The gun press—my term for media that is relentless in proffering the belief that foaming at the mouth “gun haters” are minutes away from excising the Second Amendment from the U.S. Constitution—gives me a headache. Of course, if you are a consumer of the liberal media—the news outlets who favor extensive interventionist government protections and pretend only those who support that idea are good moral people condeming everyone else to be racist gun nuts—the scare tactics skew 180 degrees opposite. I’d rant about the conservative media too, but why bother, because when it comes to the subject of firearms, I’m not so sure I can tell the difference between them and the gun press. If you’re not aware of these differences, or savvy enough to recognize that media outlets have worldviews they are trying to sell you, then it’s possible that you do what most do, only get your news from sources that support how you see the world.
As we kick off the 2016 presidential election year, the gun press is campaigning hard against universal background checks (UBCs) where all firearm sales (including gun shows and individual private party) are subject to a buyer background check via the FBI database NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Scare tactic arguments (e.g. you’ll need to pay someone to run a check to give your son your childhood .22 LR single-shot hunting rifle) and slippery slope arguments (e.g. UBCs will create a national gun registry, compliance inspections, and gun seizures) abound.
As a general rule, UBCs are seen as liberal, Democratic Party policy preference. And in some ways that makes sense. After all, it is usually the American left that argues for top-down policies that can imply a lack of trust in individuals’ abilities to make good choices for themselves. The idea that only liberals approve of UBCs is further enhanced by Republican presidential candidates’ and others’ remarks about the failure of background checks to stop criminals from getting guns while simultaneously making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights and buy them.
People, for the record, NICS checks take minutes and if you aren’t a felon or otherwise entangled in breaking the law, it doesn’t stop you from making a purchase. Even if you have to wait a day or two, it doesn’t stop you from making a purchase. And if your local retailer charges you for a background check? Then you’re being had. Retailers pay no fee for access to NICS, so nor should you.
If I was unable to think for myself and took what the gun press said at face value, I’d be in complete agreement. After all, NICS is problematic because FIFTEEN YEARS AFTER 9/11 WE STILL HAVE TO ASK LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TO SHARE DATA WITH ONE ANOTHER AND STATES TO REPORT DATA TO NICS (yes, I’m shouting from frustration). It’s also problematic because it brings up privacy concerns regarding mental health (cue rant over the deplorable state of mental health care in the U.S. and the fear that accessing it can get one fired from their job). Anyone who has been the victim of identity theft can certainly understand not wanting yet another red-tape barrier due to faulty databases.
But left out of the gun press’ alarmism is my family’s business, the federally licensed firearm retailer (FFL). Not the manufacturer, nor the wholesaler. Nope, just the licensed store that sells guns to consumers like you. Private party sellers have ways to vouch for the buyer (if they are so inclined, I’m certainly not purporting to believe that this isn’t a route for criminals to obtain firearms, along with theft and straw purchases). But we don’t. Every single day, strangers—people we’ve never seen before in our lives and possibly never will again—walk in the door with the intent of purchasing a firearm. My husband and his staff are pretty good profilers, but they’re not infallible. A NICS check gives us all peace of mind that we’re not arming drug traffickers and other baddies.
In the gun press’ eyes, it’s important to protect the U.S. Constitution (I agree) and individual rights (yes, I agree with that too); but somehow the only defense they’ve come up with is to throw retailers under the bus. To the gun press, it’s more important that you can sell a rifle to your neighbor than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms). To the gun press, it’s more important that you can set up a table at a gun show and sell your dirty, overpriced used firearms to whomever, than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms). To the gun press, it’s more important that you believe UBCs will only impede you from buying a gun, than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms).
Maybe there are FFLs out there that would like to be free of the background check obligation. If they only read the gun press, perhaps they are caught up in the scare tactic and slippery slope arguments. But I have a hard time believing that retailers don’t see the protections for themselves, their businesses, and their families offered by background checks. I certainly do. How I wish the gun press and those that use it to scare gun owners into thinking all gun laws will hurt them did.