How Background Checks Have Failed To Deliver On Promises

When you go to purchase a firearm from an FFL, you have to go through a background check. It doesn’t matter if this happens at a gun show, a gun store, or some guy with an FFL who deals firearms out of his kitchen. The rules are the same, and you have to go through the check regardless. The only exception is that some states allow a concealed carry permit to serve as a background check, which makes sense considering the first thing you lose when convicted of a disqualifying offense is your permit.

But does it actually do anything? I mean, we keep seeing bad guys get guns easily enough despite the Brady checks. If that’s the case, then are they actually doing anything?

Gun Owners of American executive director Erich Pratt took to the pages of USA Today last week to express his thoughts on the topic, and he makes some good points.

“ATF agents did not consider most of the prohibited persons who had obtained guns to be dangerous.”

Those words, quoted last year by USA TODAY, explain why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local governments are not prosecuting most gun buyers who get denied by FBI background checks.

It’s because these people are largely not the “bad guys.” Rather, they consist of hundreds of thousands of veterans who didn’t know they had been stripped of their constitutional rights without due process.

Or they’re people subject to bench warrants who didn’t realize their unpaid traffic tickets made them outlaws.

Or they were people like Navy veteran Jeff Schrader, whose 45-year-old misdemeanor conviction for a street fight prevented him from buying a gun.

The FBI understands that to prosecute these cases would be a joke. As even noted in this month’s Government Accountability Office report, “These cases are not appealing to judges and juries. (Officials) find juries questioning why the case is being prosecuted.” The report also shows that states are achieving a horrid conviction rate of about 10 percent in prosecuting these cases.

After hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the Brady background check has failed to live up to its promises. Yet USA TODAY wants to double down and enforce a failed law even more vigorously.

Pratt makes a good point.

If background checks were the least bit effective, then maybe expanding background checks might make sense. But they haven’t done a whole hell of a lot.

It doesn’t do a thing to deal with black market guns. It doesn’t prevent the theft of firearms from law-abiding gun owners–you know, the people who passed their background checks in the first place.

Honestly, they haven’t done much of anything. At all.

Of course, supporters of universal background checks would claim that the fact that not every purchase has to go through a background check is why they’re ineffective, but that’s a load of crap. If you want a gun, you want a gun, that’s true. And it’s also true that if you purchase a firearm in a face-to-face transfer, you don’t have to go through the check.

However, those account for only a tiny percentage of gun sales in my experience. There aren’t legions of firearms being sold privately. As such, the vast majority of legal gun sales are conducted under the nose of an FFL.

But, the bad guys keep getting guns.

Anyone who thinks that would change under universal background checks is deluding themselves.