Some Debate with Colin Goddard

Thirdpower has the details of a Twitter debate that’s been going on this Friday between Colin Goddard and a few gun rights people. Debating on Twitter is kind of like dueling haiku, so it’s impossible to discuss complex topics. The topic at hand is background checks. Goddard’s position can be accurately paraphrased as “The innocent have nothing to fear.” But that misses what drives our opposition by a mile.

I think the background check requirement is about as useful for lowering violent crime as pissing out your car window. But if done with respect for the core right at hand, I’m not sure it’s a serious enough impediment to its exercise to rise to the level of unconstitutionality. That said, the proposals by the Brady Campaign are almost certainly not open for debate, largely because they target gun shows with onerous requirements, and impose a significant tax on the transfer of firearms by forcing transfers through FFLs. So we fight it.

Pennsylvania currently bans private transfers of handguns. You have two choices here for transferring a handgun to someone who isn’t your spouse, son, grandson, father, or grandfather. You can pay an FFL to do it, which around here costs a minimum of 32 dollars at some of the smaller, out of the way shops, or drive forty minutes to the county seat, and have the Sheriff’s Office do it. No doubt many gun control advocates don’t really appreciate bringing cost into the equation, but when it comes to exercising rights, costs imposed by government are a serious issue that can’t be lightly dismissed. Especially when the effectiveness of the measures is dubious at best. Despite the fact that Pennsylvania prohibits private transfers of handguns, straw purchasing has become a big enough problem, we’re told we need to acquiesce to a whole host of other controls. The Brady Campaign supports rationing gun purchases in order to deal with this problem in my state, just to name one proposal on the table.

Negotiations on this issue are a non-starter unless something I otherwise could not get is also on the table. Most of that is going to be unacceptable to Colin’s employer, if not Colin himself. Politics is a process of compromise, but compromise is what happens when either both sides are unable to move forward without concessions to the other, or when one side begins to fear his opponent might be able to move an issue forward despite opposition. The gun control movement has never been interested in that kind of compromise. If the Brady Campaign really wanted universal background checks, they could probably get them. Ask how many gun owners here would trade a universal background check you could do with a driver’s license and a cell phone for, say, a repeal of the Hughes Amendment. I think you’d find takers. Ask how many would trade the same for easing restrictions on short barreled rifles/shotguns, and suppressors? National concealed carry? I’d bet you’d get takers just giving up the 4473.

Could Brady make that deal? Are background checks that important? If they answer that question honestly, you’ll see why this goes nowhere. Background checks are a political hobby horse Colin’s side is riding as a gateway to other issues which are more important to them. This was never about the background checks, and I think Colin knows that as well as I do.

17 thoughts on “Some Debate with Colin Goddard”

  1. I have never once seen or heard the Brady Bunch push for harsher (or actual) sentences for straw purchasers. They typically get a slap on the wrist and are told not to do it again. Also, I can’t recall the Brady Bunch demand that violent criminals with firearms convictions not be let out of prison as early or as often as they are.

    The Brady Bunch doesn’t want to fight crime or violence – keeping actual criminals locked up accomplishes that better than anything they’re ever proposed. Instead, they just want to ban inanimate objects that look scary in movies.

  2. There is really only one category of problem that a private party background check is going to make any real dent in, and that is the small but non-trivial problem of people who are mentally ill enough to have been legally disqualified from owning, but who are not obviously dangerously crazy.

    I cannot imagine a gun shop, or even most people at a gun show, knowingly selling a gun to a person who is obviously insane. But there are people who are dangerously crazy, and it is not immediately obvious that they are in that state, or it is only sometimes obvious. This is who a background check might disarm some of the time, and it might be a worthwhile system for that reason.

    However: it is only going to make a tiny difference at the margins. There is a lot we are being asked to give up, and I see no reason why gun owners should be required to pay to operate this system. It is not for our benefit; it is for the benefit of the society. If the society finds the cost of running such a background check system too high, perhaps the money is better spent elsewhere–like restoring our dismantled mental health system.

  3. The cost is a driving force. They know if they can make it cost SO much to be a firearm owner/user/recreational shooter – firearms ownership and usage will eventually “die out” from sheer economics.

    Yeah – what’s an extra $32 here, $50 there, $75 here, $370 there — if you’re innocent, you should be glad to pay that.


  4. @Clayton
    Even then, those checks would only work against those people if the person in question had some kind of record. As we saw in Tucson, that’s not always the case.

    I’m always baffled that they think gun shop owners gleefully sell weapons to someone who’s stereotypically insane and babbling nonsense. I mean really?

  5. For straw purchasing in Virginia where I am, you get locked up for a good amount of time if the wanker you sold it to commit a crime. I see those posters all over gun stores here – “Don’t lie for the other guy.”

    At worst, I’d trade ALL gun control laws for a universal background check. I should be able to walk into a gun shop, point to a full-auto suppressed KRISS Super V on the wall, and say “I want that one,” and walk home with it after a background check.

    At best I want every gun-grabber put out on the street, with all gun control laws repealed.

  6. And it looks like Goddard fell over pretty quickly in that debate. At least he wasn’t spewing invective like some other antis we know of.

  7. You know, I’d consider trading universal background checks for making the system free, making it accessible instantly through a cellphone, and dissociating the check from the gun. It’s a check on the person, after all, not on the gun, and to tell the seller whether I’m a prohibited person, the system doesn’t need to be told the gun’s make, model, and serial number. The existing system is, frankly, an unacceptably tiny step from an illegal gun registry, and corrupting that system’s data is the main reason I’d fight universal background checks tooth and nail.

    Remove the superfluous information that allows the abuse, and I consider the background checks merely useless, not onerous. In fact, it could benefit us by taking away one of the Bradies’ very few remaining avenues of attack. The only social benefit background checks actually have is disarming zeal for gun control; once people hear that the dealer has to check the purchaser’s record on the spot, they realize we’re doing all we can. That’s why the Bradies harp on the non-issue of checkless private sales. A “reform” that took that away from them would probably be more like a wall than a stepping stone.

  8. “But if done with respect for the core right at hand, I’m not sure it’s a serious enough impediment to its exercise to rise to the level of unconstitutionality. ”

    It’s illegal. In other words, it is a crime. Conspiracy to violate rights under the color of authority of law. We have a right to buy firearms. Making us beg permission to exercise our rights is criminal.

    If “done with respect for the core right” would background checks per blog post be constitutional? Hell no. Same goes for firearms and everything else. Freemen and freewomen do not need to get permission to exercise their rights.

  9. The background check may piss you (and me) off, but the standard isn’t whether we’re pissed off at having to ask permission. The standard is burden. And asking permission that’s always granted except to people who are legitimately denied (and denying felons some rights is traditionally acceptable) doesn’t rise to the level of burden that the Supreme Court would need to intervene.

    I think a case can be made that background checks, while not unconstitutional themselves, become burdensome when enforced by forcing all dealer transactions through a physical licensed dealer system, significantly harming availability and price in a world where most other legal products can be shipped to your door from Amazon. But that’s a different argument, and one I don’t expect we have enough support to win right now.

  10. But if done with respect for the core right at hand, I’m not sure it’s a serious enough impediment to its exercise to rise to the level of unconstitutionality.

    Even if the background check were ruled as such — not a serious enough impediment, that is — advocates of background checks still don’t provide the answer to the question so many of us ask: If certain people are so dangerous that they allegedly can’t be trusted with guns, then why are they deemed fit to walk free in society?

    I understand the whole “denying rights to felons” bit, but I don’t understand why denying anyone the basic human right of self-defense is on the table. The whole thing strikes me as immoral. If we deem them worthy of walking among the free, then their right to ownership of the most effective tools of self-defense should come with that.

    And on the flip side of the coin, here’s one of the latest examples of a violent felon that the background check didn’t stop. Things like this are why I think the whole concept of background checks are completely worthless.

  11. Pistolero,

    HOW IN THE HELL do you get parole for a robbery and still be 18 years old? How old was he when he committed that first robbery?

    What a crock.

  12. @the pistolero
    Agreed. Ideally, I think that even felons who have completed their sentence and parole should no longer be barred from owning firearms. If they paid their debt to society, their rights should be restored. Obviously with how the justice system works now that wouldn’t fly.

  13. That’s a right-good question, Cargosquid. Maybe we’re just that hard-up for room for minor drug offenders?

    And you’re right, of course, Pyrotek; but I think that restoring rights to nonviolent felons (and keeping violent felons in jail) is a worthy goal to work toward.

  14. We don’t have enough prison space to house every violent felon for life. Also recall the when one state, I think Florida, upped the penalty for armed robbery to near that of murder, there ended up being more robberies that ended in murder. Since the penalty was so high, you might as well kill the guy so he can’t finger you.

  15. So you don’t house them for life, just long enough to take them out of their prime crime years. Thirty years is usually enough. Let the non-violent ones out and there’ll be plenty of space (which is why that won’t happen, but the prison-industrial complex is another discussion).

    Virginia has a much lower recidivism rate than the national average because we have no parole. Ten years means ten years, life means life. It’s harder to commit crimes when in prison, and the benefit to the public of longer sentences in prison is that one is less likely to commit violent crime when one gets out at the ripe age of fifty- or sixty-something.

  16. I don’t think it’s appropriate to debate the anti’s. It’s like having a discussion with the schoolyard bully about how much of your lunch money he’s going to take.
    The debate we need to have with them is how much of their First Amendment rights they should give up in light of the way that they’ve abused that right in an effort to deprive us of our Second Amendment rights. Criminalizing organized efforts against the Second Amendment is a good place to start.
    I want to see Helmke, Henigan, Sugarmann and others fined and imprisoned. If they can’t treat the rights of their fellow Americans with respect, then lock them up with other criminals who have the same problem. Let them enjoy the company of their own kind, if they can, behind bars where they can no longer abuse the rest of us. Fines and imprisonment are what they are continually proposing for gun owners, let them take their own medicine.

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