Since the American-born son of Afghan refugees shot to death 49 and wounded more than 50 more in a gay nightclub in Orlando recently there has been a constant drum beat for tighter controls on gun purchases.
“This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” President Obama said. “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.”
Democrat presidential presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton the very next day called for more gun control. “We need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals. …” Clinton said, later adding, “If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.”
The shooter, Omar Mateen, was a licensed security guard who worked for one of the biggest security firms in the world, one that contracted with the federal government. He had twice been interviewed by the FBI and cleared. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Nothing being proposed would have prevented him purchasing the weapons he used.
For Nevadans this debate is not merely academic. We have on the November General Election ballot a measure called Question 1 that would require “universal” background checks and require law enforcement to scrutinize virtually every gun sale or transfer.
It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
The initiative would require most gun transfers to be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer.
A summary of the measure reads in part: “Under current law, federally licensed gun dealers are required to perform criminal and public safety background checks on buyers before transferring guns to them. However, due to a loophole in the law, a background check is not required when a person obtains a gun from an unlicensed seller, making it easier for felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people to buy guns. This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service. Certain transfers will be exempt from this requirement, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting and for immediate self-defense.”
Can the gun only be loaned “while” hunting, but not before? And what, pray tell, constitutes “immediate self-defense”?
Criminals will have no compunctions about ignoring the law, while law abiding citizens will be burdened by costly and time-consuming paperwork and subjected to prosecution if they make an honest mistake. It will also overburden and drive up costs for police who will be tasked with trying to enforce such a sweeping, but futile law.
The National Rifle Association, which opposes Question 1, of course, has said, “Question 1 does nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms. Criminals will continue to break the law and acquire firearms where they do now: the black market, straw purchasers, theft and illicit sources such as drug dealers. According to the Department of Justice, 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes get firearms through theft, on the black market, ‘on the street,’ or from family members and friends. Less than one percent get firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.”
The San Bernardino husband and wife terrorist shooters had a friend purchase their guns. The Sandy Hook Elementary killer shot his mother and stole her guns. Other mass shooters easily passed background checks.
Violating the law carries up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
This law will do nothing to stop criminals obtaining weapons and would surely ensnarl ordinary gun owners who trip up while trying to comply with such a complex law.
A version of this editorial appeared this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.