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Background Checks vs. Registration

Currently gun-grabbers are advocating Federal registration schemes while misrepresenting them as background checks. This dangerous policy is being supported by both major parties in the Senate who chose to silence any planned filibusters against it.

Background checks are fundamentally different from registration. Background checks simply involve verifying a purchaser’s eligibility to buy a gun. Registration involves keeping records of who owns which guns. The registration plan being put forth by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey would require maintaining records of all firearm transactions.

The purpose of background checks are to prevent illegal gun purchases from law-abiding dealers, but why registration? Registration simplifies confiscation. If at some future date politicians chose to ban certain guns, they already know which law-abiding citizens have that specific type of gun. Simply knowing that the Feds already know one has a gun will prevent the gun owner from holding out when she is asked to hand it over.

So can one have background checks without de facto registration? Absolutely!

All that is needed for background checks is a list of people who are not legally eligible to buy guns. Currently, it is illegal for persons convicted of most felonies to buy firearms*. A merchant can simply ask the purchaser for identification, see if his or her name is on the list, and act accordingly. No records need be kept for this purpose.

There has been concern by privacy advocates that an online database could see each way. In other-words, searching for a specific name would serve to show that the person who’s name is being searched for is attempting to purchase a gun on that date. Even if a record of such an inquiry was kept, it couldn’t be used as proof that the person purchased the gun, and anyone could do the inquiry, since such a list would be a matter of public record.

Merchants, who wish to offer more privacy for their customers, could simply download the list and look for names offline. This approach makes the so-called “Gun Show loophole” go away since anyone with a computer (or even a smart phone), could look up a name to see if it’s posted.

No new law is needed. It is already illegal to knowingly sell a firearm to someone who is legally prohibited from making the purchase. The availability of convenient background checks removes any excuses or plausible deniability, so doing the checks becomes an essential CYA for the seller.

One problem may be that criminal records are dispersed in a variety of local, state and federal databases, but this problem is also easily remedied without expanding Federal powers. States want their penalties to be enforced, so sharing names for the “do not sell” list should not be a problem. The upkeep of the database could probably be funded by private donations with great ease.

So there it is. Yes. Scotty Boman goes on record as supporting universal background checks, NOT the registration schemes being discussed on Capital Hill. This approach would be far more respectful of the privacy of law-abiding gun-owners than the current system. Currently, gun purchasers must fill out a Federal form 4473. Among other things, this form records the identities of the buyer and seller as well as the serial number of the gun, and the date of sale. This is essentially a federal registration system. To the best of my knowledge this data isn’t stored in a central database, but it could be. Furthermore, the Brady law currently requires so-called “instant background checks” that take days to process. This is because one must do the checks via the FBI rather than simply letting the dealer look at the list. My approach would be truly instant, and spare tax-payers the expense of having FBI agents spend days doing a tasks that should only take a few seconds.

At this point the reader might be thinking I am naive enough to think this will stop criminals from buying guns. No. I don’t think that, but if a few can be stopped or delayed without stepping on the rights of responsible gun-owners, why not do it? Furthermore, putting this concept forward, removes the wind from the sails of demagogues, who parade families of murder victims before Congress, claiming that the only way to show compassion is to institute their registration schemes disguised as background checks.


I wish to point out that I don’t agree with the existing eligibility requirements, but that I believe the system of checking eligibility, can be dealt with separately from establishing eligibility requirements. Currently, people who have not even been convicted of crimes are prohibited from buying guns. This is clearly a violation of the person’s presumption of innocence as well as the due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Also, people convicted of rather benign behavior may be categorized as felons, while some acts of violence are categorized as misdemeanors.
Only people convicted of violent crimes should be on that list.

The username "scotaboman" belongs to Scotty Boman of Michigan.

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