AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
After a Sunday phone call with President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement demanding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hold a vote on HR8, the “universal background check” bill that has already passed the House of Representatives.
“This morning, we made it clear to the President that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access. For instance, someone prohibited from possessing a gun under an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law could still obtain a firearm by exploiting the gun show and online loopholes that H.R. 8 would close.”
Pelosi and Schumer are pretending that making private transfers illegal will actually stop private transfers from taking place, which hasn’t been the case in states that have passed their own version of the bill. In Colorado and Washington State, there was no appreciable increase in background checks whatsoever. In Delaware, there was a slight increase in the number of background checks performed, but the state’s homicide rate increased as well, which throws cold water on the idea that increased background checks mean less crime.
While Schumer and Pelosi are demanding passage of HR8, there’s virtually no way they’d oppose the bill offered by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey which would expand background check requirements for all “commercial sales.” Oh sure, they might complain at first, but if Trump were to get behind that legislation, it would represent the biggest victory for gun control advocates since the passage of the Clinton Gun Ban in 1994.
Will Trump embrace such an expansion? The president is expected to announce his proposal, and according to CNN may be looking at opening up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to private gun owners through the use of an app. One problem for the president: Second Amendment groups have expressed concerns (legitimate in my opinion) about the security of any app and whether it would lead to an unofficial gun registry. One bigger problem for the president: it provides an opening for gun control groups to demand “universal” background checks instead.
“This proposal reveals one important fact from the White House: they recognize the problem of the private sale loophole that allows 20 percent of guns to be sold with no background check at all. … We agree the private sale loophole must be fixed, but it should be fixed in a way that allows meaningful enforcement, not easy circumvention that endangers lives,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady, a gun violence prevention advocacy group. “The right balance was struck by the House, which passed a background checks bill where sales by private sellers are completed by a federally licensed firearms dealer to confirm the person purchasing the gun is the same person who is picking up the gun and other assessments of risk before completion of the sale are done. If we want to save lives and meaningfully fix the private sale loophole, S. 42, now 200 days and counting on Mitch McConnell’s desk is the way to do it.”
It’s laughable to see Kris Brown talk about “meaningful enforcement” of universal background checks because Brown knows as well as you and I do that there is no way to meaningfully enforce a universal background check law without a firearms registry. Brown and other gun control activists aren’t interested in improving NICS, or actually trying to figure out a way to make background checks on private sales possible while still preserving the privacy of gun owners. They want a registry. They just can’t admit it at the moment.
I’m actually curious to see if this proposal makes it into the president’s final recommendations, and what it might actually look like. If it bears any resemblance to the proposal Kareem Shaya discussed on a recent edition of “Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co.” then it would, I think, adequately address concerns about gun owner privacy and gun registration. According to CNN, however, the president is considering a number of other proposals, and at least two items would be unacceptable to most Second Amendment advocates.
- Allowing minors’ records to be included in background check databases
- Alerting local authorities when someone fails a background check
- Applying bigger penalties for straw purchases when someone buys a gun for someone else
- Instituting a ban on gun purchases for people on terror watch lists
- Increasing the penalty for people who lie on background check forms
- Helping states implement “red flag” laws, which would remove weapons from people deemed at risk
- Adding additional government records to an existing background check database
- Improving mental health services
- Expediting the death penalty for convicted mass shooters
“Red Flag” bills are problematic enough, but if CNN is right and President Trump is considering a “no-fly, no buy” bill that would bar gun ownership for people on terror watch lists, that’s exponentially worse. Keep in mind that to be placed on that list, you don’t have to be accused or suspected of any crime. The list is secret, so you don’t know that you’re on it. If you find out that you are on the list, it can take years to remove your name, even if it was a simple clerical error that led to your inclusion on the list to begin with.
Groups as far apart as the ACLU and the NRA are opposed to “no-fly, no buy” bills, but gun control advocates have seen the issue as low-hanging fruit for years. Who on earth wants terrorists to have guns, after all?
These days, according to polls at least, a fairly large part of the Democratic Party consider any NRA member (and possibly, any outspoken Second Amendment supporter) to be a domestic terrorist. One could argue to skeptics that President Trump wouldn’t abuse such a system, but there’s no way you could convince the average NRA member that the next Democrat to sit in the White House wouldn’t expand the watch list to include every NRA member. It would be absolutely tone-deaf of President Trump to push “no-fly, no buy” at the same time Democrats are labeling the NRA a domestic terrorist organization.
Of course, the president could very well end up supporting none of these proposals. He could also endorse every one, I suppose. There are a lot of leaks and anonymous sourcing coming out of Washington, D.C. at the moment, but virtually every news story notes that the president hasn’t committed to anything yet. We’ll see if that changes this week.