Whether to capitalize on a tragedy for political purposes, or because their urge to “do something” isn’t tempered by a sense of reality, Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) reacted to the deplorable murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week by saying that they may reintroduce so-called “universal” background check legislation to require background checks on private sales and trades of firearms, including those between many family members and friends. NRA members and supporters will recall that a previous version of the Manchin-Toomey “universal” background check legislation was soundly defeated in the U.S. Senate in 2013.
As we noted at that time, such a system could only be enforced through national gun registration. But don’t just take our word for it, even Obama administration “experts” wrote that the effectiveness of “universal” background checks “depends on . . . requiring gun registration.”
Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Manchin wants to focus on preventing the acquisition of guns by people diagnosed with a mental illness. However, the person who admitted to the South Carolina church shooting had no such diagnosis in his background. Like the perpetrators of a large percentage of other multiple victim shootings, he passed a background check to acquire a gun because there was nothing in his record to prohibit him from doing so.
Background checks don’t stop criminals from stealing guns, or buying them on the black market, as noted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Table 14 of a May 2013 report. And they don’t stop criminals from getting guns through straw purchases—using people who can pass background checks to buy guns for people who cannot pass them—as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives indicated in a separate report.
In addition, there is another reason to oppose expanding the scope, intrusiveness and record-keeping practices of so-called "universal" background check systems. Giving in to what gun control supporters call "common sense" restrictions would simply take us closer to their ultimate goal.
Last year, Hillary Clinton said that people shouldn’t be allowed to even have an opinion in opposition to gun control. And just last week, former president Bill Clinton, who would presumably wield significant influence over public policy if Mrs. Clinton is elected president in 2016, said people shouldn’t be allowed to “walk around” with guns in public. At the same time, the Violence Policy Center encouraged people to believe there’s not much to be gained by carrying guns in public in the first place, falsely claiming that “Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.”
And then there’s former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, who’s made it very clear that he supports a ban on the private possession of firearms. O’Malley’s position reflects gun control supporters’ refusal to recognize that people have a fundamental right to possess guns for self-defense; that guns are often used for self-defense; and that criminals would reap an enormous advantage from any gun-ban that is effectively implemented. As civil rights attorney Don Kates and Professor Gary Mauser have noted, “violent crime would not fall if guns were totally banned to civilians . . . . [I]ndividuals who commit violent crimes will either find guns despite severe controls or will find other weapons to use.”
Indeed, the FBI reports that one-third of murders, 59 percent of robberies and 78 percent of aggravated assaults reported to law enforcement agencies are committed without firearms. As an example of the first of those statistics, Charles C.W. Cooke noted for National Review earlier this month that a woman was brutally killed by a knife-wielding attacker recently, unable to defend herself because her pending New Jersey handgun permit application hadn’t been approved.
Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that President Barack Obama, always enamored by gun bans in other parts of the world, cited, as he has previously, Australia’s massive gun ban and confiscation via a mandatory “buy-back” in the 1990s as an example of what he’d like to see happen in America.
Obama also blamed the Senate’s rejection of his 2013 gun control proposals on that perennial anti-gunner bogeyman, “the grip of the NRA on Congress.” What he fails to realize is that the NRA’s strength comes from its millions of members and tens of millions of supporters throughout the country. As a result, to gun control supporters’ everlasting regret, public opinion places more faith in guns and gun ownership than in gun control.