WHAT’S wrong with universal background checks (UBC) for firearm purchases? Everything! End of story.
Now you can skip this column and go on to perusing the cool guns and useful advice in the rest of this issue of S.W.A.T. Because seriously, every politically aware Second Amendment practitioner knows how problematic, how dangerous, how downright evil UBCs are.
Or so you’d think. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few people, including at least one nationally known gun-rights leader, who don’t understand the problem—the growing problem. So let’s take a quick look at some of the worst aspects of UBCs.
1. UBCs attempt to turn a right into a government-granted privilege. Yes, I know; that’s nothing new. FFL instant checks, CCW permits, NFA taxes, and other gun controls already do the same. But all those are also legally avoidable to most gun buyers who wish to avoid them. UBCs, for the first time, would make merely acquiring a firearm, any firearm, illegal without government permission. This is one of the worst things about UBCs, but still not the worst. We’ll get to that in a minute.
2. UBCs won’t do a thing to stop crime. Criminals will get their guns the way they usually do (duh—by committing crimes). According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study, Firearm Use by Offenders, roughly 80% of guns used in crimes are acquired, shall we say, “informally.” Violent crazies will get them the way the Newtown murderer got them (family member—conveniently killed) or the way the Aurora, Colorado theater killer got them (with a squeaky-clean record, he passed background checks via multiple FFLs).
3. On the other hand, people who still adhere to the myth of the law-abiding citizen will find that with UBCs, government has complete control over who is legally “allowed” to buy guns. That could end up meaning nobody is “allowed.” Is NICS down? Has your region been declared a disaster area? (Think Katrina.) Is the database corrupted? Does some future president or Justice Department bureaucrat simply decide to halt the system for the duration of some emergency? Oh, the possibilities!
4. And the system doesn’t even have to go down. UBCs will bring insane backlogs, which can be solved only with (don’t you love it?) bigger government budgets and increased bureaucracy.
5. UBCs inevitably lead to registration. I don’t care how many clauses are written into how many laws forbidding gun registries. I don’t care how many theoretical criminal penalties are included in UBC laws for anyone daring to compile a registry. Registries will be built from the get-go and no one will ever be held responsible. Doubt it? How many ATF agents or higher-ups have been fired or prosecuted for their notorious habit of copying gun shop paperwork? How many years is Eric Holder spending in prison for Fast & Furious? How many years is anybody spending in prison for F&F? And that operation got people killed. Serious consequences for keeping illegal databases? Never gonna happen. Just ask the NSA, DEA, FBI, ATF, etc. This is also a terrible problem and nationally it goes beyond the issue of guns. But it’s still not the worst problem. (Yes, we’ll get to that shortly.)
6. Registration inevitably leads to confiscation. Oh, we may not see troops going door-to-door across the land (not if said troops value their own lives). But already in states that passed post-Newtown laws, we’re seeing individuals ordered to surrender their arms. That’s only possible when governments know where the guns are. With UBCs, they’ll know.
7. The prohibited persons list that gets checked for UBCs gets bigger—and crazier—all the time. Most people agree that violent felons and the dangerously mentally ill shouldn’t have guns. That’s a nice theory. But on the prohibited list are (increasingly) people who committed certain types of misdemeanors decades ago and others who’ve done no harm to anybody. In some cases people are being prohibited, or even having their firearms confiscated, if they’ve ever sought mental health treatment of any sort.
A few years ago, the folks who write the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, the bible of the psychiatric profession) cooked up a condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which redefined childhood disobedience and teenage rebellion as a mental illness. Now in the latest edition, DSM-5, the definition of this “illness” has been extended to adults who show “paranoid ideation” toward authority. Don’t like excess government? Do you believe government agencies are monitoring phone calls or keeping a registry of firearms? Then you must be sick.
You can also be “mentally ill” if you spend too much time on your computer, especially if you display your “paranoid ideation” online. Believe it or not, with DSM-5, even grieving the death of a spouse, child, or friend is now considered a disorder. Slate magazine (no friend to gun owners) notes that under the most recent definitions, approximately half of all Americans could be classed as “mentally ill.” In 1952, DSM- 1 listed 106 potential disorders. DSM-5 lists 297 plus a host of sub-types. As our individual mental health records are incorporated into the prohibited persons database, you could be classified as “too sick” to be allowed to purchase a firearm.
8. UBCs are unenforceable. Though they turn millions of peaceable people into “criminals,” few of those scofflaws will ever get caught because the resources and surveillance systems aren’t (yet) there to catch them. Nevertheless, the danger remains. Any contact with authority becomes riskier for “we the criminals.” But that’s still not the worst thing about UBCs.
9. The worst thing about UBCs is this. After decades of floundering around with bans on handguns and Evil Black Rifles, hoplophobic control freaks have finally hit on something they may be able to win with—UBCs imposed at state level by voter initiative. Washington voters gave them their first big win last fall with the ghastly I-594 (so badly written that merely handing a gun to a friend may be a crime). Now the Bloomberg Brigade is off to Nevada, Florida, Oregon, and other states. And it’s so easy. Expensive, but easy (and our opponents have many billionaires among their ranks).
“Background checks?” say ill-informed, heavily propagandized voters, “Sure—that’ll keep guns out of the hands of criminals and violent lunatics. I’ll vote YES to that!” And thus, ignorami who’ve never even read the proposed laws will vote their little hearts out—and vote our rights away.
Except, of course, that a few million gun owners know that our rights aren’t subject to anybody’s vote, anybody’s propaganda campaign, anybody’s “compromise,” or anybody’s billions.