Why The Instant Background Check Is A Bad Idea
By Larry Pratt
Congress has legislation before it to expand the Instant Background Check, aka the Brady Law.
Rather than expand the program, it should be abolished.
Since the background check is mostly defended on its value in supposedly "keeping guns out of the wrong hands," let’s consider that idea.
If we were to do away with the Instant Background Check, the question is frequently asked, how would we keep guns out of the wrong hands. The answer is, we would be as successful without the check as with it. How do we know?
The Centers for Disease Control, an anti-gun federal agency, has examined several studies that focused on guns and crime. Their conclusion? They found that there is no impact from gun control laws, including the Brady Law, on crime.
More dramatic evidence comes from the "laboratory" of England. This island nation has banned handguns. They don't need a background check because there are no legitimate sales. Following the confiscation of over 1.5 million guns, including all legally owned handguns in 1997, violent crime has skyrocketed. Illegal handguns are estimated by police to number over 3,000,000. According to a UN study in 2000, England is the most violent of all the world's industrial countries.
Unless England can figure out how to keep guns out of the "wrong hands"' how does anyone expect an instant background check to do anything? Even if a criminal did not have a friend or a false ID, it would not be difficult to get a gun in other ways.
So, if the Instant Background Check is useless, why are we violating the Constitution which gives no authority to the federal government to regulate guns? Moreover, the background check is based on a presumption of guilt, requiring the accused ("Why do you need a gun?") to prove his innocence -- a total reversal of the presumption of innocence required in our legal system.
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An equivalent to the background check to buy a gun would be to run a background check on people before they can become reporters or preachers -- or before they can send letters to the editor. Well, some have argued, we have laws against shouting "fire" in a theater, so why not a similar prior restraint with the background check. Other than the fact that the background check does no good, there is no equivalence. The equivalent to shouting "fire" in a theater is to use a gun illegally. No background checks are run on those entering theaters and the legal consequences of shouting "fire" are only imposed after the deed is done.
Mission creep, a problem with all government programs, is evident with the Instant Background Check. In 1996, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) snuck a massive expansion of who is prohibited from owning a gun into law as an amendment on a spending bill. Thanks to Lautenberg, the rules were changed in the middle of the game -- violating the constitutional prohibition of ex post facto laws. People who had paid a minimal fine for a misdemeanor domestic violence violation -- shouting or shoving, but not physically harming one another (which would be a felony) -- all of a sudden became prohibited from owning guns. Cops and soldiers could no longer carry weapons, and many were discharged from service.
Now Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) wants to radically build on Lautenberg's law by sending a billion dollars to the states for scooping up even more names of people to send to the federal data base of prohibited persons. Included in this attack on liberty will be veterans who had the shakes after a battle and were sent to a mental institution. That sure seems to fit the category of "no good deed goes unpunished."
In order to satisfy the federales' lust for prohibiting gun ownership, McCarthy's measure would require that the states send the feds 90% of all relevant information needed to know all who "should" be prohibited from owning guns. What is relevant? The bill does not say. Give a bureaucrat an inch and he will take a mile. In order to make sure that illegal aliens and other prohibited persons don't own guns, you will watch all of your tax records, health history and much more go into the FBI's computers in West Virginia.
McCarthy's measure will end up as gun registration on steroids. Not only will every gun owner be able to be tagged, but everybody's personal information can end up in a centralized police data base. Now I know what the eye at the top of the pyramid on our one dollar bills is for -- it's keeping an eye on everything about everybody!
McCarthy's assault-legislation is aimed at the privacy of every single American -- whether they own a gun or not. Every single American should oppose Carolyn McCarthy's bill (H.R. 297).
People should not be bedazzled by the mantra that "All we need to do is enforce the gun laws we have." We should do no such thing -- particularly when they are both unconstitutional and useless.
Larry Pratt is the executive director of the Gun Owners of America (GOA). This article is copyrighted by the Gun Owners of America and was posted with their permission. You can contact the Gun Owners of America at: