Time Highlights the Brady Act, and Gets History Wrong

In the wake of ObamaCare passing Congress, Time is highlighting the top ten knockdown congressional battles. One of them they highlighted is the Brady Act, but in typical old media fashion, they get the details wrong:

Once the Brady Bill was signed into law in 1993 — instituting a five-working-day waiting period and background check for any gun purchase — the NRA funded lawsuits that challenged its constitutionality. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forced federal background checks were unconstitutional; these days, background checks are carried out by state and local officials.

What they are referring to is Printz vs. United States, and in Printz, The Court did rule that forced federal background checks were unconstitutional, but the detail Time gets wrong is that it was state and local government who were being forced by the feds. They assume it to be individual gun shops, and get the remedy completely wrong.

The Printz case said that what was unconstitutional was the federal government forcing the state and local authorities to do the federal background check. The Printz Court ruled that, as separate sovereigns, states were not political subdivisions of the United States, and could not be forced to administer federal programs.

The Printz issue did not rule that the background checks were unconstitutional in and of themselves, just that the local police couldn’t be forced by federal law to carry them out. This only applied to the period of the Brady Act before the National Instant Check System (NICS) went into effect. During that period, and after the Printz ruling, whether or not there was a background check was completely voluntary on the part of the local police, and many did not perform them. Sales were permitted to proceed, even if the police did nothing, provided the Brady waiting period was complied with.

This issue all went away once the National Instant Check System (NICS) was in place. Once NICS went active, background checks then had to proceed through the federal system, which is administered by the FBI. Under the Brady Act regulations, states can voluntarily act as Points-of-Contacts for NICS, and route background checks through their own systems, but a majority of states have no system, forcing firearms dealers in those states to use the federal system.

It would only have taken a few minutes of googling to get the correct history, but hey, this is probably why Time is in the toilet right now with a dwindling subscriber base.

UPDATE: IIRC, Printz was consolidated on appeal with a similar case, also in the 9th Circuit, called Mack v. United States. Jay Printz is a Sheriff in Montana (an NRA Board member now, BTW), and Mack was a Sheriff in Arizona. The Attorney of Record for Sheriff Mack was none other than Dave Hardy.

5 thoughts on “Time Highlights the Brady Act, and Gets History Wrong”

  1. “The Printz Court ruled that, as separate sovereigns, states were not political subdivisions of the United States, and could not be forced to administer federal programs.”

    Think the AG’s that are getting together to sue the fedgov over Obamacare will use the Printz case ruling?

  2. I’m not sure, since I don’t know what the legal issues are with HCR. Much like the folks who voted for it, I haven’t read it.

  3. Time is not a place to go for news, or really anything having to do with reality.

    Every time I try to read an article from Time, my mind conjures up the image of a group of journalists patting each other on the back and complementing themselves on how much smarter they are than those dirty commoners who don’t agree with them.

  4. I think Time got the basic point right, and you misread it. They didn’t say that the Printz court held background checks to be unconstitutional – in fact, by going on to say that state and local governments do that now they made clear they are not. What they did say was that the court ruled that forced background checks were, i.e., that the federal government cannot commandeer state and local governments. Which is, in a nutshell, what the Printz decision says.

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