It was well publicized that 91% of Americans supported expanding background checks for purchasing firearms. Not so well publicized, was that the same poll said that 48% thought that the information gained from such checks could or would lead to eventual confiscation. SEN Manchin today spoke of the language in the bill that would prevent that, and I’ve got to point out that that means nothing, except that to do it under color of law would require a vote to change the law first, which is slim comfort. I understand this thinking, as I am part of both the 91% and the 48%. This is not one of those cases in which the results of a poll reveal a clear lack of understanding of the issue like the following illustration from the series “The West Wing”:
Josh Lyman: Because sixty-eight percent think we give too much in foreign aid, and fifty-nine percent think it should be cut.
Will Bailey: You like that stat?
Josh: I do.
Josh: Because nine percent think it’s too high and SHOULDN’T be cut! Nine percent of respondents could not fully get their arms around the question. There should be another box you can check for, “I have utterly no idea what you’re talking about. Please, God, don’t ask for my input.”
Manchin, I think would characterize those who agree with me that way–that I just need to read the bill (I read the bill) as he said on Fox News Sunday this morning. He simply places a lot more faith in the power of a law on the books to affect behavior, which I lack whether that means to ignore the law, or to write a new bill later and change it.
So my big question on this subject that I would pose to SENs Manchin or Toomey, if I had their ear for a moment, would be why we need a Federal background check to begin with? Why not run these at the state level (where it cannot run afoul of the Second Amendment). With the follow up being why should the check be requested by the buyer? Why not protect the individual by allowing them to request their own checks, and presenting the results for verification. This prevents any link between check and sale and the temptation to develop a database.
In a related note, polling also shows that 75% of Americans support greater penalties for straw purchases of firearms, that is a purchase by an individual for another individual for someone else (different from a gift–the idea here is to hid e the identity of the person who will come to possess the weapon). There is a missing factor here for the respondents. They are unaware that despite the fact that straw purchases have been illegal since 1968 and federal prosecutors will not prosecute the cases (except in some rare cases where it’s an add on offense with other charges).