What is the reason so many people demand “universal background checks?” I mean private citizens who want them, not the politicians who push that crap. Because they do not want bad guys to get guns, right? As good, law abiding gun owners, neither do we. Despite what the NRA hating, anti-gun politicians and anti-gun organizations constantly scream, exactly no one wants to unwittingly put a gun into the hand of a criminal, not even us “heartless gun owners.”
First, before we dive into this topic, we must clarify what a “universal background check” is because many people out there who are in favor of them really do not understand what they are calling for. They hear emotional appeals for them from people who are pushing gun control, purportedly as a means to save lives, and they just accept what they hear. What a “universal background check” means is that every single gun transfer (change of ownership) goes through a background check. No matter if it is a gun dealer selling a gun to a customer or if it is your grandmother giving you your deceased grandfather’s old hunting rifle. ALL transfers would have to have a background check.
In theory, that does not sound totally unreasonable, until you understand what is actually involved in that, especially based on the current background system. Most proponents of “universal background checks” do not have the slightest clue what is involved in making that happen, whereas most gun owners are intimately aware of the difficulties involved.
Why Gun Owners Resist “Universal Background Checks”
If no one wants bad guys to have guns, then why do gun owners fight against universal background checks? One of the reasons, a big one to some of us, is because we do not trust the government, and yes, that absolutely includes me, a career government employee. In order to ensure every gun sale is processed through a universal background check, the government needs to know what guns you and I all own. Without that knowledge, I could sell any gun I wanted to whomever I wanted and there would be no way to track the sales to ensure a background check was performed. “So what?” you say. “Why does it matter if you have to register your guns?”
Because registration always, always leads to confiscation. If not for all people, most definitely for some. You can see it happening right now in California. The CA DOJ has teams of agents running around the state confiscating registered guns from people. Some of those people were merely in the process of trying to register their guns in order to comply with a new law when the DOJ showed up, arrested them and took their guns. Long before that, in Washington DC way back in 1965, they passed a law requiring the registration of all handguns. Then, a decade later in 1976, they outlawed handguns completely. Since the government knew who had what handguns, it made it easy to ensure they were all eliminated. As a gun owner, it is very easy to look around and see what governments have done once they take away all the guns, and the first step in taking away the guns is knowing who has them.
Then when you consider some of the gun laws they are proposing, it should be even easier to understand why gun owners are paranoid. California already has a “gun violence restraining order” which allows law enforcement and family members to seek an ex parte (only the accuser, not the accused) hearing to take away the guns of a person. They want to expand that law to allow practically anyone who knows a person to file for one. I am a law abiding gun owner and a retired cop, but I absolutely worry that some anti-gun acquaintance of mine might go run to a judge, and based upon their completely irrational fear of guns, say whatever they could to convince a judge to grant an order calling for my guns to be confiscated. I know how the court systems work, including in regards to restraining orders. It is not remotely beyond the realm of plausibility to think someone would lie to a judge to get a restraining order granted, especially someone who is not entirely mentally stable.
Call us gun owners paranoid if you will, and maybe we are, but being mildly paranoid served me well in my career as a cop; it kept me alive. There is an old saying that goes, “just because you are paranoid does not mean they aren’t out to get you.”
So, if we are being honest here, whether or not you think gun owners have a valid point in fearing the registration that would be required in order to ensure “universal background checks” were performed, I would hope that you can at least see the basis for our concerns. History, both ours and abroad, is chock full of governments abusing their people once they have disarmed them.
Getting beyond the simple desire to not let the government know what guns we have, there are some other factors which we gun owners also see as further infringement on our rights. In order to process these universal background checks, it is a requirement to have a gun dealer process all gun sales because currently they are the only people who can. Even transfers that involve no money such, as a gift or trade, would have to be processed by a gun dealer. This not only inconveniences the gun dealers who charge a “nominal fee,” because now they are taking their time to process a sale that does not benefit them at all, but it requires the parties involved in the sale to seek out a dealer to perform the transaction. Let me explain these infringements by using my home state of California as an example.
California’s Universal Background Check System
As a California resident, where we already have “universal background checks,” if my father, a law abiding, retired government employee with nothing more serious than a speeding ticket in his long past background, wants to give me, a retired cop with nothing more serious than a speeding ticket some 25 years ago on my record, a gun he owns, any gun, but for sake of this example, say a 100 year old Winchester rifle (a cowboy gun for those who know nothing about guns), he and I must take that rifle to a gun dealer who not only must process the transaction for us, run the background check, but then since he is a gun dealer, he must complete a DROS (dealer’s record of sale) for that antique rifle. So now, not only do I have to pay the dealer their transfer fee, which CA has limited to $10*, but I also have to pay a DROS fee which is another $25. Once the DROS is completed, there is now a record of that rifle, including its serial number, make, model and caliber, and who it was transferred from and to. In California, that DROS information is then entered into a state database and that information is maintained indefinitely, in other words, it becomes a de facto gun registry (enter us paranoid gun owners again…).
(*In California, that poor gun dealer must now hold onto the gun for the mandatory 10 day waiting period, for which there is only one exemption for active cops who have a letter from their department head, even if we both already own other firearms. So, the dealer must take time from his other customers to process the transaction, which will take a minimum of 30 minutes in my best experience, then he must store the gun for 10+ days, and all he is allowed to collect for those troubles is $10? Not that I want to pay through the nose for a transfer, but I absolutely understand why gun dealers are not happy to process private party transfers as it is a losing proposition for them and hits them directly in the pocket book.)
The way the laws in California works, it inconveniences not only both parties transferring the gun, it inconveniences the dealer processing the transfer and actually costs them money, and it creates a gun registry. If you are okay with all of that, then you clearly are more interested in attempting to prevent legal gun sales than you are with trying to keep guns away from criminals. Artificial delays and levying fees to exercise a constitutionally guaranteed right sure sounds like infringements to most of us. If that does not sound like an infringement to you, imagine having to pay a fee and wait 10 days before you can exercise your right to free speech.
Setting Ground Rules
But there has to be something we can do, right? Well, I think I might have a solution, one that would pass the stink test with gun owners and one that might appease the anti-gun folks demanding the “universal background checks.” However, we must agree on a couple things before my plan makes sense, some of which I have already discussed.
1) Criminals do not obey laws – Can we all agree that criminals, by their very nature of being a criminal, do not obey the law? Criminals are not walking into a gun store to buy a gun, nor are they going to a dealer to process their private party transfers. If that is too much of a stretch for you to make, then my proposal will not make any sense.
2) No one wants bad guys to get a gun – Not even we die hard second amendment supporters. If you cannot concede that even those horrible, gun owning NRA members do not want criminals to have guns, then we are all just wasting our time, not to mention that you are also completely delusional.
Now, for those rational enough to accept that criminals do not obey the law, and that law abiding gun owners do not want criminals running around with guns, we can proceed. If the purpose behind “universal background checks” is truly to prevent bad guys from getting guns, and no one wants bad guys to get guns, then why not make a publicly accessible website on which any gun owner can run some basic information of the person seeking to purchase a gun from them, that would access the NICS system and give them a simple yes or no answer to the pertinent question: Can this person legally possess a gun?
The internet did not exist when the NICS system was created and what used to require a decent amount of time to process back then can be completed (with proper access to the proper databases) in a few seconds now. An “instant background check” can truly be instant.
A system like this would allow private party sellers to be reasonably certain that the person they are selling a gun to is not a prohibited person. If they don’t care about that fact now, you can rest assured they are already going to ignore the law requiring the background check anyway.
This system would not inconvenience gun dealers by forcing them to process a sale that not only does not benefit them, but actually hurts them.
From a paranoid gun owner’s perspective, this system would have no information about the firearm being transferred so there would be no need to worry about the government building a registry.
Finally, use of this system should be 100% voluntary, leaving it up to the seller whether or not they feel it necessary. So, like in the example I gave above, with my father giving me an antique rifle, there would be no need at all to use the system. However, if I were selling a gun to someone I do not know, I could quickly check to make sure I was not selling a gun to a prohibited person.
But What About The Gun Show Loophole?
First of all, that is utter crap. There is no “gun show loophole.” All laws regarding firearms sales outside of gun shows ALSO apply in a gun show. If the transfer is a private party transfer, currently no background check is required (unless the individual state requires it like California does), but if the seller is a dealer, the sale must go through all the same steps that it would if it were taking place in a brick and mortar store. As for my proposal in relation to gun shows, gun shows would be no different than any other sale.
Not only could there be a mobile version of the system in the form of an app for folks with smart phones and tablets, but for those “old guys” who refuse to carry a smart phone, there could be a kiosk at the gun show that would allow anyone to check a potential buyer’s legal gun owning ability.
While my proposal would not prevent criminals from selling other criminals guns (absolutely nothing can do that – look at the prevalence of illegal drugs if you think otherwise), this would allow people who are concerned about keeping guns away from bad guys a way to do so that would not cost a ton of money, inconvenience an uninvolved business, or create a gun registry.
I absolutely encourage people to comment on this topic, but please do so in a polite, thoughtful manner. People calling names, throwing insults, or spewing anti-gun propaganda will just be banned. Keeping guns away from bad guys is in everyone’s best interest. The only way to improve our ability to do so is if we can have an actual conversation about the topic with everyone who the issue concerns.