Senate Democrats Want Law That Already Exists...Sort Of

Following the tragedy in Las Vegas, Democrats in Congress decided it was the ideal time to trot out all of their favorite gun control proposals. Despite lacking the numbers to actually push anything through, they’re convinced that the public will push Republicans to abandon their gun-owning constituents. In some cases, they might have had a point.


However, it doesn’t help when Senate Democrats want something that’s already the law.

Senate Democrats cited mass shootings in Las Vegas and Newtown, Connecticut, before filing legislation Wednesday to expand background checks on those purchasing weapons at gun shows.

The legislation was filed a day after the FBI released more than 1,500 pages of documents that were part of the investigation into the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that led to the death of 20 first-graders and six educators.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who worked with Sen. Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on the legislation after the Newtown tragedy.

Current background checks prevented 100,000 people with criminal or mental history from buying weapons, Murphy said.

Except that there are already background checks on gun sales at gun shows. It’s already the law. After all, the vast majority of those selling guns at gun shows are licensed gun dealers and are required to conduct background checks on every sale.

In fairness, the bill isn’t just about dealer sales.

Federal law doesn’t require unlicensed or private sellers to conduct a background check before transferring a firearm.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., filed legislation that would require background checks on purchasers by unlicensed dealers at gun shows, or for sales conducted over the Internet.


First, purchases made over the internet that crosses state lines require someone with a federal firearms license to conduct the transfer. That means a background check is conducted each and every time. The only so-called internet sales that exist without that happening are generally when two guys arrange a face-to-face transfer via the internet.

Second, getting around any regulation on unlicensed “dealers” at gun shows would be easy to work around. Simply arrange for the sale to take place elsewhere. Then it’s no longer at the gun show, thus doesn’t require the background check.

It’s also not like there are that many purchases at gun shows that aren’t going through the background checks anyway. At most shows, you may have one or two guys walking around with guns for sale, but they’re also willing to trade with dealers for new guns–which still requires a background check–or leave with their guns still in their possession.

Around here, the gun shows often have a handful of tables with people lacking FFLs…but they’re selling holsters, military memorabilia, and other non-firearm related items. There aren’t tables filled with guns out of some guy’s collection. It just doesn’t happen nearly as often as Murphy likes to think.


The truth is that Murphy is trying to lay the legislative groundwork for universal background checks. The efforts of Democrats to push it through before failed, and it’ll fail again. Americans want solutions that would actually stop something like Las Vegas or Sandy Hook from happening again. Universal background checks–which is most likely what Murphy’s endgame is here–wouldn’t have stopped either tragedy for different reasons, but despite building their soapbox out of the bodies of the slain in those two incidents, it’s not about either. It’s about making it more difficult for Americans to buy guns.

That’s it.

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