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Bipartisan Deal On Universal Background Checks Possible?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When you look at the polls, universal background checks seem pretty damn popular. However, when the people get to vote directly on these measures, they universally go down in flames. It’s because most people like the idea of everyone having to go through a background check right up until they realize they can’t leave their guns to their children or loan one to a friend.

It’s an issue, and it’s part of why it’s so important to prevent universal background checks from becoming federal law.

However, there’s now some hint that the bipartisan deal Sen. Chris Muphy has been claiming was near might actually be true.

After years of failed attempts to pass a firearms background check bill, two senators think they have a path to agreement — at least on one key component of a deal.

Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have been quietly negotiating a way to bolster background check rules by making a small but consequential tweak to current law, which they say would close an unintended loophole in the system that has led to preventable mass shootings.

House-passed legislation to require background checks on nearly all gun purchases has stalled in the Senate. But Murphy and Cornyn, who have been negotiating behind closed doors with little fanfare, believe they may have a formula that can attract broad support from both parties.

Specifically, they want to clarify who is required to register as a federal firearms licensee, or FFL, and thus conduct FBI checks on a buyer before selling a gun. The senators say an ambiguity in the law has enabled unlicensed sellers to transfer weapons to dangerous people who skirt the background check system.

Cornyn said in an interview that Congress always intended to require anybody “in the business of selling firearms” to register as a licensee, but that the lack of a clear definition in the statute is allowing some buyers and sellers to evade that rule.

“We need to clear that up,” the Texas Republican said. “That by definition will make more people get background checks because all federal firearms licensees have to do background checks.”

“What we’re trying to protect, or carve out, are the hobbyist and or casual transactions between friends and family members, but capture the people who literally are making a living and making a profit selling firearms, and give that to the U.S. attorneys to prosecute,” he said.

That may sound all fine and good, but the problem is that people who are actually making a living by selling guns without a license aren’t law-abiding citizens who are otherwise complying with the law. There’s just not a lot of evidence to show that to be an actual issue.

Instead, those who are selling guns year after year are generally people who would continue to do so regardless of what the law says.

For example, the individual who sold the gun to the Odessa-Midland shooter is mentioned:

It is a loophole that police believe enabled a shooter to obtain the gun he used in 2019 to kill eight and injure 25 in a West Texas shooting rampage.

What they fail to mention is that person manufactured the weapon with the intention of selling it, already a violation of federal law. Do they really think someone who broken that law would hesitate to break another by selling to someone else?

Let’s get real here.

I respect that Cornyn thinks he’s protecting law-abiding citizens here, but he’s really not. If anything, he’s going to make it far more difficult for decent, law-abiding citizens to buy and sell firearms from other law-abiding citizens. The criminals will still buy and sell without regard for any change in federal law, as will those who illegally manufacture firearms for sale.

That’s not going to change anytime soon, no matter what laws get passed.

Dec 04, 2021 11:30 AM ET