PRINT VERSION: Stoffa: Why universal background checks for firearms failed

Gabriel Stoffa

Many are still scratching their heads about what could have happened to make senators decide against “common sense” legislation “backed by most Americans” as presented in the Manchin-Toomey background checks proposal.

By now, you’ve probably heard some anti-gun folks yelling about the “lies” coming from the NRA and the overwhelming influence of the gun lobby.

But is that really the whole reason the legislation was shot down?

Let’s get down to brass tacks.

Background checks are logical and good. There is no sane argument against that, as it helps prevent felons and the mentally unstable from walking into a store and purchasing a gun.

Note the word “helps,” not “completely eliminates the problem.”

The legislation wasn’t voted down because those senators voting “nay” don’t want to curb gun violence. That is just political spin to try shame those not jumping on the bandwagon.

Some actual facts were available and could have been used and pointed out more by the media, but weren’t. Spending the time to educate the masses about details in legislation tends to cause people to change the channel or stop reading to go look at cat memes.

For one, the greatest fear about universal background checks, that it would lead to a federal gun registry, was not given the “right” spin.

You see, Federal Law 18 U.S.C. 926 already prohibits a federal registry.

So what should have been pushed by those supporting a federal background check requirement, was an assurance of no such language appearing to offer the potential for creating a loophole to create further registries.

I say “further,” because registries of firearm information dating back to 1968 already exist. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is authorized under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to trace firearms.

That registry — albeit incomplete — includes details such as the names of a given gun’s owner, the dealer selling it, where it was purchased, when it was purchased, and the make, model and serial number of the firearm.

The information from the National Tracing Center is only “authorized to trace a firearm for a law enforcement agency involved in a bona fide criminal investigation,” according to ATF’s Public Affairs Division fact sheet.

Ask yourself how often you heard any of the above mentioned in the news. I’m betting rarely if ever.

Now ask yourself how often you heard arguments that universal background checks would lead to a federal registry. I’m betting pretty much every news segment.

So, a registry already somewhat exists and is utilized by law enforcement responsibly.

Which makes the worry over disarming of law-abiding citizens fairly unlikely. But let’s hit on the disarmament of U.S. citizens argument anyway.

There have been some working diligently for background checks that openly admit their ultimate goal is the elimination of firearm ownership for your average citizen:

Dianne Feinstein, in a 1995 interview for “60 Minutes,” said: “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them [guns], Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in… I would have done it.”

Times change and so do politicians’ stances. However, Feinstein has not said her opinion has changed about firearms. She continues to lie and claim she has never wanted a ban on firearms.

Representatives such as Feinstein need to be booted from the stage and ushered to the back of the room in the same way the absolutely moronic representatives that thought women had some bodily function to prevent impregnation during a rape were publicly chastised.

If those pushing a universal background check wanted to really get a background check into place, they should have been openly making statements that they would never support any ban on firearms or disarmament.

Making certain the extremists on both sides are not regarded as the forefronts of their respective sides should be a primary step for politicians, alongside crafting legislation that can be explained to the public with little room for confusion.

Then the additional kicker from private transfer, gun shows and online purchases is cost.

To have full background checks at gun shows and online would cost more money. To realistically have universal background checks, the checks cannot be an additional cost for each instance of assessing the legality of a person desiring to purchase a firearm.

The idea of paying more money and having to fill out a bunch of paperwork just to do something provided for in the Constitution really turns a lot of folks off to the idea of any such firearm legislation.

As the whole of the citizens of the United States benefits from background checks, the federal government needs to foot the bill for such checks.

If safety and preservation of a constitutional provision are the goals of our representatives, then they need to keep things simple and straightforward.

Gabriel Stoffa is a graduate student in political science from Ottumwa, Iowa.