Given recent tragedies, some conservatives say “universal background checks” (UBCs) and “red flag” gun confiscation orders (GCOs) aren’t so bad and perhaps we should “compromise.”
Ignoring, momentarily, that neither measure would prevent mass killings (since most involve gang killings, not active shooters) and that their inevitable failure will have gun ban advocates clamoring for more, let’s examine these “reasonable” proposals.
Anyone claiming the computerized National Instant Background Check System (NICS) can’t be used for registration should know it already has. After Congress passed the 1993 Brady Act, its initial five-day waiting period “sunsetted” with the 1998 launch of NICS, transaction records for which must be expunged within 72 hours.
However, former Attorney General Janet Reno kept records indefinitely, citing “audit” purposes. When the NRA sued Reno for violating the Brady Act and 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act by creating defacto gun registration, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals – including then-Judge Merrick Garland – disagreed, saying, in part, it wasn’t a registry because it didn’t cover all records. (Attorney General John Ashcroft destroyed the records in 2001.)
NICS, like federal “Form 4473s” required by the 1968 Gun Control Act, applies only to sales by licensed dealers, not transfers between private individuals. But to create a proper gun registry, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) needs to capture records for private transfers, fueling demands for “universal background checks” processed through NICS.
And creating an illegal gun registry is exactly what BATFE is doing. In November, Gun Owners of America (GOA) obtained leaked documents revealing that in 2021, BATFE grabbed 54.8 million records, leading 51 congressional Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Ted Budd and Madison Cawthorn, to send BATFE a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
In its reply, BATFE admitted having 920,664,765 records, with 865,787,086 records digitized – that’s nearly one billion records or triple the 285 million records BATFE possessed in 2016.
BATFE is allowed to gather records from gun dealers only when they go out of business, and even then, only records covering 20 years. (Dealers were allowed to destroy Form 4473s after 20 years until BATFE recently required they be retained permanently).
And how did BATFE get all those records? A gun dealer recently told me he accessed, from the NICS website, the record for a background check done six months earlier, suggesting that NICS transactions are again being illegally retained.
Forty-one congressional Republicans have filed H.R. 6945, the “No Registry Rights Act,” co-sponsored by Reps. Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, and Richard Hudson. Unfortunately, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the bill won’t see a hearing.
So, those proposing “compromise” by accepting “universal background checks” would give more transaction records to an out-of-control agency already amassing an illegal national gun registry. Does that sound “reasonable” to you?
And what’s wrong with registration, you say? Ask New York State residents who registered semi-automatic firearms and later received letters offering the opportunity to turn them in, render them inoperable, transfer them out-of-state…or go to jail. Registration is the necessary prelude to confiscation.
Gun confiscation orders
Under “red flag” GCOs, family members, spouses, dating partners, vindictive ex’s, or gun-hating coworkers can declare you “dangerous” in ex parte (emergency) court hearings you might not even know about, denying you a defense in court.
Congressional testimony by the Independence Institute’s David Kopel suggests one-third of GCOs are eventually reversed because they should never have been issued. Why? Because a more equitable GCO model formulated by the Uniform Law Commission was blocked by gun control groups demanding laws with “flimsy and unreliable procedures for ex parte orders,” guaranteeing that GCO’s are issued against the innocent.
GOA lawyer Mike Hammond says that out of caution, “Most judges would issue a GCO to a ham sandwich.” Getting one reversed could take years and thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, a 2019 study of GCOs by the Crime Prevention Research Center’s Dr. John Lott found “no significant effect on murder, suicide, the number of people killed in mass public shootings, robbery, aggravated assault, or burglary.”
Consider too the risks of confiscating guns from people who don’t know GCOs have been issued, such as Gary J. Willis, the 61-year-old black man in Ferndale, Maryland who prudently answered loud pounding on his door at 5:17 AM with gun in hand and was shot dead by police.
The path forward
First, we should call “B.S.” on claims of “200+” mass shootings in 2022 by the oft-cited “Gun Violence Archive.” The majority are neither active shooter events nor in public places, instead reflecting gang violence.
Second, tell leftists that their policies produced the recent explosion of all types of violence, gun-related or not – policies like no-bail release, refusal to apply sentencing enhancements, defunding and demoralizing law enforcement agencies with phony claims of “systemic racism,” and exacerbating racial tensions. Finally, tell them it’s their denigration of the nuclear family and American values that’s creating sociopaths prone to violence.
Until we address those factors, we can deter school shootings only by adopting the security model used in airports, including arming trained, volunteer teachers similarly to the Department of Homeland Security’s “Federal Flight Deck Officer” armed pilot program.
F. Paul Valone is president of Grassroots Roots North Carolina.