Monday, February 25, 2013

Why I oppose Universal Background Checks - A turning point

A letter to the editor, by 'noway2'

Following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. the gun control debate reached a fever pitch a few weeks ago and has since started to subside. Shortly after the event, president Obama signed a set of executive orders designed to enhance the enforcement of existing gun laws.

I supported the intent of these initiatives, and I still do. At the same time, president Obama also called for the renewal of an "assault weapon" ban and magazine capacity limits. Of course these became the rallying cry of those who are opposed to guns and gun rights and this was quickly followed by legislative proposals. The debate raged.

Now, several weeks later, it appears that these measures are effectively dead. As these endeavors were dying, the anti-gun group began proposing new measures; measures that in my opinion are equally ridiculous, including liability insurance and gun registration. The latter, registration, which is required in a few states has long been opposed both by the majority of gun owners and organizations such as the NRA as well as just about every grass roots gun rights group in the nation. The latest such proposal, eloquently termed Universal Background Checks is likewise meeting opposition.

What is interesting about this is that a few months ago this was considered to be one of the more 'common sense' proposals and at points prior even had the support of organizations like the NRA. In fact, I find myself, who at one time supported the idea, currently being in opposition. The question is what changed?

In terms of my own views, I think the biggest thing is that the specter of confiscation reared its ugly head. As NY governor Cuomo put it, "Confiscation could be an option". Also, with the passage of the NY law, citizens were expected to turn in or destroy magazines that were suddenly illegal. With this remark, the genie left the bottle and it is going to be very difficult to get it back in. This brings us to the problem with Universal Background Checks. The idea behind it being that every gun transfer, with few exceptions, requires a background check to be performed. The idea is obviously an attempt to close what is commonly called, "the gun show loophole", or more formally referred to as face to face transfers.

On the surface, this doesn't seem like a bad idea and may indeed prevent some who should not be allowed access to guns from getting them and may also lead to the arrest and prosecution of some criminals who try. The problem, as with most things, is that the Devil is in the details. The most fundamental problem with this proposal is that criminals will continue to ignore it and will still engage in black market transactions. With approximately millions of guns already in circulation it is easy to see why even in the light of a requirement for background checks that a thriving black market will remain.

In light of the realization of the power possessed by the black markets, how is society to enforce or otherwise make full use of a requirement for Universal Background Checks. The unfortunately truth is that in the absence of Universal Gun Registration that a Universal Background Check is all but meaningless. This can't be overemphasized, so let's repeat it. In order for a UBC to have any meaning, it requires gun registration and this is a problem. It is a problem because, as the gun community correctly argues, registration leads to confiscation.

There is only one reason for the government or law enforcement to know who has what guns. That they can take them when it has been decided that Joe and Jane Citizen are no longer allowed to have a particular gun and to prevent Joe or Jane from refusing to comply with the forced ban. As I mentioned above, thanks to governor Cuomo, this genie is no longer in its bottle.

I am a member of the online gun forum, One member of that forum, who goes by the name Hot Guns, claims to be a licensed gun dealer with an FFL. Hot Guns recently reported that a while back he was subjected to an audit by the BATFE. Regulations require him to keep copies of the Federal Form 4473 for each firearm purchase; in fact this form is required for each inquiry into the NICS background check system.

Supposedly the NICS records are purged after a period of three months. Even though these records are supposed to be purged, the auditor had copies of the records going back at least one year and demanded to see the corresponding 4473 forms. When Hot Guns questioned how and why they were inquiring for these records as they were supposed to have been purged, he received the response from the auditor, "That is what we are supposed to say." In other words, the records are not purged and the government is using the form 4473 as a backdoor form of registration. Apparently this is proving insufficient and some desire to use the recent tragedy to bring registration to the forefront.

For me, this represents a turning point. Clearly the objective is registration and this cannot be allowed to happen. I think it has already gone too far. As Universal Background Checks are meaningless without formal registration, and I am opposed to registration, I can therefore no longer support the idea of Universal Background Checks.


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