The idea behind background checks is pretty straightforward. You simply make sure every person buying a gun is legally eligible to buy a gun.
The problem is that criminals figured out pretty quickly how to skirt the law. They either get someone else to buy the gun for them or they buy it from someone on the street.
In truth, you’re never going to actually stop criminals from buying and selling guns with one another. They use stolen firearms or guns obtained through other illegal means and continue trading them as needed.
That doesn’t stop some people from thinking more background checks are the solution.
Michigan Democrats on Monday renewed their push to expand background checks to cover all gun sales, citing loopholes that allow online and private transactions to go undetected.
Bills introduced in the Republican-led Legislature would subject the sale of rifles, not just handguns, to background checks under state law.
Federal law requires background checks in Michigan when firearms are bought from licensed dealers but does not cover transactions between unlicensed sellers and buyers — which gun-control advocates have long sought to address.
Democrats pointed to polls in which more than eight in 10 Americans have supported expanded background check requirements in the wake of mass shootings.
“They are overwhelmingly telling us to do this, to fix this problem. So hiding our heads in the sand or some folks in the Legislature hiding their heads in the sand is really irresponsible at best,” said Sen. Rosemary Bayer of Beverly Hills.
We’ve addressed these polls before. Mostly, though, I think the polling is what it is because most people are unaware of just how often background checks are actually performed.
I mean, when the President of the United States says in a press conference that you can go into a gun show and walk out with whatever you want with no background check, a lot of people are going to believe him. Especially since the fact-checkers have been remarkably silent on that claim.
So, the public thinks there aren’t background checks happening in gun shows and think that needs to be addressed…even though I’ve had a background check for every firearm I’ve bought at a gun show.
While many do point to mass shootings as their reason for wanting more background checks, though, they might want to come to terms with the fact that most mass shooters pass those checks. Most don’t have felony records that would bar them from buying a gun, nor have they been adjudicated as ineligible. Some probably should have been adjudicated as such, but they weren’t, so why would background checks change anything?
The problem is that universal background check laws may well interfere with the sharing of firearms between law-abiding people. It can prevent someone from loaning a gun to a friend in need and it can interfere with the inheritance of a firearm.
Plus, it doesn’t actually stop the criminals from doing anything. They continue trading guns back and forth like it’s nothing.
I get the desire to do something, but universal background checks are the wrong something.