David Codrea pointed me to this article at his War on Guns website. The article appears in the Greensboro New and Record, entitled Sen. Kay Hagan favors expanding background checks for guns. Well, she is a Democrat, after all, and as such favors all sorts of things that stomp on your freedoms and liberties. The NRA and GOA both list Hagan as "F" rated, meaning they don't expect much support from Hagan on issues favorable to gun owners. Hagan doesn't disappoint with this latest pronouncement. But, if she is reading this, and if she doesn't have a hidden agenda, then here are some reasons not to support extending the background check system.
The first reason is that background checks don't prevent a determined criminal from getting a gun. Most such criminals know not to go into a gun store to purchase their armaments, for reasons we shall soon see. Instead, they go on the black market. After all, if they can smuggle drugs into this country, they can smuggle guns right along with them. Do you honestly think that if background checks become "universal" that black marketers are now going to run background checks on their "customers?" Then there is the fact that the Sandy Hook shoorter would not have been deterred by having universal background checks because he simply stole the gun he used after killing his mother, the rightful owner. The colmbine shooters obtained their weapons illegally as well, so no background check would have spotted these two. Many others obtained their weapons through legal channels and there was nothing in the system to flag them. But I talk about that later too.
On principle, there are several problems with background checks. The first problem is that once you have a background check system in place, the prospective gun owner is forced to prove, to the satisfaction of unelected bureaucrats, that he is not guilty of one or more of the items for which a person currently may be prohibited. This turns the American justice system on its head. After all, a person is innocent until proven guilty. But here, to exercise a fundamental right, a person has to prove himself innocent. The way the system works, you fill out a form 4473, which asks a number of questions of you, after which you sign it swearing it to be true. Then they do a background check. If they find that everything sworn to is not true, you have just self incriminated. I don't know how a court might rule in a case brought up on such grounds, but I would think they might have some qualms about a system that requires a criminal to self incriminate. If, therefore, criminals can not be held to this standard, who is the system designed to catch?
Then there is the problem of continuously adding classes of people to the list of prohibited persons. In every legislative session throughout the country, there are bills advanced to make more and more behaviors illegal, to ban ever more objects, and to make the law tougher by making more of these prohibitions a felony. The Overcriminalization of America by John Whitehead describes governments at all levels making crimes out of perfectly legal activities. Further, mens rea, the "criminal mind" is no longer required. Simply doing whatever has now been determined illegal is enough to bring the government, complete with SWAT teams down upon you. For any number of new crimes, you could find yourself suddenly a prohibited person. If the activity for which you now find yourself in hot water was a legal activity at the time, fairness says you should be able to keep your guns, but of course, the law requires that you forfeit your rights to self defense.
Then there are people who are charged and convicted in foreign courts for crimes that may or may not be crimes here. In most cases, the conviction occurred in an environment where the rules of evidence are, shall we say, less strict than our own. Should we uphold convictions that do not meet our own standards of justice? Also, is there no statute of limitations to the background check system? How is it that a man who had a conviction 40 years ago for simple assault (with mitigating circumstances), but served no time, has retired form the Navy with an honorable discharge, and led an exemplary life ever since now finds himself a prohibited person?
Then, there are the mentally ill. Most who have looked at the rampage shootings that have occurred have concluded that there was something mentally wrong with the people who committed the shooting. Most have noted signs beforehand that in retrospect should have been acted upon to get the individual some help, or if he or she did not want help, then seek to involuntarily intervene to help them. Understand that most of the mentally ill are totally harmless, which is why there is so much reluctance to single out people with mental issues for public humiliation, so nothing will really be done about them.
These problems, and others are highlighted at The Gun Guys, a liberal pro-gun site. Author Cindy Hill talks about the many failings of the Brady background check. Go read what she has to say. Then, if you still feel that we need a background check system, work to make it fair and narrowly limited.
The 80 million gun owners who didn't commit these crimes, and who vote, will be grateful to you.