It’s hard to keep track of exactly what the anti-gun forces are promoting. Sure, it all comes under their banner of “common sense.” They think repeating that phrase enough will make it real. But the current emotion of the gun haters is sputtering off in all directions. Obama at the Naval Yard memorial was praising the actions taken by countries like the UK (which have essentially banned civilian ownership of any firearm), and similar statements and campaigns have fed the general distaste for guns without any real directions. “Assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines have been targeted, unsuccessfully, at the Federal level by Sen. Feinstein, but with sad effectiveness in states like New York and Colorado. This has dropped somwhat since the most recent high profile shooters used shotguns (Joe Biden/Feinstein approved) instead of the evil “assault” rifles which were easier for them to target.
The most consistent push from the anti-gun crowd has been the “universal background check.” It’s the Federal proposal that got the farthest in the Senate this year, and it’s become a favorite talking point because they make it sound less confiscatory. To an uninformed populace it has some understandable appeal in the face of horrific events from some of the sickest monsters in the world. “We must keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and the criminals!” Who could oppose that?
Me. And a lot of you. And, given a full understanding of the facts, current laws, logic and statistics, most of the population. Because this proposed expansion does NOTHING to protect anyone.
I don’t even need to rely upon my belief in the right to be armed. I also don’t need to point out the negative consequences and risks of this type of law and policy. There are others who have written more eloquently on that side of the issue, including one on this site by Double Tap. You don’t even need to GET to the philosophical level of those issues. Like a magician trying to distract you, the gun control machine’s emotional pleadings are trying to blot out the fact there is no connection between murders and their proposals.
Our opponents tell us that even if something isn’t a perfect solution, we must do something. But the problem is the expansion of the background checks do nothing. And the flaws in the offered action start with the massive combination of misinformation, lack of knowledge, and outright lies surrounding these issues.
While there are many well meaning people out there who simply don’t know the facts, we know that the leaders of the anti-gun movement are aware of and intentionally trample the truth any chance they get. Whether it’s the general impression that anyone can buy an automatic weapon from a seller over the internet without a background check, or people believing the disabused statistic that “40%” of gun sales are made without a background check; the Bloombama’s of the world promulgate these lies with a vengeance. As gun owners who have filled out multiple Form 4473’s and who’ve purchased a gun online and gone through the process of getting our FFL to get their license to the buyer, we know the existing red tape that already exists. Unfortunately, too many people are led down the path to think there is no existing background check.
Because our opponents are exploiting horrific aberrational tragedies, let’s look at those events. The Tucson, Aurora, and Navy Yard shootings were all committed by someone who passed the vaunted background checks. The Connecticut shooting was committed by someone who murdered a family member to get the guns that were purchased with a background check. Keep in mind the Bloombama’s are not trying to make the checks more effective. It is merely taking the checks that applied to all of these cases already and applying them to additional private transfers. (Ever heard the expression, we lose money, but we make it up in volume?)
The biggest flaw for someone expecting the existing background checks (no matter how many additional private transactions they are applied to) to keep guns out of the hands of the “mentally ill” is a fundamental misunderstanding of mental health treatment in the United States. However challenging it may be for the NICS database to absorb the information about criminal convictions relative to determining whether someone is a prohibited possessor, it’s child’s play compared to determining whether someone is a danger due to a mental illness. While it’s easy to examine in hindsight the sickness behind these murders, there is essentially no viable way to identify such individuals through a background check. (I won’t even go into the other side of the argument, how such prohibition could be overly broad, as was covered in the prior article).
18 U.S.C. §922(g)(4) defines as one category of prohibited possessors a person who has been adjudicated as a “mental defective”. This includes being deemed a danger to himself or others; having been found not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal trial; or having been found to lack the mental capacity to contract for himself. The reasons may also include mental illness, incompetency, “condition” or “subnormal intelligence.” The other category is someone who has been “committed to a mental institution.”
As an attorney who practices in areas related to these categories, a number of things jump out at me. The pejorative references and descriptions seem more suited to the 19th century than the 21st, and cover a rather bizarre range of situations. For instance, one of these categories references what in Arizona would be a Title 36 proceeding, a rather extreme mental health proceeding for temporary involuntary treatment in a Level 1 facility if a person is proven to be an active danger to himself or others, a stringent standard. At the same time it includes what most states would deem a Guardianship or Conservatorship proceeding, something far more common where mom or dad has really lost the ability to properly balance their checkbook and need someone else to pay the bills.
The mental illness related categories set forth in Federal law have not been applicable to any of the mass shooters during Obama’s presidency. Despite obvious serious mental health issues from this gallery of psychotics, none of these individuals had ever been determined to need a guardianship or conservatorship in state court, or been subject to a mental health care treatment order requiring them to be locked up. The Virginia Tech shooter did fit this latter category, which prompted the changes to the law and the 4473, but there is no consistent source of information which would allow the NICS to ping even those few prospective buyers who DID meet the specific requirements of the Federal statute. It relies on someone mentally ill and dangerous to be honest in filling out the 4473, apparently. On the state level, when Arizona recently was considering a requirement that the courts report to NICS anyone who was adjudicated under a Title 36 danger, the resistance that came from those who had an anti-gun bias was surprising . They did not want the system to be reporting this most extreme mental health situation!
So, what we’re left with is a system, despite what we are told, where almost all firearm purchases go through our existing background check, which did not stop any of our recent mass shooters. It is a system that is unequipped (perhaps understandably) to obtain relevant information to mental health issues. And yet, we are told, the solution to gun violence (or the toe hold to disarming us?) is to EXPAND these checks to additional private transfers, and that all who oppose that expansion have blood on our hands.
But the most damning proof of the utter uselessness of this expansion is obvious once I started to think about it. We know how vindictively exploitative gun control advocates are, wasting no chance to dance in the blood of the innocents. We know about Bloomberg’s unlimited resources and the ignorant celebrities anxious to pour funds into their campaign for “common sense” solutions. Now close your eyes. Imagine if there was one case, that they could present to show, “See, THIS innocent person was murdered because the murderer bought a gun from a private party without a background check. HAD a background check been required by that private seller, this innocent victim would be alive today.” How many times would we have heard that story? How many posters would it be on? How many memes would Moms Demand Action devote to that victim? And yet there are none.
So the gun control advocates, with all their resources, with all their media support, can’t show a single, weak-as-it-is-anecdotal example, how their cornerstone for gun control would have saved one life.
And people wonder why we won’t just go along with their “common sense”?