For the first time in 14 years, the CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA), will testify on Capitol Hill. Wayne LaPierre’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee underscores how seriously the nation’s largest gun-owners organization takes the latest assault on the Second Amendment.
Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, invited former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s husband, Mark Kelly, among others, to testify for the other side. In his prepared remarks, Mr. LaPierre will say, “When it comes to the issue of background checks, let’s be honest: Background checks will never be ‘universal’ because criminals will never submit to them.”
(This is the last of a four-part series on dispelling gun myths. Click here to read part one: The Assault Weapon Myth. Click here to read part two The High-Capacity Magazine Myth. Click here to read part three The Cop-Killer Bullet Myth.)
Currently, a gun owner who goes to a retail shop to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer is subject to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The system, run by the FBI reviews criminal history, mental health and restraining-order records to weed out those who are legally barred from gun ownership.
The gun grabbers’ real goal has always been universal registration, and tracking every gun owner in the country would be a big step in that direction.
“The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun,” said Mr. Obama, when he announced his gun-violence task force results on Jan. 16. “But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.”
The 40 percent figure that Mr. Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, cite so frequently comes from a 1997 Justice Department survey. A closer look at that 40 percent number reveals it includes 29 percent of gun owners who said they got their guns from family members or friends and acquaintances.
That leaves 11 percent of firearms obtained through unfamiliar people. Of these, 3 percent reported they got their firearms “through the mail,” a process that requires a background check from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Four percent said “other,” and 4 percent made their purchase at a gun show.
The “gun-show loophole” is an exaggeration designed to foster the false impression that this is how the bad guys acquire firearms. A 2001 Justice Department survey found 0.7 percent of state and federal prison inmates bought their weapons at a gun show.
Gun shows aren’t the equivalent of the Wild West. The vast majority of vendors at the shows are fully licensed dealers who must run the FBI check at the time of sale. What the gun grabbers are really after are transactions between private individuals trading or selling their personal property.
The White House publicity blitz is having an effect on public opinion, as a recent poll put support around 90 percent for criminal-background checks for all gun sales. Washington politicians are determined to do “something” about the Newtown, Conn., shooting, but it makes no sense to put so much effort into an area where criminals aren’t buying their guns.
More good would be done by strengthening the current background-check system by ensuring states submit felony convictions and mental health records. That’s the most effective way to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.