Will There be a Universal Background Check Bill?
By Firefield •
In response to two mass shootings over the first weekend in August, President Trump called for “meaningful background checks” over Twitter and in various news media, stating, “We have to have very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen. We need intelligent background checks.” However, recently after a phone call from the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, President Trump stepped back from his original statements. Specifically, on Wednesday, August 21, the President said, “I have an appetite for background checks. We are going to be doing background checks. We are working with Democrats. We are working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks. But we are going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them, at the border.”
For those unfamiliar with our background check laws, those looking to buy a firearm from a Federal Firearms License dealer must fill out an ATF Form 4473 and pass the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS.) For any individual that is not a dealer, they may buy/sell/trade/swap firearms with another individual without performing a background check. If you purchase a gun at a gun show or through the internet from a licensed gun dealer, you must submit to the background check and fill out the Form 4473.
The NICS system was put in place by the FBI on November 30, 1998, as part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which passed in 1993. Background checks, though, aren’t a new concept. Dealers have had to ask potential buyers a series of questions as early as 1968 after the passage of the Gun Control Act.
Regardless of background checks or not, it is still illegal to sell or give a firearm to someone who isn’t allowed to own it. As a legal, responsible gun owner, it is up to you to make sure you never give a prohibited person a firearm.
Often called the “gun show loophole,” Universal Background Checks (UBC) have been purposed in Congress many times. The law aims to make anyone taking possession of a firearm to undergo a background check. This raises many questions about inheritance, letting a friend shoot your firearm while at the gun range together, lending a shotgun to a first-time hunter, storing guns for a family member, etc. There are many situations in which firearms pass between hands that have nothing to do with a change in ownership.
Besides, how do you force two individuals who are buying/selling/swapping/gifting/borrowing a firearm or firearms to do so at a licensed gun dealer?
Studies conducted by mostly anti-gun organizations found that states with UBC did not lead to more background checks. A San Jose, California newspaper, The Mercury News, studied mass shootings in 2016-2018 and found only one shooter should not have been able to own a firearm. The shooter who killed 26 people attending the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas had a domestic violence conviction on his record that had never been submitted to NICS.
All other shooters either passed their background checks and purchased their firearms legally or stole the guns from a family member or friend.
Senior Adviser to President Trump’s campaign, Ed Brookover says, “We already have background checks on all gun transactions except those between private individuals. Spending time on this issue is a waste for anyone who really wants to help with mass shootings.”
Many are concerned that UBC would lead to a federal registry of firearm owners, which is currently illegal under the 1986 Firearm Owners’ Protection Act.
No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.
Congress returns from recess after Labor Day. Everyone is expecting some sort of gun control action to happen—whether that be universal background checks or a federal Red Flag law (Trump has also come out in support of Red Flag laws.) President Trump has proved to us in the past that he’ll cave act on anti-gun politicians’ pleas.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget acting Director, Russ Vought says about Trump’s decision, “His concerns, shared by many within the White House are that a background check expansion would gain him few points politically but actively hurt him among his actual supporters.”
We’ll have to wait and see which one he chooses.