In the wake of a horrendous tragedy in Las Vegas, the usual suspects wasted no time in trying to capitalize politically. As usual, the proposal of robust universal background checks has again taken center stage. While many tout a 90% support for more robust background checks, few elaborate on the details of what that looks like.
Most Americans may support the concept of background checks, but support for the particulars of Universal background checks is quite another story. So, can universal background checks be implemented in America? If not, why not?
First, you must look at the current background check system. Licensed gun sellers (stores, gun shows and internet) are required by law to perform background checks. Private sales and transfers are not. Why not?
Licensed sellers are required to register all weapons in their inventory and to account for them all on a regular basis. Any firearm registered to them that is no longer in their inventory must be accounted for via bill of sale and background check or police report of theft.
Now, why can’t we extend that to private sales and individuals? First, there is no national firearm registry, nor will there ever be one. Without a registry, there is no way of knowing who owns what in the private sector.
With an estimated 300 million plus firearms in circulation in the United States it is both practically and physically impossible to register them all. Without registration there is no feasible way to inventory, regulate or track the transfer of firearms from one individual to another.
Add to that the freely and widely available information and technology to literally manufacture a firearm at home with minimal skill and basic tools.
Every attempt to regulate, inhibit or ban certain types of firearms has been easily bypassed by individuals and manufacturers. For example, cosmetic features outlined in “assault weapon” bans. A ban on pistol grips resulted in the invention of the “thumb hole stock.” Not to mention the recent attention given to bump-fire or slide-fire stocks. Though automatic, or select fire, weapons have been tightly regulated since 1934, the bump-fire stock allows a semi-automatic firearm to achieve full auto fire rates.
Therein lies the problem. Gun control legislation suffers from one of two fatal flaws. Laws that are too vague are subject to unconstitutionally broad interpretation. Too specific and it allows for work arounds and modifications that bypass those specifics. That’s assuming the debatable point of view that gun control laws are not patently unconstitutional in the first place.
With regard to controlling who has a right to keep and bear arms, again it is legislatively and logistically impossible. “Prohibited possessors” routinely possess, carry and criminally use firearms every day. Again, assuming you take the view that it isn’t patently unconstitutional to limit that right to specific individuals. The act of defining who has a particular right, and who does not, inherently infringes that “right” by converting it into a government sanctioned privilege.
In order to implement a “universal background check,” government would not only have to violate individual gun rights, but private property rights and unreasonable search and seizure protections as well. Every firearm in America have to be located, registered to an individual and regularly inventoried to detect potential undocumented transfers.
Making participation voluntary would defeat the entire stated purpose of such checks and regulations. Only those with no ill intent, “law-abiding citizens,” would comply. Even with penalties for non-compliance those with evil intent, be it criminal or terroristic, are already aware of the potential repercussions of their actions and would be undeterred.
Laws are like locks, they keep good people honest, but do not deter evil people. Our history with control is clear. It has resulted in a power imbalance between good and evil. The good are increasingly unarmed and the evil, who disregard life and law, slaughter the innocent en masse.
With changing attitudes towards a personal defense right to carry, gun ownership and carry has risen while violent crime and homicide have fallen. However, mass shootings of unarmed innocents in “gun free zones” has become far too common. It’s not a particular type of firearm or availability issue. It is a divisive focus on inanimate objects rather than an honest and in depth consideration of the real issues behind the violence. Issues of mental health, criminal rehabilitation, recidivism, ideology and terrorism. As well as an issue of personal responsibility vs dependence upon government protection.
America cannot and will not become a “gun free zone.” There is no legislative fix, no solution short of absolute tyranny and oppression that will “control” guns in America. We must resist the emotional reactivity that would lead us to sacrifice our liberty and personal responsibility for the false perception of security.
I’m not one to criticize without offering an alternative. So, what can be done?
- Education: In a nation with as many guns as people, it is unconscionable that Americans are so illiterate in regards to firearms, their rights and their responsibilities.
- Training: Universal basic training in firearm safety should be a baseline for all Americans.
- Vigilance: Basic awareness of the actions and behaviors of those around us. See something, say something. Free of politically correct retribution.
- Personal Responsibility: You and only you can provide for your safety. A million police officers cannot protect 300 million people. Government cannot identify and neutralize all threats. A free society has inherent risks and a free people MUST be prepared to meet those risks.
Every time we look to government to protect us, we give up a little bit more of our individual sovereignty and personal responsibility. While that may not seem to be a dangerous idea under a benevolent government, but even benevolent leaders can become malevolent when given too much power over our lives. After tragedies there is always a desire to “do something” and when people feel powerless they look to government for that. While it is an understandable response, it is a dangerous response as well.
Let us all step back, look beyond the emotional desires and seriously consider the full implications of what is being proposed. Let us take a good hard look at ourselves, each other and our ability to address these concerns without surrendering our rights and responsibilities. Let us look clearly at the sources of the evils we face rather than the tools they use to perpetrate that evil. We The People are the soul and power of these United States. We The People are the cure, not government.
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