So You Want To Talk Background Checks Eh?

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 hash 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. 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. 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. 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’s 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?

40 Responses to “So You Want To Talk Background Checks Eh?”

  1. Bitter says:

    I might add on the uptime issue that Rendell decided to hijack the opening of hunting season by shutting down PICS for 4 days. The administration admitted that they made no effort to work with gun owners and hunters at all for the shutdown, and when major businesses (Bass Pro & Cabela’s, as well as many smaller gun stores) cried foul because it would eat into a traditional strong sales period, he didn’t give a damn. So it’s not just about keeping the system up for convenience, there has to be some kind of protection in there to keep them from claiming that it is being “updated” to shut down gun sales, especially at a key time like the opening of hunting season.

  2. BC says:

    I wouldn’t mind compromising on the specifics of the SLA provided that the failure mode for the system is to authorize the transaction with no Brady waiting period. That would give the anti-gunners the necessary motivation to maximize the system’s uptime, and to limit outages to strange hours when demands on the system are low.

  3. BC says:

    Heck, as I think about it, the “transactions are authorized with no Brady waiting period” ought to be the penalty for any and all non-compliance or shenanigans. It’s the anti-gunners that think backgrounds checks are vital, not me; let them hammer agencies if, say, auditing requirements aren’t met.

  4. Sebastian says:

    You’d have to have a means of recording outages. In other words, you’d have to have each interface to the system issue an outage code if the system wasn’t working. But what if that system goes down and the page won’t load, phone won’t pick up, or kiosk won’t respond? You can probably make outages that severe very minimal. But if you didn’t have that, there’d be no way to enforce the background check requirement, because nothing would stop a dealer from claiming the system was down, and if dealers were on the hook if the system wasn’t recorded as down, as a practical matter they’ll never agree to do transactions if the system is down.

    I think I might be OK with having to wait for the system to be back up if there’s accountability for downtime, and sensitivity to the fact that the exercise of a constitution right is dependent on this system being up. If they can’t live up to that obligation, then I think the courts should find that background checks are unconstitutional.

  5. Arnie says:

    Maybe it’s the rebel in me but, as BC effused, why are we even discussing background checks for private sales? Private means private. No government involvement. We are not talking illegal drugs here; arms are legal products, no different than knives, baseball bats, or shamwows! I fear if we open the door to unconstitutional government intrusion in our private transactions…well, Revelation 13:17 just gets all that closer to fulfillment. Forgive my paranoia, but as you already stated in your post, Sebastian, we know the government cannot be trusted. I actually like MikeB. Although he is somewhat misguided, he often seems contemplatively level-headed rather than a shrill, thoughtless, mouth-organ (you know: like an MSNBC host). Still, I would never want him or anyone else regulating my personal, private business transactions, no matter what safeguards are built into it. Power corrupts! That’s why our Constitution proscribes them that power.
    I know you are just offering a hypothetical for the sake of argument and I suspect for exposing some flaws and hypocrisies in Mike’s position, but my skin crawls when I read of any son of liberty talking even pretend compromise with the despotic progressives.
    Again, please forgive my rebel paranoia.

  6. mikeb302000 says:

    Sebastian, I’m not feigning ignorance, I am ignorant. But, by degrees it’s changing. At this point in my learning curve, I honestly don’t believe “It’s about restrictions for restrictions sake.” You may be right that the ultimate goal is total gun registration, but I’m not convinced that’s a precursor to gun confiscation which seems to be your concern.

    To me, a registration system and a strict licensing of gun owners would go a long way towards keeping guns in the hands of the good guys and out of criminal hands. This, in addition to background checks on all transfers. The way it is now, criminals are buying guns directly in places where no background check is required. That can’t go on.

  7. Regolith says:

    Sebastian, I’m not feigning ignorance, I am ignorant. But, by degrees it’s changing. At this point in my learning curve, I honestly don’t believe “It’s about restrictions for restrictions sake.” You may be right that the ultimate goal is total gun registration, but I’m not convinced that’s a precursor to gun confiscation which seems to be your concern.

    You yourself admit that your ignorant, but then you keep on spouting opinions anyway? Seems a bit foolish. If you were intellectually honest, you’d deal with your ignorance first, THEN form an opinion. Not the other way around.

    To me, a registration system and a strict licensing of gun owners would go a long way towards keeping guns in the hands of the good guys and out of criminal hands. This, in addition to background checks on all transfers. The way it is now, criminals are buying guns directly in places where no background check is required. That can’t go on.

    No, it wouldn’t. Criminals will never register their guns; they are, after all, criminals. If they aren’t afraid of breaking other laws such as drug dealing, theft, robbery, murder, rape, etc., they aren’t going to be afraid to illegally buy and fail to register a gun. Believing otherwise is naive, at best.

  8. mikeb302000 says:

    Regolith, Thanks for the advice. The problem is the ignorance / knowledge spectrum is very broad. How knowledgeable do you think I need to be before expressing an opinion?

    About your comment that criminals won’t obey the law, this is where I think you’re not following very well. The proposal is not supposed to affect criminals directly, for the simple reason that they wouldn’t obey – everyone knows that, even newcomers to the argument like me. The proposal is to restrict and control the actions of the law-abiding in such a way that the criminals will be affected indirectly by diminished access. That’s the idea.

  9. Regolith says:

    How knowledgeable do you think I need to be before expressing an opinion?

    Given the complexity of the issue, you should at least be somewhat knowledgeable of relevant state and federal laws, the history of gun control in this country and others, the basic statistics behind the issue and the day to day realities of living with these little regulations you’re dreaming up. So far, I have not noticed that you have even a little bit of knowledge of these points.

    The proposal is to restrict and control the actions of the law-abiding in such a way that the criminals will be affected indirectly by diminished access. That’s the idea.

    And the idea sucks.

    You’re proposing to hamper the ability of law abiding people to exercise a Constitutionally protected right in the off chance that it might affect a criminal? And you see nothing wrong with that?

    And again, it won’t affect criminals. At all. There is absolutely no data, none, that supports that. Criminals (or would be criminals) that can’t pass a background check simply procure their weapons illegally. Buying a gun on the black market is as trivial as scoring a couple of ounces of weed. This is as true in places with lots of gun control (see: Chicago, United Kingdom) as it is in places with little gun control.

    Simply put, if you want to restrict our natural rights, you must prove that 1) your proposals will work, and 2) that it is absolutely necessary. So far, you have proved neither, and the facts don’t back you up.

  10. Regolith says:

    Whoops, I didn’t close my bold tag properly. It should be closed right after “prove.”

  11. AntiCitizenOne says:

    Wouldn’t a better way of doing this actually TARGET the criminals DIRECTLY rather than stomp on the rights of the peaceable citizen?

  12. Rex says:


    You wrote:
    “You may be right that the ultimate goal is total gun registration, but I’m not convinced that’s a precursor to gun confiscation which seems to be your concern.”

    That is one of my concerns, and while you may not be convinced, one need only look to history to find many examples where registration leads to prohibition leads to confiscation, and few where it does not. What I fail to see is any good logical reason why registration WOULD NOT lead to confiscation, since the same groups pushing for registration have an end goal of “guns off the streets”, or rather, guns out of the hands of anyone but the M&P.

  13. Thirdpower says:

    “I’m not feigning ignorance, I am ignorant. ”

    That’s the exact opposite claim you made your blog MikeB. So which is it?

  14. Sebastian says:


    This is a rhetorical exercise. I explained why I’m not actually acquiescing to changing the background check system.

  15. Sebastian says:


    There’s an argument that can be made that licensing would be easier for us than the current arrangement, but few countries or jurisdictions that have agreed to licensing have not later had to accept more and more restrictions. It goes back to the credibility issue. If you could show me cases where licensing of gun owners has not lead to less and less freedom over time, I would be willing to talk, but all you have is opposite cases.

    Licensing is off the table because it frustrates people out of gun ownership. States that have instituted licensing have levels of legal gun ownership below 20%, and in some cases below 15%. Once that happened, gun control forces used the reduced political power of the “gun lobby” in those states to pile on the restrictions. Why do you think we can never defeat gun control proposals in MA or NJ?

    In short, it’s off the table because we don’t trust the other side, and we have good reason not to trust the other side. There are no examples of giving ground, and not having them forcibly taking, or trying to take more. So no, licensing is not up for negotiation.

    Do you understand why we feel this way?

  16. Weer'd Beard says:

    Of course he understands. Like all the people in the Pro-ignorance Anti-Freedom camp MikeB’s dream is to wipe citizen gun ownership off the map, but they know that that claim is impossible, so they choose the incremental method.

    Thankfully their methods are so openly exposed they are loosing support by the day, and only people of his mental stature support it.

  17. Arnie says:

    I agree wholheartedly with your position, but I am concerned that you would allow natural rights to be restricted if such restrictions can be proven to be “necessary” and to “actually work.” The Constitutional wording would be “necesssary and proper,” but that only applies to general laws of Congress passed to help implement their enumerated powers. It never applies to curtailing natural, or God-given, rights, which are unalienable – meaning they can never be infringed unless I forfeit them under due process.
    It would require at the very least a Constitutional amendment to give Congress an enumerated power to regulate private, intrastate gun sales for the alledged purpose of maintaing a free and orderly society, and to repeal or modifiy the 2A before such restrictions could be implemented. This would require 3/4 of the States to agree to the concession instead of just 51% of the pofessional politicians in Congress and an anti-gun president. A Congressman’s definition of proof as to necessary and effective is not good enough for me to give up my Creator-endowed rights, no sir! That is a determination that can only be made by Article V’s “explicit and authentic acts of the people (George Washington).”
    Let us not give in even an inch to those who would reduce us under ultimate despotism.
    I appreciate your courage and candor to come on this website. May your open-mindedness illuminate your thinking to see these issues from the vantage point of liberty and not just security.
    Thank you for yet another wonderful posting and discussion. Yet another example of why your “gun-site” is top of the line.
    Respectfully to all,

  18. Carl in Chicago says:

    mikeb302000 Said (September 30th, 2009 at 4:40 am):

    The proposal is not supposed to affect criminals directly, for the simple reason that they wouldn’t obey – everyone knows that, even newcomers to the argument like me. The proposal is to restrict and control the actions of the law-abiding in such a way that the criminals will be affected indirectly by diminished access. That’s the idea.

    Mike … this approach is pathetic. First and most importantly, such a scenario would never pass the “narrowly tailored” or “least restrictive means” tests of scrutiny. In a nutshell, you propose to infringe the rights of law-abiding Americans in hopes the infringements might indirectly trickle-down to affect criminals? Wow. Just wow.

    But your thinking, while illogical and way outside individual rights juriceprudence, is very common. It is based on what is called the “supply side” approach to gun control (and in part on the assumption that fewer guns necessarily mean less crime). If you are interested in this very important aspect of this issue (it is of fundamental importance for the issue of gun control), you would do well to read the following article published in the Wake Forest Law Review. Read it all, and read it carefully.


  19. Sebastian says:

    I’d also point out that by saying you’re in favor of a comprehensive licensing and registration system, you kind of prove my point. Even for you it is not just about background checks. If we know your end game, why should we give an inch? Maybe you support them because you know licensing and registration are politically untenable, but you’ll favor it just to keep fighting for something that’s closer to what you’re comfortable with, and in hope that some victory will alter the landscape in your favor, which is also, interestingly enough, what we’re doing from the opposite side.

  20. Sebastian says:

    Mike … this approach is pathetic.

    It’s’ not pathetic. It’s reasonable thinking. There’s no evidence that it actually works, but it’s not an unreasonable hypothesis. The problem with that approach is the constitution closes that door as an option. But constitutional issues aside, has it been shown to work anywhere?

  21. Sebastian says:


    There’s no right in this country that’s so inalienable that no restrictions whatsoever are permissible on the exercise of the right. You have a First Amendment right to free assembly, but governments may still require a permit to demonstrate in public places, and can place time and venue restrictions on said demonstration. You have a right to marry, but the government licenses that right. I’m not saying these things are necessarily appropriate restrictions for the Second Amendment, but the precedent is there in other rights.

  22. “There has to be penalties for agencies for not complying with the requirements.”

    There should be clearly written penalties for the responsible individuals within those agencies as well. If an agency is in non-compliance it should be required to fix the problem immediately (if possible) and make a public announcement that they are in non-compliance. Failure to do so would result in immediate termination of all responsible individuals who knew about non-compliance. There should be the potential for criminal charges if it can be shown that the agency was in willful non-compliance without notification for more than 24 hours.

    I’m a Delawarean. We found out that the Delaware State Police had illegally maintained background check records for years despite that being against state and federal law. What happened when the public found out from the slip of the DSP’s lips? Wrist slaps all around and the “glitch was fixed.” We promise. No, we won’t show you. Yes, we have as much as admitted that the entire power structure within the DSP knew it was breaking the law for years.

    Why could they get away with it? Partly because Attorney General Biden wasn’t going to prosecute fellow Democrats on a gun issue. Mostly because the law says that the DSP should maintain records for no longer than X days, but specifies no penalty if the law is broken.

  23. persiflage says:

    Interesting discussion, but IME is likely to get caught up in a debate of people talking past each other – because the lovers of control and the lovers of freedom have internalized completely different meanings for words like “freedom”, “safety”, “natural rights”, even the purpose and meaning of the US Constitution. We find communication difficult because we don’t speak the same language.
    Such debates make this old man tired. The proposed additional restrictions on firearms transfer and ownership (piled atop the mountain of existing restrictions) would not even INCONVENIENCE those who have made a vocation out of lawbreaking, and instead punishes the millions of peaceable gun owners in the vain hope of discouraging a few criminals. It is collectivist nonsense. That can not be said too often.

  24. mikeb302000 says:

    Thanks Arnie for saying, “I appreciate your courage and candor to come on this website. May your open-mindedness illuminate your thinking to see these issues from the vantage point of liberty and not just security.”

    To your question, Sebastian, “Do you understand why we feel this way?”

    Yes, I think I do.

  25. Mike w. says:

    I see Jeff already covered the incident in Delaware. Nothing came of that as far as I know. They didn’t show any proof that they’d fixed anything, and no one was punished for what was done.

    DSP was illegally maintaining records, in violation of state law and using that information to arbitarily deny purchases based on age and gender when the buyer was not prohibited by any state or federal law.

    The Delaware Online Article doesn’t work anymore, but you can read it here.

    Making a law saying “you can’t do that” is useless if there’s no enforcement provision.

  26. Sebastian says:

    Then you need to make a choice, MikeB. Either accept that you’re dancing the kabuki, and start making a real case for your side, or work toward a middle ground, and that means disciplining people on your side as well as speaking to people on the other.

    If you really want licensing and registration, there’s a lot of trust that has to be regained for that to happen. Restoring that trust will been respecting the right like it’s a constitutional right. Within that framework, there is probably common ground. But your side won’t like what respecting the right as a constitutional right means.

  27. larry weeks says:

    A minor point but in this age of extreme political correctness… isn’t adding $30-$50 to the price of a gun discrimination against the poor who want to buy a gun? Not suggesting the dealers do the work for free, I believe the dealers SHOULD be paid for their paperwork. Besides, if one jot or tittle is misplaced they can get in trouble with the authorities. I’d want a bunch of money for each transaction if were a dealer!

  28. elmo iscariot says:

    “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.”

    This is my biggest issue with the background check issue as it stands–if the question is “is this person legally prohibited from buying a gun”, why is the identity of the _gun_ necessary in the first place? Doesn’t divorcing the check from the gun’s make and serial number largely address all our concerns about backdoor registration in one simple step? Is there some need for that data relevant to the stated goal of checking a purchaser’s background that I’m missing?

    For that matter, why do we even need a kiosk? Couldn’t the background check system just be a web form or toll-free phone number where any seller can get a “yes” or “no” answer without any privacy-threatening details?

    It seems like the stated goal (not all the implicit long-term gun control goals, obviously) could be addressed very simply without actually undermining the registration-frustrating advantages of private sales by just making the process easily accessable and devoid of gun information. This solution is so simple and blindingly obvious that I’m sure there must be something terribly wrong with it., ;)

  29. Sebastian says:

    I agree Larry. That’s the main reason we need to oppose efforts to run all transfers through FFLs. FFLs have a right to be paid for their time. Time they spend filling out 4473s and running NICS checks is time they aren’t making money selling guns.

    But even for me, 40 or 50 dollars paid to transfer a gun (I have a dealer who will do it for the low low price of $35) keeps me from, say, agreeing to take a gun from Para and writing a review on it, because I’ll have to pay that fee to get the gun to me. For the poor, it’s a real burden if they are buying a $250 dollar Bersa, and that cost represents a significant barrier to them.

    If extending background checks is a public good, the public should pay for it. They can’t force FFLs to work for free, and I wouldn’t trust a government program to pay FFLs for their time (look at Cash for Clunker payments that the government owes to see what I mean). They have to come up with another way, but that’s not going to happen because adding cost and frustration is their entire purpose. Background checks are just a ruse.

  30. Sebastian says:

    This is my biggest issue with the background check issue as it stands–if the question is “is this person legally prohibited from buying a gun”, why is the identity of the _gun_ necessary in the first place?

    You presumably need a way to enforce the background check requirement, meaning you’d need some way of verifying that it happened. The gun is the most likely item for the authorities to come in contact with, and the least problematic. If you use personal information as the key, once the government has that information, they could presumably go thorough and try that key to see what other guns they can find with that key. Given a gun, the authorities can already find out who the last legal owner was. What we don’t want them being able to do is find out how many guns, and what guns, you own.

    There may actually be a practical way to computerize the whole system, where you could preserve all the information on a 4473, but with the government completely unable to find out who owns what without a specific key. The problem I see in using that with the gun serial number as a key, is that the authorities could just brute force serial numbers to build a registration system. But that does provide an interesting thought process as to whether a system could be developed where the 4473 was eliminated, the government could still find the information it needed given a specific gun, but would be unable to run a brute force method to recover more information.

  31. Sebastian says:

    The other problem with such a system would be technology changes. What the government can’t brute force today, it might be able to brute force tomorrow. The way I see it, we’re probably best off with just eliminating personalizing information, and just having one way information stored, so you can assemble facts and verify the law was complied with, without being able to mine the database for more information about who owns what.

  32. elmo iscariot says:

    “You presumably need a way to enforce the background check requirement, meaning you’d need some way of verifying that it happened.”

    I understand your point, but am unconvinced that this makes the whole gun-connected background check mess necessary. All kinds of things are illegal that are difficult to verify, like the current prohibition on private sales to felons: if we accept verification as essential, wouldn’t that _require_ tracking and recording all private sales?

    Determining whether the law was followed is the responsibility of the government, and (as in your recent posts about Colosimo’s) sometimes they may need to do some serious investigative footwork. Isn’t the indirect compromising of a Constitutional right in order to lower the threshold for prosecution exactly the kind of thing you’re fighting against right now in PA’s “lost and stolen” ordinances?

  33. Weer'd Beard says:

    Why should the gun be any different than any other murder weapon?

    Police may find a dead body with a knife in it, cutlery vendors are in no obligation to serialize or otherwise account for the sale of their wears.

    If a gun is stolen (or any other serialized piece of property like a TV or stereo) Police can use the data to return said property and exonerate the owner who reported it stolen, but I fail to see how serial numbers and 4473 have actually been much aid to solving crimes.

    Meanwhile we can all point to examples of backdoor registries used to confiscate property.

    Elmo has a good idea.

    I might suggest a NICS card issued that can be revoked for convictions, restraining orders, or commitment that can simply be shown to verify legality of a sale (Private or otherwise).

    It could also be used by employers and police who also run background checks routinely.

  34. BC says:

    You may be right that the ultimate goal is total gun registration, but I’m not convinced that’s a precursor to gun confiscation which seems to be your concern.


    There are plenty of well-meaning people of good faith on the anti-gun side. Some of my extended family members are among them.

    That said, you are being played for suckers by the leadership of the anti-gun movement, which, even if the Constitution doesn’t permit a broad-based gun ban, is perfectly happy to consign private gun ownership to the death of a thousand cuts by piling on background checks, registration, licensing, waiting periods, fees, rationing, storage requirements, theft reporting requirements, and so on and so forth, until normal people rationally decide that exercising their constitutional right to arms isn’t worth the trouble.

    As Sebastian said: your side is responsible for the trust gap. Every time we’ve compromised (as, for example, we did with NICS) your side comes back after a year or two and decries all the “loopholes” that were actually necessary parts of the original compromise. Given that reality, we have no incentive to compromise any further — we have zero confidence that your side negotiates in good faith. Any proposal that doesn’t acknowledge and make allowances for that trust gap is dead on arrival.

  35. Sebastian says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem eliminating the background check requirement altogether, because I don’t think it’s been shown to actually reduce crime or criminal access to guns. If you look at where criminals got their guns before Brady, and then after, criminals just shifted more to theft rings and straw purchases as their source of guns. I don’t think access changed all that much, and there’s an argument that theft is a more socially harmful source than lying on 4473.

  36. Matt says:


    What you likely don’t realize (and many gun owners as well) is the existing NICS system itself is, in fact, a compromise. It replaced the original mandatory 5-day background check on handguns with an instant check system for all firearms.

    So gun owners gave up restrictive background checks on one class of firearms for a broad-based background check for them all. Now, your side is claiming that system needs “improvement” and “tightening” to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

    From my side looking back with the advantage of time and history, I think gun owners came out badly as a result. Had the original Brady check remained in place, only handguns would be affected and rifles and shotguns would be sold with a signature on a 4473 and cash on the counter. No background check, just cash and carry instantly.

    Until the mid 1990s, there was no background check system for all guns (except Class III). You signed a form on penalty of perjury and prosecution and that was it. Somehow, the sky didn’t fall for those decades prior to the Brady check being introduced.

    So I wonder why the argument for background checks at all and a case to tighten them? The system we have exists as a compromise to your side and your side has shown no desire to stop there. First it was limited checks, then broad, automated checks. Now, we need to checks for everyone and broaden even further those who might be ineligible (secret watch lists, for example). Why the push for more and more? What is it accomplishing for you?

    Does it make you feel good and safe even though through the lens of decades of no background checks, the country still functioned and crime wasn’t much worse then. Take away drug related crime and things have remained flat or fallen. I could buy a guy without a background check or a form until 1968. And without a background check until 1996. Do you not see the slow, continuous progression against gun ownership?

    I think you are looking at it from a slice of time limited to your experience horizon. I think you’re starting to dive into the issue. Many of us have. When you do, I think you start to see where we are coming from and why we are so strident in resisting such efforts that seem so “reasonable” at first glance.

    Personally, I will resist ANY effort at bringing all firearms transfers under a background check system. Anonymous firearms ownership, in my opinion, is one of the last safety clamps we have for retaining our freedom. Given the abuses others have pointed out, I simply have no reason to trust your side on this issue.

  37. Dave says:

    “isn’t adding $30-$50 to the price of a gun discrimination against the poor who want to buy a gun?”

    Yes, indeed I think it is. Look at the numbers of guns manufactured each year by the lower end manufacturers like Hi Point, Cobra, Phoenix Arms, Jimenez etc. Between them I think they make an average of something like 180,000 pistols per year. A fair percentage of the folks that buy those cheap guns do so because that is all the money they can carve out of their limited budget. An extra $30-$50 may not seem like much, but when it is tacked on to an expense that a person can barely afford it becomes a big deal.

  38. elmo iscariot says:

    Aw, but c’mon–clearly a modest fee is just an “inconvenience” we should all accept. For safety.

  39. Arnie says:

    Wow! Nearly 40 comments and all of them very well-informed and well-presented. I enjoyed the logic as well as the passion. I have so far deduced that a justifiable lack of trust in the motives and integrity of government officials is the main reason pro-gun enthusiasts will not stand by and allow our precious “palladium of the Bill of Rights” be infringed or undermined by even the smallest and most “reasonable” regulation by the folks in D.C.
    As a student of history, I can say with confidence that our Founding Fathers felt exactly the same way, especially anti-federalists like Patrick Henry, George Mason, St. John Tucker and Richard Henry Lee. That is why they gave us the Bill of Rights, and particularly the 2A. They feared a powerful central government and purposely limited its powers and reach so it could never intrude upon either the sovereign power and jurisdiction of the States or the rights and liberties of the individual. We stand on the same side as some of the greatest men of all history! O MikeB, how I pray you see your way to stand with them, too, and with us. Sebastian, I understand your point that our unalienable rights have limits and I would agree. But my understanding is that is why the Bill of
    Rigts only limited the national government, not the State or local governments. E.g., “Congress shall make no law….” put no restrictions on any State government with regard to religion, speech or press. I know for a fact that several States did have government-established churches – I read once that Massachusettes (of all States!) taxed its citizens for the government support of christian efforts to evangelize the Indians as late as 1857. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson (a disestablishmentarianist) and Patrick Henry (an antidisestablishmentarianist) fought bitterly over whether Virginia should establish Anglicanism as the State’s official Church. Henry, the anti-federalist who would brook no federal power to establish a national religion, was incontrovertibly persuaded that no such restrictions applied to State authority. The same dichotomy was true of all unalienable rights, including, and especially, the right to arms. I contend from the statements of the Founders that the “shall not be infringed” clause was without doubt intended to be absolute with regard to the national government. If the national government could make any exceptions to that proscription, based on its own Court’s arbitrary judgement as to what is “reasonable” or “compelling”, then the entire amendment is as worthless as a locked henhouse door with its key given to the fox. Reasonable regulations are the sole purview of the States: the absence of a constitutionally enumerated power says so, the 10th Amendment says so, the Second Amendment says so, and the anti-federalist proponents and authors of the Bill of Rights said so.
    Certainly the national government can deprive me of my arms under due process of law – i.e., I am convicted of a constitutionally recognized federal crime the legal penalty for which is the confiscation of my weapons. It can also regulate arms in federal buildings, on national military bases and on other distinctly federal property where I do not have an unalienable right to be (hence, covering your right-to-assemble example). But the Federalist Founders gave it no enumerated power to regulate what arms I can or cannot keep and bear within the borders of my State or within the privacy of my own home, and the anti-federalists put that proscrption in cement with the 2nd and 10th Amendments! Your marriage license example is a State issue and well within the authority of the several States to regulate. But I think you would agree with me that the Constitution absolutely precludes from becoming law any act of Congress that would require a NATIONAL marriage license! Such “reasonable” regulations are the exclusive jurisdiction of the States, and so it is, I believe, with our right to keep and bear arms.
    Sorry about writing a tome, but if I may sum up: I contend the Second Amendment is an absolute restriction on all NATIONAL gun regulations, but allows individual States to limit our right to arms as their legislators see fit and their constitutions permit, in regard to their safety and good order as well as to their defense against federal tyranny. This isn’t just my opinion; it was the declared conviction of our Founders who fought a revolution against a central government that tried to usurp the power to disarm our forefathers (at Concord), a power not given it by the colonial compacts. Here we are again today, facing an almost identical threat to our liberty. We mustn’t let today’s central government think they can try it again!
    Whew! Thanks, Sebastian.

  40. Arnie says:

    My apologies to the Founder I erroneously named St. John Tucker – His name was St. George Tucker, and he was an adamant defender of liberty from tyranny by the deterring effect of an armed citizenry. On page 105 of the NRA’s “The Second Amendment Primer,” he states concerning “the right of bearing arms:”

    “The right of bearing arms – which with us is NOT LIMITED OR RESTRAINED…is particulary enjoyed by EVERY citizen…since it furnishes the means of resisting as a freeman ought, the inroads of usurpation.
    “The law of nature allows us to defend ourselves, and imposes NO LIMIT upon the right…whatever means are necessary MUST be lawful; for the rule is general, that where a right is ABSOLUTELY given, the means to exercise it MUST also follow” (emphases mine).

    It seems clear to me, from statements like this at least, that the proponents of the 2nd Amendment intended it to be an ABSOLUTE right.

    I strongly recommend this primer to every freedom-loving citizen.