And what produced such vitriol from a loud but
ultimately small segment of the Republican base? What did Toomey do that
saw him decried as another “Benedict Arlen” — an unflattering reference
to longtime liberal GOP Sen. Arlen Specter?
He thinks background checks for gun buyers are a good idea.
That’s it, lock, stock and barrel. Pat Toomey’s smoking gun “sin” was
advocating a bipartisan compromise on the contentious gun issue, whereby
all people buying firearms at gun shows and via the Internet would be
subjected to a tortuous 60-second background check. Rather than thanking
him for his common-sense approach, however, many Republicans came after
him with both guns blazing, calling him a “traitor.”
“cause” for which many of these critics fight has morphed from
reasonable positions to ones of stupidity and, ultimately,
self-destruction. The GOP’s results in last year’s presidential and U.S.
Senate elections proved that in spades.
Toomey seems to
genuinely believe he’s doing the right thing, and there is no reason to
think his efforts are politically motivated. The irony, though, is that
his position will clearly help him in what will be a challenging
re-election in 2016. But instead of embracing Toomey as one of their
own, the hard Right continues to pound him — despite his being one of
the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment.
Talk about shooting blanks.
primer is typically an explanation to the uninitiated as to how
something works. In the case of background checks, however, it has
become obvious that many of the so-called experts — the “initiated” —
are nothing of the kind. So for their benefit as much as anyone’s, let’s
set the record straight:
1. Most significantly, background
checks are not federal gun registries. Neither do they lead to them.
Period. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the federal government does
not have a registry of who owns guns, much less how many and what kinds
people possess (neither should it). Likening background checks to gun
registries is comparing apples to school buses — they are unequivocally
different (you can have a background check but decide not to buy the
gun). So when entertainer Ann Coulter inflames the Right (and sells more books) by saying that background checks lead to registration … to confiscation … to extermination, just consider the source. Oh, this is the same Ann Coulter whose column last month was pulled by Fox News after opining (she says joking — does it matter?) about John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, getting murdered. Enough said.
puzzling. For people who believe that expanding background checks will
lead to gun registries, where have they been for the last decade?
Background checks aren’t new, so, by definition, if we are simply
expanding an existing system — without changing it — then under the
critics’ rationale, wouldn’t we already have such a registry? They can’t
have it both ways.
2. Here’s the process for buying a
gun in many states: After selecting your firearm, the dealer conducts a
background check through the FBI’s NICS criminal database, which usually
takes less than a minute. If you are cleared, you fill out the required
paperwork, which the dealer is mandated to keep for 20 years, and
you’re a gun owner. Should that gun be used in a crime, the serial
number will be traced to the manufacturer, distributor, dealer, and
ultimately to you. Not exactly the Big Brother database some claim it to
3. Background checks are not a conservative/liberal,
Republican/Democrat issue. Since they do not impede or infringe upon a
law-abiding citizen’s right to own a firearm, it’s not “gun control” at
all. It’s criminal control.
4. The checks work: There have been
1.8 million denials since 1998. In 2010, half of those denied had felony
convictions or indictments, almost 20 percent were fugitives, and 11
percent violated state laws. Put another way, would we be better off
with almost 2 million people walking around with guns who shouldn’t have
5. The proposed expansion of checks has an exception for
family-to-family purchases, focusing instead on closing loopholes for
sales over the Internet and gun shows. Currently, federally licensed gun
dealers, even at gun shows, are required to perform checks, but private
sellers are not.
Two points here: A). Critics contend that the
private sellers account for a relatively small amount of gun show
purchases. So what? By that logic, not many more people will be
“inconvenienced” for the one-minute check, so what’s the hang-up? B.)
What’s the alternative? To allow convicted felons to buy a gun with
quasi-legal impunity? Granted, felons (and the mentally disturbed)
aren’t allowed to possess firearms, but any criminal with half a brain
will get his gun via this loophole rather than risk getting caught in an
undercover sting. If not background checks for these high-risk folks,
then what? Just hope and pray they don’t take advantage of the system?
6. While idiocy is not illegal, it would behoove some
gun-rights people to get a shot of common sense. Here’s an idea: Don’t
show up at a gun rally or counter-protest with AK-47s on full display,
as some routinely do. And don’t blame the “liberal media” when they post
that shot on the front page. Do you want to look cool (newsflash: you
don’t) by touting guns in public, or do you really care about protecting
gun rights? Because I’ve got news for you: The two never, ever go
hand-in-hand. Leave the guns at home, wear something that isn’t
camouflage, and articulate a reasonable message with a calm demeanor.
You’d be surprised how much more effective you’d be at convincing the
Great American Middle of your side — and it will be them, not you, who
will ultimately decide this issue.
7. Background checks are
useful, but not a panacea. The FBI database is only as good as the
information it receives from states. If criminal and mental health
records aren’t routinely sent and/or updated, it won’t be as effective
as it could be. It’s not perfect, but that’s not a reason to scrap
expanding it. Nothing can or will ever fully prevent lunatics from
engaging in a shooting spree, but a background check system is a solid
first line of defense. Again, the question stands: If not, then what?
expanding checks a slippery slope, opening the door for more
regulations? Like anything, diligence is required, but the short answer
is “no,” since the system already exists. Those fiercely opposed are
actually doing themselves a disservice, for their position will be
blasted away when a convicted felon engages in mass murder using a gun
purchased via the Internet or gun show loophole.
It’s time to
shoot straight with the hard core and demand they employ reason rather
than emotion. If not, when the smoke clears after the next tragedy,
those gunning for major restrictions will get there faster than a
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.