What Purposes Would Federal Background Checks and Firearm Registries Serve?

January 28th, 2013

By Dan Miller

Probably not only the purposes our devoted civil savants advance to justify them.

Assault rifle

I’m not a stupid racist, so you don’t scare me! Uh, you do work for the DHS — don’t you?

Stuff that doesn’t work

An article at PJ Tatler claims that “even supporters admit background checks won’t reduce gun violence.” However, the article does not contend that a push for background checks might be motivated by additional objectives. The article notes flaws in the aggregation of State data on mental illness and assorted crimes.

For instance, while the background checks cover mental illness, few states are submitting the required records to the federal database. From 2004 and 2011, the number of mental health records made available to NICS increased dramatically from 126,000 to 1.2 million, according to a July report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). But the GAO noted that the increase is largely a result of efforts by only 12 states.

The article concludes,

The universal background check is a political solution to a social and cultural problem. It allows politicians to claim they are “doing something about the problem” without much political pain. Even if states fully complied with requests for data, people would still slip through the cracks. As we saw with the Sandy Hook tragedy when the mentally disturbed gunman simply stole weapons from his mother, if someone is determined to get a gun, there isn’t much anyone can do to stop them.

An article at Politico states,

Researchers in 2000 reviewed more than a decade of crime data in states with and without background checks. They found no significant difference in murder rates in states that had implemented the checks and states that had not, according to the study, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

At best, the theory seems to be that even though background checks don’t work we need to do something, and that’s something. One might well ask, however, whether there is anything else for which a Federal background check database might be used?


Connecticut School ShootingA deranged young man apparently committed the Newtown massacre of last December using weapons stolen from his mother, whom he had murdered. There has been no suggestion of which I am aware that she was deranged, that her firearms purchases would have been blocked by rigorous background checks or that she had obtained her weapons unlawfully. To prevent similar incidents, would it not be necessary to prohibit the future purchase of firearms, and the continued ownership of previously purchased firearms, not only by any person officially declared nuts (for example), but also by any sane person of impeccable character living in the same home as a nut, in proximity to a home where a nut lives, having a nut as a close relative or friend or otherwise likely to be visited by a nut? That still might be insufficient — a demented burglar could have stolen her firearms — so why not skip over partial solutions like background checks? Just bar everyone from buying or possessing any firearm? If, as President Obama pleaded, “just one life can be saved,” then we need to do it. Sí, se puede! (with apologies to the families of those murdered in Mexico by gangsters using guns imported courtesy of Fast and Furious).

Other horrid events

Here is a very sad story about a mother in Chicago who recently lost her fourth child to gun violence.

A Chicago woman is grieving the loss of her 4th child to gun violence.  Her child was one of Five people shot and killed overnight in Chicago.  “Ronnie Chambers, who was his mother Shirley’s youngest child, was shot in the head Saturday while sitting in a parked car on the city’s West Side. A 21-year-old man who was also in the car was wounded, police said.  Shirley Chambers, whose two other sons and daughter were shot in separate attacks more than a decade ago, was left grieving again on Saturday, WLS-TV reported.  “Right now, I’m totally lost because Ronnie was my only surviving son,” Chambers said.

Very sad though it is, “reasonable gun control” is probably not the answer. The article continues,

How can anyone see this continued gun violence and not be angered and want to do something to stop it?  Reasonable gun control won’t solve all of our gun violence problems, but it is a good start. We have to deal with poverty, unemployment, drug abuse and the failed war on drugs also.  However, some of these 5 people might not have died if guns were not so easily obtainable.  What do you think?  How can we reduce gun violence?  We must start to act now or it will never get any better. (Emphasis added.)

“Poverty, unemployment, drug abuse and the failed war on drugs” are pretty big “also need to deal withs” and the prospects for solutions in the foreseeable future to those long standing problems seem minimal. Since “reasonable” gun control measures alone won’t stop gun violence, how about “unreasonable” measures? That would be doing “something,” and therefore a great idea. Here is a little poem attributed to Herman Wouk,

When in danger or in doubt
Run in circles, scream and shout.

Huckleberry-finn-with-rabbitDespite its stringent gun control measures, Chicago is the gun murder capital of the nation. New gun controls there are unlikely to do much good and equally stringent gun laws throughout the nation are not likely to help in Chicago or elsewhere. Might needs be different in West Huckleberry Finn, Mississippi than in Chicago?

The PJ Tatler article does not deal with any existing or proposed Federal database for weapons owned by civilians.  However, in light of the tendency for legislative purposes to become more rather than less invasive, and for legislators to label legislation in fuzzy but viscerally pleasing ways (“Affordable Care Act,” for example, is the title given to ObamaCare), one must wonder whether publicly unacceptable goals even beyond those currently acknowledged are intended to be achieved.

Suspicion may even be prudent despite assurances that no obscuration is tolerated in President Barack T. (for Transparent, no longer just H. for Humble) Obama’s most transparent administration ever. Richard Windsor, the invisible friend of now former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, may know about such things. “He” sent and received numerous e-mails for Ms. Jackson with such apparently interesting content that the EPA has thus far refused to turn them over, in violation of a court order.

A pattern exists: the EPA creates a fake e-mail account for its administrator to avoid scrutiny; it doesn’t produce any of the fake e-mails even though they are required by law to do so; when specifically required by court order, the EPA seeks endless delays; and, when the delaying tactics prove fruitless, EPA fails to provide either the number or the type of e-mails required.

To put it simply, the agency is trying to run out the clock, hoping against hope that people will lose interest and move on to something else.  This, in our judgment, must not be allowed to happen.

As any fool knows, that was just a fluke and nothing similar would ever be done to conceal anything else in the Obama Administration. Right?

What might happen soon and then later?

It seems quite likely that there are elected officials who, if they could, would ban and confiscate all civilian firearms now. However, doing that is insufficiently popular to support, much less to enact legislation to accomplish. Now. Hence, small steps must be taken gradually, a tried and tested process. Consider the gradual changes in our Federal income taxes. The rates are far higher, and the tax far more intrusive in distorting the national economy, now than shortly after the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted in 1913. “Progress” now often seems more rapid than back in “the good old days.”

Boiled Frogs

As observed at The New American,

In the ongoing fevered debate over gun control legislation, registration of firearms is a key flashpoint. “Progressives” insist that nothing could be more reasonable and benign than simply requiring every firearm and firearm owner to be registered with some government entity. Thus, they argue, bad guys could be screened out and guns used in crimes could be traced to help catch the criminals. They denounce as paranoid, delusional nonsense the concerns of gun owners that registration would lead to eventual confiscation.

In a “Fact Check” at Time.com intended to dismiss “The Gun Registry Red Herring,” Michael Scherer notes that President Obama’s “Now Is The Time” gun plan issued on January 16 does not call for a federal gun registry. However, the Time piece does acknowledge that in a 2001 interview Obama, then a state senator, stated: “I’ll continue to be in favor of handgun law registration requirements and licensing requirements for training.” (Emphasis added.)

That was then, not now, and the context was State, not Federal, legislation. However, as observed in a basically pro-gun control article,

some members of the Senate, most notably California‘s Dianne Feinstein, have sought to create registration systems for gun owners, though these plans have not been endorsed by Obama.

President Obama was probably very savvy in not endorsing Federal gun registration. Yet. One might well ask why, beyond that, he has not endorsed it. Yet. Continuing with the New American article,

It is reasonable to believe that President Obama still holds to those views and is, at this point, taking a slower, more pragmatic, step-by-step approach to get momentum going in the direction of more expansive [federal] firearms restrictions. (Clarification added in brackets.)

Leaving that reasonable speculation aside, however, it is clear that gun rights advocates are far from delusional in suspecting that gun registration might be used to actually confiscate firearms that had previously been deemed legal. First of all, there is the historical record in one country after another. In the past century alone, fascist and communist regimes have used gun registration (oftentimes enacted by previous democratic governments) to identify gun owners and implement confiscation. In Canada, Australia, and many countries of Europe, gun registration has led to confiscation in recent years. It is happening here in the United States with state laws, as the recently passed legislation in New York State amply demonstrates.

But don’t be silly! We still have the Second Amendment to prevent that sort of thing! Maybe, but only maybe.

Then, there is an abundance of statements from the militant gun control activists and the organizations they lead calling for outright bans and confiscation.

Nevertheless, disregarding this palpable evidence that the anti-gun lobby does indeed desire, and intend, to outlaw private firearm ownership (or make it so costly and onerous as to be impractical), the pundits and commentators of the liberal-left media would have us believe that only crazy yahoos would suspect that anyone seriously intends to infringe on the Second Amendment.

Perhaps we “crazy yahoos” have different interpretations of the Second Amendment, reflecting those of its authors, than do the “sane” proponents of whatever manner of gun control they currently acknowledge that they want.

Most of the gun grabbers are politically astute enough to realize that any frontal attack on the Second Amendment is politically untenable, because it will immediately arouse concerted opposition and will result in political retribution at the polls. So, the strategy is to conceal the real endgame goals and attempt piecemeal “reasonable” concessions that will not seem too painful, or that will immediately affect only a fraction of gun owners. (Emphasis added.)

A recent article for the Daily Kos, the news and opinion blog site considered to be the Bible by many “Progressives,” provides one of the candid admissions by the Left that their real end goal is a total monopoly of gun ownership by the government. Entitled, “How to Ban Guns: A step by step, long term process,” the December 21 column by Daily Kos writer “Sporks” says:

The only way we can truly be safe and prevent further gun violence is to ban civilian ownership of all guns. That means everything. No pistols, no revolvers, no semiautomatic or automatic rifles. No bolt action. No breaking actions or falling blocks. Nothing. This is the only thing that we can possibly do to keep our children safe from both mass murder and common street violence.

That’s pretty all-inclusive. Sporks would like to see that happen immediately, but,

Unfortunately, right now we can’t. The political will is there, but the institutions are not. Honestly, this is a good thing. If we passed a law tomorrow banning all firearms, we would have massive noncompliance. What we need to do is establish the regulatory and informational institutions first.

With a few more suitably promoted Newtown-like massacres there might well be substantial shifts in popular sentiment sufficient to propel legislation or Executive Decrees Orders approaching that goal.

Steps are already being taken.

Resist at beginning

Some States are already moving toward violation of the Second Amendment. As observed here,

With emotions running high in the aftermath of the Newtown Sandy Hook shooting, politicians on the State and Federal level have begun introducing legislative actions to curtail access to firearms protected by the Second Amendment. In Missouri, parents may soon be forced to register firearms with their child’s school under threat of criminal penalties. In Massachusetts, another proposal would require storage of semi-automatic rifles at government approved storage depots. And, in the State of New York, congressional representatives have already passed legislation that requires registration of every semi-automatic rifle and reduces maximum magazine capacity to 7 rounds of ammunition, and Governor Cuomo has floated the idea of gun confiscation.

According to an article at PJ Media, the New York legislation as proposed had several other nifty ideas that didn’t quite make it. This time.

Confiscation of all firearms arbitrarily redefined as “assault weapons”

Labeling semi-automatic shotguns as “assault weapons” if they can hold more than five rounds or have a pistol-grip stock

Confiscation of 10-round magazines

Limiting the number of rounds in a magazine to five; magazines of greater capacity to be confiscated

Limiting number of magazines in possession to two

Mandatory microstamping of all guns in NY state

Statewide database of all guns

Limiting guns purchases to one per month

Allowing a pistol permit database to be released to the public

Relicensing of all pistol permit owners

Renewal of all pistol permits every five years

Many citizens are already upset and widespread violations are anticipated. As observed in the PJ Media article linked immediately above,

New York has estimated that there are one million firearms that fit their new definition of an “assault weapon,” and they are concerned that a large number of citizens will rip the teeth out of the law by simply refusing to register their arms. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of New York’s most law-abiding citizens are likely to make the choice to rebel against an unconstitutional law that violates their Second Amendment rights.

Those concerns arose before release of the information provided above about the New York legislation that has thus far failed to be passed.

We are generally considered a nation of laws, where laws are obeyed whether popular or unpopular, constitutional or unconstitutional, even as we try to have them changed through the normal processes. However, during the now celebrated “civil rights era” of the mid twentieth century, there was massive non-violent disobedience of laws now generally considered unconstitutional or otherwise perverse. Many were arrested or worse for violating those laws, which had been enacted and then enforced for many years with little resistance. Then a spark ignited a conflagration. Should unconstitutional gun control laws or orders now come into effect, that alone might well produce the spark necessary to ignite a no less massive conflagration. It would not be the first time in what is now the United States.

“When seconds count, the police can be only minutes away.”
When weeks matter, final judicial action can be only years away.

With a comprehensive Federal gun registry, gun confiscation — if not widely resisted — could proceed smoothly and quickly. It could become a fait accompli before the process — in patent violation of the Second Amendment — could be halted by judicial intervention.

An action taken by President Obama just over a year ago illustrates while understating the problem. His appointment of three new Members of the five member Board of  the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without Senate confirmation occurred on January 4, 2012. Slightly more than a year later, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on January 25th unanimously held those appointments unconstitutional and that the Board had therefore lacked the quorum it needed to act on a matter before it. That case proceeded with relative alacrity because petitions for review of NLRB decisions go directly to the D.C. Circuit appellate court rather than first to a lower District court. However, any challenge to gun confiscation would most likely have to go first to a Federal District Court for trial and only at the completion of that process to a federal appellate court.

The court voided the Board’s order then before it. However, it neither restrained the Board from taking further action, nor voided other actions previously taken without the necessary quorum. To have done otherwise would have been beyond the scope of the proceeding. The Obama Administration promptly asserted that the court was wrong.

The administration is expected to appeal. Though White House Press Secretary Jay Carney would not confirm that, he called the ruling “novel and unprecedented.”

“It contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations. So we respectfully but strongly disagree with the ruling,” Carney said.

He denied that the ruling would have any bearing on other decisions and appointees. “This is one court, one case, one company,” Carney stressed.

Hence, the NLRB seems likely to continue to act without the statutorily required quorum as it had prior to the court’s ruling unless and until that ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, probably in a matter of years rather than months. As I observed in a re-blog of an article by Jonathan Turley,

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is far from being a “right wing-nut” court and is among the most highly regarded of the nation’s Federal Courts of Appeal. The three judge panel’s unanimous interpretation of the Constitution in this case should stand. It will likely be asked to reconsider the decision en banc and may do so. Once a decision becomes final, it is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court. What will happen there? A lot will probably depend on who the Supreme Court justices are then.

To the extent that enough legislators and other government officials prefer to act based on popular or otherwise politically useful whims, rather than to be constrained by the Constitution as required, the Constitution is little more than a porous “parchment barrier” to their actions. But so what? To paraphrase Secretary Clinton, what difference does it make? It makes a big difference, strongly suggesting that it is far better to prevent bad legislation from being enacted (and to resist the promulgation of bad Executive Decrees) than it is to fight about them later.

Closing thoughts

Mayor “Big Gulp” Bloomberg does not want any convenient crisis to go to waste.

I much prefer this guy’s approach:

It would be very interesting to hear a debate on the Second Amendment versus gun control between Mayor Bloomberg and Colonel West. Perhaps with Colonel West’s new gig at PJ Media that might someday be arranged, but I doubt that the good Mayor could find the time to spare in his quest to diminish freedoms to engage in a free debate.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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