Miguel points out that the Brady folks seem to be celebrating that they get it right half the time, because NICS has stopped 2 million transactions, and 1 million of them were felons! Now, it may be that that the other million are prohibited misdemeanants. That can happen if the misdemeanor is a domestic conviction, or it’s a misdemeanor that carries a possible sentence of more than two years in prison. These are also people unlikely to realize they are prohibited persons when they go to purchase a firearm, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are overrepresented.
I seem to recall some analyses of NICS denials, that I wish I could find now, said that about 5% of NICS denials are appealed, and on appeal about half of those denials are overturned. How many people are getting unjustly denied by the background check system but never bother appealing to see if the data is erroneous? In truth we can’t know, but I doubt the number is zero. Many of those improperly denied may know they had been in trouble with the law before, but have their convictions erroneously classified as prohibiting offenses when they are not. Those types may not bother.
I’m sort of resigned to the fact that we’re going to have to live with some amount of gun control, and as gun control goes, the instant check system isn’t the worst of all things to have to live with. But just because I’m resigned to having to tolerate it, doesn’t mean I think it’s effective. Hard core criminals are going to get guns no matter what. I have little doubt that NICS has stopped some criminals from getting guns, but what kind of criminals? If you’re in a gang, in the business of selling drugs, or have an interest in robbing people, I’m not convinced that failing a background check is where your quest for a gun is going to stop. How many of those 2 million denied purchasers went on to buy a gun out of the back of a van? How many of them just had a girlfriend straw purchase a gun for them?
The Bradys always seem to be relatively horrified we don’t support these “common sense” measures. Maybe because there’s no evidence they are really making society any safer. To a woman trying to defend herself against an abusive ex-husband, it’s going to be little comfort to her, while she’s defenseless awaiting her NICS appeal, that the system gets it right most of the time. We generally don’t tolerate those kinds of prior restraints when it comes to other constitutional rights.