Last week a group of Democrats in Congress held a press conference to discuss gun control. It’s not entirely clear why their remarks were newsworthy. It was simply another instance of gun control advocates advocating for gun control in front of the media. Their hook was that it had been 100 days since the House passage of a bill requiring universal background checks for every private party firearm transfer.
Yes, all retailers are already required to run background checks through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), regardless of whether the transfer is made through a store or at a gun show. But that isn’t good enough for those who wish to control the actions of every individual seeking to exercise their Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment.
And H.R. 8, their universal background check bill, sounds like the next logical law to pass when covered in the media. However, as we have said before, it can’t work.
Criminals Don’t Respect Laws
It can’t work because criminals who are prohibited by law from owning a firearm will not comply, as they do not comply with the existing laws. Government surveys have shown time and time again that the vast majority of prisoners obtained their guns from the black market or from theft. There are zero indications that they will follow a new law requiring them to call the FBI as they are purchasing a stolen firearm on the street.
It can’t work because the only way to enforce the law will be to create a massive government database with a list of every gun owner and which firearms they own. That way, they can track whether a background check was run when the firearm was sold or given as a gift to another individual. In a time when every database is hackable and all personal information online is vulnerable, the last thing our country needs is a gun owner database.
Not An Antidote
According to the members of Congress who participated in this media availability debacle, H.R. 8 is needed to stem the “epidemic of gun violence.” As we have noted many times before, guns are not a disease and are used in healthy, legal ways every day. When asked whether the bill would have prevented the recent tragic shooting in Virginia Beach, of course the answer was no, as the shooter had already passed more than one background check. The illegal actions of criminals must be addressed, as well as the rising suicide trends and the fortunately rare cases of unintentional injuries. But H.R. 8 is not a solution.
A real newsworthy event would be for the Democrats pushing the gun control agenda to admit that H.R. 8 will not lower crime rates or address the gaps in our mental health system. How about a press conference to recognize the notably effective programs led and funded by the firearms and ammunition industry that help make our communities safer?
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.