun show loophole will make private weapons sales or transfers less convenient, but most voters appear to believe this is worth the cost if it stops even one shooting. Reducing the number of guns in the United States will require more aggressive methods of taking guns from their lawful owners, contemplating policies that are a lot more radical — and more consistent with the fears stoked by pro-gun groups — than anything that has ever seriously been considered at the national level in the past.
Large-scale gun confiscation would raise Fourth Amendment concerns as well as Second Amendment ones. There are also huge practicality issues that have yet to be discussed. Even its proponents concede it is unlikely to happen. But it will be talked about. And even rhetorically attacking gun ownership as a rational decision without seriously pursuing these policies will trigger a serious political backlash. What then?
Maybe nothing, if progressive hopes that the Democratic coalition will soon be big and liberal enough not to have to make accommodations to the disproportionately red-state gun owners come to fruition. But there’s no guarantee this is true. This kind of triumphalism has backfired before. Republicans were once on the defensive about the assault weapons ban, for instance, but the politics changed to the extent that the law was allowed to lapse largely without incident. The demographics of gun ownership could also change to include more Democratic voters — it is already rising among African Americans. Even Bernie Sanders has to listen to his gun-owning constituents.
Frustrating, but in a tragic sense fitting. The gun control debate has always been part of the culture war and its conflicting visions of America, as much as an argument about firearms and public safety. And our politicians do culture warring much better than governing.
THIS IS WHY LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WANT YOUR GUNS
Democrats in the twenty first century are basically the modern day communist party in America. We know it, they know it, but refuse to admit it. When your most popular figures include the likes of Bernie Sanders, fake injun Elizabeth Warren and loony Kamala Harris, you can see why they want to take guns away from law abiding citizens. The Democrats are basically following the Mao doctrine of
Gun Control By Democrats Is Not About Guns
It’s about control.
There are always three steps in the destruction of a free society, and they involve what Democrats refer to as “gun control”:
1. Pump up hatred in small minority communities against the peaceful majority. In our present time, this would be against we the Deplorables, the MAGA Republicans
2. Disarm innocent citizens so they can’t fight back
3. Shoot the people who don’t fit the new world order
Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Maduro in Venezuela… were all the same pattern. It never varies. And in America today, with the Democrats as the diabolical tyrants that they have become; make no mistake about it, there is a target on our backs.
Germany in 1933, then the NAZI Party assumed power as a minority; one of the first things they did, was to confiscate guns.
In case anyone thinks the use of this Nazi pattern for the Democrat Party is misplaced… see this “cartoon” run by the Washington Post on December 18th.
It depicts Trump supporters as rats:
The objective is to dehumanize people, so the left’s violent forces can kill us without conscience.
It’s not unusual in modern history. History shows us what awaits us if we stand by and do nothing. What does this mean in terms of pure and simple self-preservation for our families and friends,⏤the people we love?
After we have exhausted all the standard procedures… the courts, the state legislatures, congress,⏤all of which have been corrupted to death by the Democrats, when all traditional avenues have been exhausted, we must act to take our country back to restore law, order, and justice.
Tucker Carlson: Gun Control Is Not About Guns – It’s About Who Controls The Country
Joe Biden and the Democrats are pushing gun control despite the fact that it is an unpopular issue. Why would they do such a thing?
Tucker suggested that it’s really all about who controls the country, and he makes a compelling case. Here’s a partial transcript, via FOX News:
Tucker Carlson: Biden wants to take your guns, but leave criminals with theirs
Nothing the Democratic Party advocates for is more dishonest than gun control. Everything about that specific issue is false. Most policy debates aren’t like that, and we try to be honest about it. No matter how passionate you are about a position, you can still sort of see what the other side is talking about.
You might deeply dislike taxes, for example, but you can still acknowledge it’s fair to charge people for the services they receive from government. The other side isn’t crazy, they’ve just arrived at a different number than you did. You can hate abortion (and we do) and still understand (again, if you’re being totally honest about it) why a scared pregnant teenager might be tempted to have one.
Gun control is not like that. Gun control is entirely fraudulent…
Anyone who tries to restrict your legally owned firearms is not trying to make America safer. The point is to disarm you and strip you of your autonomy, your power, your right to self-defense. Gun control is not about guns. Gun control is about who controls America. Is it the population, as in a democracy, or does all control go to a small group of authoritarians, as in an oligarchy? Those are the stakes in the gun control debate. It’s not about guns, it’s about who runs the country.
That is a perfect analysis.
Americans have to stand up and say no to Biden and the Democrats.
SHAPIRO: Debunking Gun Control
By Ben Shapiro
The Left constantly argues that gun control prevents crime. This ignores two pertinent facts.
First, that criminals don’t tend to obey laws and you might need a gun to protect yourself. And it ignores the fact that gun control also removes power from individuals to band together to defend themselves against tyrannical governments. Democracies do have an ugly tendency to go too radical from time to time. So, weapons in the hands of the population help guarantee against that, as the founders knew.
By restricting the conversation to gun crime itself, the Left generally bases its belief on two things. First, gun crime statistics, rather than general crime statistics; and two; comparing non-comparable populations.
The Left argues that nations like Great Britain have nearly no gun deaths. That’s true in many countries with heavy gun laws because there are fewer guns. But that also neglects the fact that Great Britain has far higher violent crime rates than the United States — which does make sense since guns tend to deter crime. According to Politifact, for England and Wales, the rate of violent crime was 775 per 100,000 as of 2013. For the United States, the rate was 383 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The UK had approximately double the rate of the United States.
Also worth noting: if more guns equal more crime, it’s very odd that the United States’ rates of gun ownership have skyrocketed in recent decades, while our rate of violent homicide by gun has sliced in half.
Second, the Left makes comparisons between non-comparable population groups — populations that differ in terms of age and culture, for example. The Left will claim that European countries that are largely homogenous and middle class have lower gun violence rates than the United States.
But let’s take a look at Vermont. Vermont has the lowest incarceration rate in the United States and has always had the lowest levels of murders in the United States. As Charles Cooke of National Review points out, in 2012, there were eight murders there — just two of which involve firearms.
With those stats, you would probably assume there are no guns in Vermont. Nope. Vermont has virtually no gun laws. Nearly three-quarters of all Vermonters own firearms. As Cooke points out, well we can absolutely say that A) an abundance of firearms and a set of loose regulations do not inevitably lead to more crime; and B) that the widespread suggestion that they do is dishonest.
Leah Libresco is a former gun control advocate and data cruncher for FiveThirtyEight. She wrote in The Washington Post in October 2017, “My colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.”
According to Libresco, neither Britain nor Australia experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun-related crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans.
What about Joe Biden’s supposed “common-sense” assault weapons ban?
ProPublica — far from a right-wing source — found in 2014 that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban didn’t affect gun crime in any meaningful way. Nearly all researchers agree with that assessment.
One of the most bizarre arguments that you hear from people in the anti-gun community is only the police should have guns. The reality is that what guns are for in private hands is to respond before the police can. The police can only respond if somebody calls the police. If, however, somebody arrives at your house, and they intend to do you harm, many times you don’t actually have the ability to call a cop, and when you’re looking at major cities that are generally underpoliced, the best available defense may be your ability to wield a firearm — which is why during the riots of last year, there were a lot of people who were going out and buying guns and standing on top of their businesses, and basically warning people away.
There are some folks who argue that if you require a license to drive, certainly you should go through a bunch of hoops if you want to legally own a gun. Now, pretty much everybody agrees that if you have a criminal history, you shouldn’t own a gun. However, if the argument is that “in order to defend myself, I have to have the state give me a license” — that is a very different argument than “in order for me to transport myself faster, I ought to have a license to drive.”
The Second Amendment was written specifically in order to ensure that states were able to resist predations. That is why the language of the Second Amendment suggests that a well-armed militia — being necessary for the preservation of a free state — the people have a right to keep and bear arms.
The reason that the well-regulated militia clause is in there is that it is a justificatory clause: it is there to justify. The goal of that clause is to suggest that you should join a well-regulated militia — not a well “legally-regulated militia,” a “militia” that trains a lot. Like, they regulate. They were called regulars.
If you get together and you train a lot and you form a militia, then you are able to stand up to grand federal predations. This was the explicit purpose of the Second Amendment.
There are some morons who suggest that the Second Amendment ought not apply to modern weapons; that it only applies to muskets. This is sort of like saying that freedom of the press only applies to printing presses because the founders never could have anticipated that people would be able to print things off of the computer. Freedom of the press was not restricted to the mechanisms of distribution of information, nor is the freedom to keep and bear arms restricted to the arms in common practice at that time.
People on the Left are constantly attempting to avoid the consequences of their own position, but the reality is that for many on the Left, they just don’t like the Second Amendment and would like to see it go away. But a lot of them will say, “I love the Second Amendment, I love guns and firearms, I go hunting.” And then the first move they make is “let’s get rid of assault weapons,” without any evidence that it will be effective.
The reality is the vast majority of murders committed in the United States with guns are committed with handguns. None of this makes any sort of internal sense; if they were just going to be consistent, they would admit full-scale what they really want is gun confiscation.
Ayn Rand once wrote, “Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.” That, of course, is exactly right; there is a reason why tyrannical states use, as their first move, an attempt to disarm the population. In Nazi Germany, gun regulations were high on the list of priorities. In Soviet Russia, gun regulations: high on the list of priorities. Tyrannies are constantly seeking to remove all possible threat of resistance, which is one of the reasons why tyrannical governments are so often in favor of gun control.
A lot of gun control advocates deny the possibility that we might need guns to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government. They’ll say things like, “well, could you really fight back against a nuclear armed force?” Well, I mean, the fact is that small arms have generally been a pretty good defense against overwhelming power going all the way back to Vietnam. Guerilla warfare has been a successful tactic since the days of George Washington.
But the broader question is whether governments tend to go tyrannical at all. To ignore the history of governments going tyrannical is to ignore pretty much all of history. Germany was a democracy before it was a dictatorship. Russia, after the tsarist regime, turned into a socialist democracy for a brief period of time before it turned into a full-scale USSR dictatorship. China was run not by Mao Tse Tung in the immediate aftermath of World War II, but rather by Chiang Kai-shek, who ended up actually founding Taiwan. Japan had a certain root level of democracy before it was a dictatorship.
Countries routinely go through stages where they are democracies, and then they slide into dictatorship. So, the basic idea that you should never feel a threat from the government is simply an evolutionary hangover of the fact that the United States has never been — thank God — a dictatorship.
One of the great things about our Constitution, of course, is that there is plenty of play in the joints when it comes to how local officials address issues with regard to guns. The general question as to whether the federal government ought to be involved in the gun issue at all is basically obviated by the Constitution, but the federal constitution was never actually meant to apply to the states.
So, if you wanted a locality that really didn’t like guns, theoretically you could have that locality. Now, there have been some experiments along these lines. It turns out that if you ban guns in a particular community, and everybody knows that guns are banned, you know where criminals are more likely to rob a house? However, if everybody in the community has a gun, you know where criminals don’t actually want to rob a house in the middle of the night?
One of the big talking points people on the right use, of course, is the idea that Chicago has heavy gun regulations, and yet gun deaths continue to be extraordinarily high in Chicago. The same thing is true of Washington, DC, for example.
And it keeps getting worse: the Left will suggest that this is because people in Chicago go to the outlying areas, they purchase their guns, they bring them back to Chicago. If we could just shut down gun sales in the entire general region, then you wouldn’t have murder in Chicago. This ignores the fact that plenty of places — like these exact towns — where people buy guns and don’t kill each other. The real problem in Chicago is lack of policing.
A lot of people are worried about security at schools. Many are concerned that if you ban guns in the broader community, that maybe this will increase security at the schools themselves.
That, of course, is pretty ridiculous. Most of the cases of school shootings that we’ve seen are people who have either violated the law in some way and obtained their gun illegally; or, alternatively, obtained their gun legally, and then violated the law to go into the school in the first place. Once again, criminals generally do not actually follow the law.
Security at schools can be improved pretty easily: you need armed guards at schools. Every major Jewish day school in America — at least in the Orthodox community — has serious security standing outside. There is no reason we can’t have the same thing at schools around the country. If you want a job creation program, that would be a job creation program.
Many on the Left believe that if you get rid of guns, you create a safer society. And to a certain extent, you sort of understand the logic. If guns are used to shoot people, what if there just were no guns? Sort of like their argument about nuclear weapons: if you don’t want to go nuclear war, what do you just get rid of all the nuclear weapons?
Well, it’s pie in the sky in both situations. The idea that you’re gonna cleanse a society like the United States — in which there are over 300 million guns in circulation — of those guns, and this will generally lower the crime rate, is not supported by the data.
One of the weirdest things about American public opinion with regard to guns is that it’s so conflicting.
So every time there’s a shooting and it gets a lot of media coverage, people will say, “we are very much in favor of gun regulations” — and then, as soon as you ask them, “how about this specific gun regulation,” they’re like, “nope, not interested in that one.”
The reality is that guns in the hands of a bad person are a weapon that can be used for bad things; and guns in the hands of a good, law-abiding person are weapons that can be used for good purposes.
Guns are, like most other inanimate objects, tools. What really matters is who wields them.
I have given you background information on how and why the Democrats feel the way they do about the second Amendment and gun control. It is all about control. When the rights of the people are taken away, by eliminating both the first and the second amendment, you basically are making it impossible for the people to stand up and protect themselves. They are now powerless. It is also just a matter of time before the rest of the protections listed under the Bill of Rights are eliminated as well. When that happens, our country will be just like China. The government will have the ultimate power over the people, the power of life and death. That makes them god-like. We have to fight to protect our rights. We can’t just roll over and play dead.
townhall.com, “The Truth About Democrats’ New Gun Control Push,” By Ted Budd; republicanviews.org, “Democratic Views on Gun Control;” thefederalist.com, “Top 9 Reasons Democrats’ Latest Gun Control Bill Is A Terrible Idea (Again),” By Ryan Cleckner; theweek.com, “Why gun control might backfire on the Democrats,” By W. James Antle III; ammoland.com, “5 Reasons Why Democrats’ Extremist Gun Control Will Always Fail,” By Dave Workman; thetruthaboutguns.com, “The Truth About Democrats’ Support for Gun Control,” By Robert Farago; vox.com, “The Democratic convention highlighted gun violence. Here’s what Biden plans to do about it: Biden has a plan to take on the NRA again. But it’s unclear if Democrats will prioritize the issue,” By German Lopez; townhall.com, “What Democrat Control of the Senate Means for Gun Control,” By John R. Lott, Jr.; fromthetrenchesworldreport.com, “5 Reasons Why Democrats’ Extremist Gun Control Will Always Fail,” By Patriot Rising; nytimes.com, “We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines,” By Maggie Astor; abcnews.org, “Here’s where the 2020 Democrats stand on gun control,” By Cheyenne Haslett and Samantha Sergi; gradesfixer.com, “The Views of Republicans and Democrats on Gun Control;” pacificpundit.com, “THIS IS WHY LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WANT YOUR GUNS;” americaoutloud.com, “Gun Control By Democrats Is Not About Guns,” By Dr. Joel S. Holmes; chicagotribune.com, “FBI’s gun background-check database is missing records of millions of cases,” By Devlin Barrett, Sandhya Somashekhar and Alex Horton;
The Views of Republicans and Democrats on Gun Control
FBI’s gun background-check database is missing records of millions of cases
The FBI’s background-check system is missing millions of records of criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses and other flags that would keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands, a gap that contributed to the shooting deaths of 26 people in a Texas church this week.
Experts who study the data say government agencies responsible for maintaining such records have long failed to forward them into federal databases used for gun background checks – systemic breakdowns that have lingered for decades as officials decided they were too costly and time-consuming to fix.
As the shooting at a Texas church on Sunday showed, what the FBI doesn’t know can get people killed. In that case, the gunman had been convicted at a court-martial of charges stemming from a domestic violence case. Officials say the Air Force never notified the FBI of his conviction, so when he purchased weapons at a retail store, he cleared the background check.
The FBI said it doesn’t know the scope of the problem, but the National Rifle Association says about 7 million records are absent from the system, based on a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. That report determined that “at least 25% of felony convictions . . . are not available” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI.
Experts who study the data say that estimate can be misleading, because felons often have multiple convictions, so if one is missed, others may still alert authorities to individuals who cannot legally buy a gun.
The government funded a four-year effort beginning in 2008 to try to estimate how many records existed of people who should be barred under federal law from buying a gun but aren’t flagged in the FBI system. That effort was abandoned in 2012 because of the cost.
The National Rifle Association has complained that the federal database is inadequate. The powerful gun rights lobbying group opposes calls for more restrictions on gun buying, arguing that the government should focus instead on making its current background-check system fully functional.
“The shortcomings of the system have been identified, there just seems to be a lack of will to address them,” said Louis Dekmar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
In light of the Texas shooting, Air Force officials have launched an internal review and faulted the staff at an air base for not sending the necessary information to the FBI, but federal officials who work in the database effort say the problem of military nonreporting of domestic violence cases extends far beyond a single base or service branch.
A large number of people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence – who also are prohibited from buying guns – are absent from the FBI database as well, particularly in states that don’t require fingerprints for such convictions, according to people involved in the work.
According to FBI records, at the end of last year the Pentagon had exactly one active record for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction in one of the FBI’s main gun background-check databases, though there are two other large databases in which such records could be gathered and for which data was not available. By contrast, the database held nearly 11,000 dishonorable discharge records.
Asked about the gaps in the data, an FBI spokesman said the information law enforcement agencies provide to the FBI “varies greatly across the nation.” A potential domestic violence arrest, the spokesman said, “can be one of the most difficult federal firearms prohibitions to establish,” because state or local records often do not indicate whether a particular assault meets the federal definition for domestic violence.
By the end of last year, there were 153,109 domestic violence conviction records in the main FBI database for gun purchase background checks. Officials said that was a marked improvement from years past. In 2008, for example, there were only about 46,000 such records in the system. But FBI officials said they can’t tell how many domestic violence convictions they are still missing. An FBI spokesman declined to say which states are not providing important data into the system.
“In many states, there are literally hundreds of courts and law enforcement agencies that maintain original-source records,” the 2013 report from the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics concluded. “There is no practical way to obtain estimates about these records from so many agencies, or to even ask them to take on the burden of counting records.”
Others who work with gun background-check data said the gaps are clear and have been known for years. Besides felonies and misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, the FBI also misses an untold number of drug addicts, because there is no good mechanism for probation or parole services agencies to share that type of data with the bureau.
That lack of visibility also proved deadly when white supremacist Dylann Roof purchased a gun and killed nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The FBI later concluded he shouldn’t have been able to buy the weapon because he had recently confessed to drug possession. That confession was not entered into the background-check database, and Roof was able to buy a gun two months before the attack.
“This case rips all of our hearts out,” FBI Director James Comey said at the time. “The thought that an error on our part is connected to this guy’s purchase of a gun that he used to slaughter these good people is very painful to us.” He ordered a 30-day review to examine procedures that led to the failure.
Awareness of the problems with the database go back even further. Four years after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama signed an executive order aimed in part at improving the quality of the federal gun background-check database. It directed the FBI to overhaul the background-check system so the checks are more instantaneous and to hire 230 more staff to help with the vetting.
At the Pentagon, the problem goes back decades. In 1997, an internal review found the military was “not consistently submitting criminal history data to the FBI criminal history files.”
The Pentagon’s review found a mostly unused notification system meant to alert federal law enforcement about crimes committed by troops that would lead to prohibition of the purchase of firearms, like the domestic violence convictions Kelley received.
The Army and Navy failed in more than 80 percent of cases to forward FBI fingerprint card files to the bureau. The Air Force failed to send them in 38 percent of cases. The probe concluded that the services were plagued by unclear directives from the Defense Department on how and when to submit the forms.
A review in 2015 found an improvement of reporting rates, with 30 percent of the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps failing to submit fingerprint cards and final case outcome reports to the FBI. The Army was not evaluated because of limited data, the report said.
“If the problem is that we didn’t put something out, we’ll correct that,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday of Kelley’s case.
Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer and professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said the long history of administrative dysfunction played a role in Kelley slipping through the net designed to prevent violent offenders from purchasing firearms.
“There is no unity of effort. No one knows who is supposed to do what,” Corn said.
In the era of mass shootings, there has been a growing awareness of the connection between perpetrators of such crimes and domestic violence. According to a study by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of recent mass shootings were related to domestic or family violence.
As a result, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have lined up behind laws aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
According to Everytown, 25 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws since 2013 aimed at strengthening the federal prohibition – for example, extending the prohibition to include boyfriends, and adding enforcement mechanisms so local law enforcement can confiscate abusers’ weapons. Eight states passed such laws in 2017 alone.
Yet, gun-control advocates note that the federal domestic violence law is limited in that it applies to spouses and other relatives but not dating partners. Advocates against domestic violence say at least half of all domestic abuse crimes now are committed by boyfriends.
Moreover, many convicted domestic abusers who buy guns do so not through a gun store, as Kelley did, but online or from gun shows, advocates say. In the case of such private sales, sellers are not obligated to run buyers’ names through the federal database.
Still, advocates say the database is a valuable tool that erects barriers for violent people seeking weapons. During a 16-year period that ended in December 2014, more than 1 million prohibited people – including more than 100,000 convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence and nearly 50,000 with domestic-violence-related restraining orders – were denied guns after background checks, according to a report last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
“We know when these records are in the system that it’s effective,” said Monica McLaughlin, director of public policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “It bars batterers from obtaining weapons. It’s a really effective tool that exists in federal law that we have created, but compliance is inconsistent at best and incredibly lackluster.”
These databases are the ones being used in the background checks for gun purchases. So who benefits with incomplete databases. It seems evident that by allowing violent criminals to buy guns we are showing that the system for gun control is ineffective and and needs an overhaul. The more gun involved crimes that occur in this country the better it is for the Democrats.
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