MikeB thinks the MAIG mayors are eminently reasonable, and basically only want to do something as modest as ban private party transfers of firearms. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that the bill MAIG is getting behind goes much farther than necessary to accomplish the stated goal, and actually have a discussion about background checks. If the gun control groups want to expand the use of background checks, and they are serious about it, they ought to be willing to listen to our concerns about the current system. So let’s have a discussion, minus all the usual bullshit. Anti-gun people welcome.
The current system has some deficiencies that we’d like to see addressed. Let’s look at some of the problems with the current NICS system:
- It’s trivially easy to use the background check system to do backdoor registration, which is precisely what’s happened in Pennsylvania, even though we were told it would not. Clinton was illegally keeping NICS records for years, even though we were assured that would not happen. The other side has a poor record of keeping their word, so why should we trust them? Let’s put an argument about registration aside for now, and just say we’re not going to accept more. We already have compromised on this, in the form of dealer record retention requirements (4473).
- If the system goes down, we revert to the Brady waiting period, and we have no guarantees of uptime from the government on the system. Outages on the NICS system are not that uncommon, and interfere with many lawful transfers each year.
- The current system is restricted to use by federally licensed dealers. If you require us to do all transactions through federally licensed dealers, they will reasonably want to be paid for their time. Dealers in states with no restrictions on private transfers typically handle few enough to charge a modest amount for the service as a courtesy. Pennsylvania dealers, where handgun transfers must go through an FFL or Sheriff, charge anywhere from 30-50 dollars per gun.
Gun owners have difficulty trusting government promises, and for good reasons. Promises made by the government that they won’t do this or that almost are never lived up to. Even when you try to force the issue, as we did with PICS and NICS records, they weasel around it, and the courts back them up. Incidents like Katrina, and governmental and anti-gun dismissal of the seriousness of it, only serve to strengthen that distrust. You can’t just dismiss this stuff as paranoia, and act like we can move on. Trust has been destroyed. Your side is responsible for it. It’s not now incumbent on us to take you at your word.
So what of our concerns are anti-gun folks willing to address about the current system? Here’s what I would demand, at a minimum, before I’ll even have a discussion about expansion:
- Creation of a national system that preempts the state systems currently in place. It’s easier to have one entity to watch than dozens.
- All source code for the system is to be made public, down through the user interface, up through its interface with NCIC, and the various state and mental health systems.
- All transactions are to be immediately anonymized. The system may keep anonymized transaction tokens so that dealer and personal records can be validated, but those records make it impossible to identify the parties in the transaction without running through the standard trace process. In short, the token uses a hashÂ to store information about the check. Given a gun’s serial number, authorities can determine whether and when a background check happened for a given gun, and what the result was, but nothing else.
- There will be independent auditors to ensure that the system is running on the software the government is publishing source code for. They will be required to publish a full report, along with methodology used in the audit. There has to be penalties for agencies for not complying with the requirements.
- Everyone has access to the background check system, not just dealers. ATF is required to create a user friendly kiosk which can be placed at any gun show, police station or gun store, paid for fully by the federal government, and with no fee to use, which will allow a seller to run a check on a buyer, the system would pass or fail the transaction, and print out a receipt to be kept (but not required to be kept) by the seller and retained in his records.
- Agency must account for any system downtime, and meet uptime requirements or face penalty. Prolonged outages, or ones due to downstream problems with NCIC, etc, just allow transactions to go through.
- Civil penalty for failing to run the check at most. Law abiding people aren’t going to risk even minor lawbreaking, and the criminals aren’t going to be deterred by the law anyway.
I say that’s the minimum, because I can promise you the gun control folks will never agree to this. They won’t even have a discussion from this as a starting point. Why? Because this issue is not about background checks, or about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. It’s about restrictions for restrictions sake. It’s about getting as close to universal gun registration as they can possibly get. It’s about making gun ownership riskier and more costly. My proposal only offers a way to run background checks on prospective buyers, and nothing else. That’s not acceptable to the other side, because that’s not really what they want.Â So we don’t come to a middle ground on the background check issue, because there’s no middle ground to be had.
We don’t agree to put this issue to the political process, because there’s no guarantee once the political process starts, the bill that comes out the other end looks like anything remotely acceptable.Â There are people out there, powerful people, both in and out of Congress, who hate the idea of private citizens having guns and will do everything they can to prevent or frustrate it. There’s no denying that without willfully inserting your head into the sand.Â There is no reasonable way to work out a sensible compromise through the political system. We didn’t get here by having reasonable discussions or by trying to or together to come up with a solution. We got here through struggle, with both sides advancing and retreating at different times, and in different areas. That’s how the political process works, and it can work no other way.
The question for MikeB is whether he’s willing to understand the political process for what it is, and understand that both sides on this issue are actors in what can be accurately compared to an elaborate kabuki. Both sides in this issue behave rationally, when each’sÂ goals are taken into consideration. MikeB’s illusion is that’s not the case. He is dancing in the kabuki, but does not see it for what it is. Or perhaps he does, and is simply feigning ignorance. But in this drama, where the never ending public debate on the topic defines compromises both sides have to live with, it should not surprise anyone that each side takes care to shape the public debate more in its favor through deception and/or hyperbole. But no one can delude themselves about either side’s goal, and remain intellectually honest. I invite MikeB or any other anti-gunner to have a no-BS discussion about this topic. Let’s stop the kabuki for a second and talk for real. Can you?