By Jorge Amselle
The general public is constantly assailed with the notion that “universal background checks” for gun purchases are just a simple and acceptable “common sense” approach to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or violent persons. I mean, really, who doesn’t support background checks? Well, I don’t for one.
I don’t want criminals and crazy people to have guns but I just don’t care enough to be inconvenienced by it, especially since I know background checks are completely ineffective. I am less concerned with criminals having access to guns than I am by being hassled every time I need to take possession of a firearm. In my case as a gun writer that is a lot. I take possession of guns three to four times per month on average, test them and return them. Every time I have to go through the same hassle, the same wait, the same expense and the same idiot questions on the federal (and in Virginia the state) form.
If these background checks actually made us safer I still wouldn’t like them but I could understand why they get such wide support. Yes, sometimes a prohibited person is stopped from buying a gun because of the background check. But does anyone really think that means that they did not eventually get access to a gun if they wanted one and had ready cash available? I have to wonder why someone who should know they are prohibited from owning a gun even goes through the easily avoidable theatre of a background check.
Most criminals know this and either use friends or relatives with no criminal record to buy guns for them (an illegal straw purchase), steal guns, or buy illicit guns from other criminals. Some gangs even have community guns they all share. Like a gun library where you check out what you need, use it and then return it; just one more example of the sharing economy.
Things are no better when it comes to homicidal nut jobs. In virtually every case where a crazy person has turned to violence they were able to legally acquire guns, since nothing in their background check precluded them from owning a gun. In some cases those too young or too crazy had to turn to straw purchasers or stealing guns from relatives with the same sad results.
In Washington State next month voters get to select from two completely different and opposing background check bills. I am sure both will pass and lead to massive confusion and litigation for the foreseeable future. And the bad bill isn’t even that bad (at least compared to what it could have been). Initiative 594 only expands background checks to guns shows and online purchases not other person to person sales. In several states all gun transfers must undergo background checks. The good bill, Initiative 591 makes it illegal for the state to have a background check stricter than that required by federal law (the status quo essentially).
Background checks, even in the small percentage of cases where they stop a gun sale, do not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. By definition criminals don’t care what the law says. The only real reason anti-gunners support background checks, licensing, registration and other time consuming and costly paperwork hassles is to reduce gun ownership by attrition. The harder it is to do something the fewer people will do it. Meanwhile getting a gun for criminals will continue to be easy and hassle free.