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MILLER: Senate background checks bill misfires, hits law-abiding gun owners
Manchin-Toomey bill appeases Obama but doesn’t reduce crime
The background checks “compromise” in the Senate will not reduce crime or prevent mass shootings, but merely appeases President Obama while abridging Second Amendment rights.
In advance of the expected Wednesday afternoon vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been scrambling to find 60 votes for expanding background checks beyond federally-licensed dealers. The amendment, crafted by Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, got the enthusiastic support of the president and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, but not enough on Capitol Hill so far.
Mr. Obama knows that this bill would not make American safer because the Justice Department reported in a memo in January (acquired by the National Rifle Association) that a broader “universal background checks” could only possibly work if there was a national gun registry. The Manchin-Toomey bill expressly denies the federal government from registering guns.
Worst parts of the background check bill
The requirement that all gun shows sales be subject to the FBI background check will have no impact on the criminal justice system.
The "gun-show loophole" is a red herring designed to make the the public believe these conventions are hotbeds of criminal activities and illegal gun running. In fact, a Justice Department survey of state prison inmates found that only 0.7 percent claimed to have gotten the gun for the crime for which they were convicted at a gun show. More reported getting their firearm at flea markets.
Also, only 4 percent of all guns are bought at gun shows, and almost all of those are from licensed dealers who already use the National Instant Background Check (NICS) system. No loophole will be closed in this scenario. If there was a mandatory background check, the bad guys will either buy the weapon outside of the show or get it from a straw purchaser.
Law-abiding friends and neighbors would be forced to do a NICS check if they transfered a firearm at a gun show, although it is not required if the exchange happens anywhere else. This is because the bill says anyone but family members must go to a licensed dealer to do the FBI check if a sale is done at a gun show or is “pursuant to” an ad on the internet (even Facebook) or a publication.
The Justice survey showed that 40 percent of inmates got their firearms illegally on the streets -- half of those from a drug dealer -- and another 40 percent got the weapon from from a friend or family member. The only way this law would have any impact is if a criminal’s friend refused to sell a weapon without first checking if his buddy was on the NICS list. Obviously, that is not likely to happen.
Honest gun owners are the only ones likely to drive to a dealer before selling or giving a gun to a friend, but the bill doesn’t address how rural Americans will have access, nor how to limit fees if one dealer has a monopoly.
The focus of the Manchin-Toomey bill on guns sold online also misses the mark. There is no evidence that this method is a source of illegal gun sales. And while the number of all guns received “in the mail” is relatively small -- 3 percent -- the vast majority were bought through licensed gun dealers who do a FBI checks. It is already illegal for anyone who is not a dealer to sells out of state without shipping through a licensed transferer.
So this new law would just apply to intrastate sales, stomping on states’ rights to allow sales through private individuals within its boundaries.
Good parts of the background check bill
There are a few good things in this deal for gun owners. The nugget that would affect the most people is clarification of the federal gun transport laws. The Senate bill makes clear that, when transporting a firearm, it is legal to stop for food, gas, medical treatment, vehicle maintenance, emergencies and to stay overnight.
Current law allows Americans to travel with their properly-stowed guns for legal purposes from one place where they can legally possess and carry to another. However, activist politicians in anti-gun states have created conflicting state laws that allow them to arrest and charge law-abiding gun owners for something innocuous like stopping for gas.
The burden is then on the gun owner to pay for a legal defense -- in another state -- to show that federal allow trumps the state law. Unfortunately, politicians bank on the reality that many people can’t afford to do this and take a plea deal for financial reasons.
Also, the bill has the common-sense provision that concealed carry permit holders don’t have to get background check to buy a gun, but the transfer would still have to go through a licensed dealer who will record the information. Unfortunately, the bill does not include the House-passed national concealed carry reciprocity legislation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has blocked for two years.
Even with the positive sections, Americans should not be forced to give up up some constitutional rights in order to regain others. Any senator who respects the Second Amendment ought not to vote for the background check expansions.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times. She is the author of “Emily Gets Her Gun … But Obama Wants to Take Yours” (Regnery 2013). Miller won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.
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