Gun control supporters have sure changed their tune where the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is concerned, recently extolling its supposed virtues in the hope of convincing the public to go along with “universal background checks.”
For example, in an opinion piece published at the end of November by the San Jose Mercury News, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, “Twenty years ago Saturday, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became the law of the land. This groundbreaking gun-safety law requires background checks on all gun sales by licensed dealers. Background checks on gun purchases work. … But the Brady Act has a big loophole. It does not require background checks on the estimated 40 percent of gun transfers made between private parties.”
The Mercury News is a longtime gun control supporter, so it didn’t point out Feinstein’s several mistakes. First, when gun control supporters use the expression “gun safety,” they mean “gun control,” even though most Americans are not fooled by the euphemism.
Second, Justice Department studies have found that people who commit gun crimes serious enough to land them in prison mostly get their guns by stealing them, on the black market or from family and friends. The latter group includes straw purchasers—people who can pass background checks, who buy guns for people who cannot.
Third, even the anti-gun Washington Post’s fact checker gave three “Pinocchios” to Feinstein’s “40 percent” claim when President Obama used it in his push for “universal checks” earlier this year.
Fourth and most importantly, “twenty years ago” gun control supporters opposed NICS. You could say “they were against it before they were for it.” They praise NICS today, but they opposed it in 1988, when it was proposed by then-Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla.; they opposed it in 1989, when it was proposed by then-Rep. Harley O. Staggers, D-W.Va.; and they opposed the 1993 amendment to the Brady Bill requiring that NICS be operational by 1998.
The Brady Campaign, then known as Handgun Control, Inc., fought against NICS, demanding that Congress instead impose a permanent waiting period on handgun purchases. Yet today, the group acts like nics was its idea all along, and even calls NICS checks “Brady checks.”
Why did gun control supporters oppose NICS between 1988 and 1993? For the same reason they support it today. To delve into the details, we need to return to 1976, when the Brady Campaign, then known as the National Council to Control Handguns, envisioned a waiting period as the first step in a three-step plan to ban handguns.
“The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country,” the group’s then-chairman, Pete Shields, told The New Yorker. “The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition—except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors—totally illegal.”
Of course, history has shown that Shields’s prediction about slowing down handgun purchases was totally wrong (although things might have been different if the federal waiting period had remained in effect).
Americans owned about 40 million handguns in 1976, and now they own over 100 million.
However, it’s the second part of the anti-gun group’s plan—registration—that explains why gun control supporters want universal NICS checks today. They realize that once all sales are run through NICS, all that will be required to implement gun registration will be to require that the FBI keep all NICS transaction records permanently, and that such records include the make, model and serial number entered on the Form 4473 that’s completed as part of a gun purchase. Several years ago, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., tried to get things moving in that direction by proposing legislation to require the FBI to retain records of approved NICS transactions for six months.
Gun control supporters will say anything to try to brush off that question. For example, Media Matters called our concern about registration “a farfetched claim that ignores the [SIC] creation of a national gun registry is illegal under federal law.” Media Matters, however, is a self-described “progressive research and information center” funded initially by MoveOn.org and thereafter by anti-gun radical and Open Society Foundation founder and chairman George Soros, who once said, “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.”
The fact is, if gun control supporters obtain a majority in Congress following the 2014 elections, they could repeal the prohibition against a national gun registry while requiring that the firearm information from the Form 4473 be provided to the FBI as part of a NICS check. President Obama would surely sign such legislation into law.
Not to get off point, but Media Matters also offered a gun control theory that bears repeating for its novelty. On the one hand, it said that “much of the decline in the gun homicide rate occurred in the years immediately following 1993 as opposed to more recent years,” because removing lead from household paint made people less prone to violence. But, on the other hand, it said “serious gunshot wounds … increased between 1991 and 2001, but that the reduction in fatalities may be due to medical advances.”
I admit, I had to read that one twice too, and I’m still not sure that Media Matters realizes that it essentially contradicted itself. So, I’ll deal only with the facts. According to the FBI, the firearm murder rate dropped 45 percent between 1991 and 2001, increased 10 percent from 2001 to 2006, and decreased 16 percent from 2006 to 2012, for an overall decrease of 50 percent. Meanwhile, Americans bought over 120 million new guns, increasing the number of privately owned guns by over 50 percent.
Media Matters also supported Michael Bloomberg’s theory that requiring background checks on all gun transactions would prevent criminals from obtaining guns, on the grounds that since NICS became operational, it has denied gun purchases to two million applicants. However, they have no idea what percentage of NICS denials involve people who want guns for non-criminal purposes, and they have no idea how many violence-minded criminals who failed a NICS check went on to acquire guns by other means.
Gun control supporters like to say that “if more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country on Earth,” but the same rationale could be applied to the background check system: if it were able to prevent serious, violent criminals from acquiring guns by illegal means, the murder rate in the nation would be as low as it already is in many states that have high rates of gun ownership and relatively unrestrictive gun control laws.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who sponsored the Brady bill when he was in the House of Representatives, has been trying to keep the media talking about gun control while gun control supporters wait for a more opportune moment to launch another blitz for legislation to prohibit private firearm transfers.
“We have the same conditions now that we had back then” (when the Brady bill was signed into law), Schumer claimed in November.
“We are going to finish the job and pass background checks and then move on and do other things we
have to do to to get guns off the streets and stop gun violence.”
For more than a year, gun control supporters’ strategy has been to pretend that it’s only a matter of when, not if, they will prevail over the Second Amendment. The facts, however, do not support their position. As John Lott pointed out in December, “A recent CNN poll finds the highest level of opposition to any new gun control measures since CNN started asking about it in 1989,” and “Gallup finds that opposition to stricter laws has risen from 19 to 50 percent.”
Not only that, when he signed the Brady bill into law in the second year of his presidency, Bill Clinton was a popular president. Five years into his presidency, the same cannot be said for Barack Obama.
With President Obama ready to sign any gun control bill that comes across his desk, whether Schumer, Feinstein and their allies “finish their job” against the Second Amendment will depend upon the mid-term elections that are now less than a year away. The best way to avert “universal checks” and eventual gun registration is to continue to strive for universal voter registration and voter turn-out among those of us who support the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.