At Townhall: When Democrats Push For Universal Background Checks, The Danger Of A National Gun Registry Looms

23 Sep , 2019  

Dt. John Lott and Andrew Pollack have an op-ed at Townhall.com that starts this way:

When it comes to gun control, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: criminals and psychopaths shouldn’t be allowed to get guns. The real question is how to stop them. 

For Democrats, the answer is “universal background checks.” Their argument is that private sales, the so-called “gun-show loophole,” must be closed to keep would-be killers from getting their hands on firearms. 

There’s just one problem with this prescription: it would not have stopped any of the mass shootings we have seen in this century. 

Background checks have no chance of working unless criminals are arrested and prosecuted. If you seriously threaten someone’s life, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun. One of us, Andrew Pollack, saw the disconnect first-hand between the rhetoric of gun control and the reality of mass murder. 

The police came to the Parkland school shooter’s house forty-five times, but he was never arrested. He committed multiple crimes in school, but he was never arrested. The mental health authorities evaluated him three times on his eighteenth birthday, with knowledge of his history and the fact that he wanted to buy a gun. But he was never committed. 

The divide between the reality of what happened and the rhetoric from anti-gun activists could not have been starker. A background check would have done nothing because, despite the shooter’s extreme efforts, Democratic policies in Broward ensured that he never got a background that would have prohibited from buying a gun.

The recent rash of shootings, followed by a similar chorus of logically disconnected activist campaigns, have pressured politicians to “do something” this September. If gun control activists are acting in good faith, and Second Amendment stalwarts are willing to give some ground, there is room for productive compromise. 

The details of a law requiring background checks for private gun sales could be constructed carefully and respectfully, to avoid a rash of false alarms and deeply inconveniencing urban and rural Americans alike. 

One talking point we’ll likely hear many times in the next few weeks: Background checks have stopped 3.5 million dangerous or prohibited people from buying guns. That is simply false. 

There have been 3.5 million initial denials, but at least 96% and probably over 99%, of those denials are mistakes. The system relies largely on identifying phonetically similar names, causing false positives that overwhelmingly discriminate against poor and middle-income blacks and Hispanics. It’s one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. But it’s quite another to stop someone from getting a gun because their name resembles a felon’s.

If politicians want background checks to stop criminals from getting guns, rather than create headline-driving, racially-biased false-positives, there is a simple fix: require that the government does background checks in the same way that the government forces private companies to do background checks on employees – make them use all the information available, including exact names and birthdates. 

In New York City and Washington, D.C., background checks on private gun transfers cost at least $125. These costs present a genuine obstacle to poor people living in high-crime, urban areas. The law-abiding potential victims of violent crimes are the least able to afford these costs. Gang members won’t pay them. Democrats who think that voter ID laws are unfairly onerous for poor minorities ought to appreciate the obstacles presented by background check fees. . . . .

The rest of the piece is available here.


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