Bipartisan effort to expand background checks quietly gains steam

posted at 6:01 pm on January 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Dianne Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban may be DOA on Capitol Hill, but that doesn’t mean that Congress is dormant on the issue of guns.  A bipartisan group in the Senate have quietly begun working with both gun-rights and gun-control activists on the issue of background checks, and may soon have a competing proposal to Feinstein’s bill that will address mental-health issues and gaps in gun purchases.  USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich reports that a Gang of Four are working on the bill:

A bipartisan coalition of senators is working on a proposal to strengthen and expand background checks for potential gun purchasers in an attempt to break the partisan gridlock holding up regulations on gun ownership.

Members of the group, which includes Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have declined to discuss specifics of the talks or of a potential bill. …

The nation must improve the system to encourage states to report the mentally ill and install protections for doctors to enable them to report patients who are “obviously psychotic” to prohibit them from buying guns, Coburn said. …

Last weekend, Manchin told a West Virginia radio station he was working with Democratic and Republican senators, as well as the National Rifle Association, on something gun rights supporters could back. Such a bill, Manchin said, “basically says that if you’re going to be a gun owner, you should be able to pass a background check.”

This looks like a fallback position for the Senate, and a fairly safe one.  Recent polling consistently shows broad support for expanding background checks.  A recent CBS poll showed 92% of respondents in favor of universal background checks, which include 89% of Republicans, 93% of respondents living in gun-owning households, and 85% of respondents either belonging to the NRA or living with an NRA member.  (The question was fairly straightforward — “Do you favor or oppose a federal  law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers?”)  That’s as close to consensus as one is likely to see on a political topic.  If a CBS poll isn’t to your taste, last week’s Rasmussen poll showed 53% of likely voters favoring background checks on existing gun owners, not on new sales but on being allowed to keep the firearms already owned.

Small wonder that Chuck Schumer calls expanded background checks “the sweet spot.” That will give Congress a chance to claim that they are doingsomething in the wake of the Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson mass shootings while bypassing the more politically dangerous action of banning weapons — especially since there will be no functional difference between banned and allowed semi-automatic rifles, and since murders by rifles of any kind are an exceedingly small percentage of the overall level of homicide victims.  Background checks would have the virtue of addressing the entirety of firearms, too, without pursuing outright bans based on aesthetics.

CBS and Barack Obama use the fallacious 40% reference on gun sales that take place without background checks, and the supposed gun-show loophole that bypasses the requirement.  As Glenn Kessler belatedly ruled, those are Pinocchio-worthy claims.  Dealers who sell firearms at gun shows have to comply with background-check and waiting-period requirements, just as if they sold the weapons in their stores.  Around 14% of gun sales don’t get background checks now, though, thanks to private sales.  In order to change that, Congress would have to mandate that people conduct background checks for private transfers.  That’s not as onerous as it sounds; internet sales use federally-licensed dealers as brokers to handle the transaction, and dealers could offer that service for private transactions, too.  It would add to the cost of the sale, but it’s not an insurmountable issue.

However, that prompts this question: just which tragedy would that have averted?  In Newtown, the shooter got his weapons the way most criminals do — by stealing them.  In fact, a background check thwarted his attempt to buy his own firearms.  The Aurora shooter apparently purchased his weapons legally, but didn’t have anything on his record that would have stopped the sale; even assuming that the Gang of Four expand the investigations into mental health for background checks, the only instances of mental-health assessments he had prior to the shooting appear to have been informal.  The Tucson shooter had an arrest for drug-paraphernalia possession on his record, but never submitted to a mental-health exam.  The background check expansion might be worth doing, but it would have done nothing to stop the incidents driving the public outrage.

Update: I’m with War Planner in the comments: “No problem with background checks; just no permanent registration of firearms.” But let’s be clear that these background checks will not have much impact on the kinds of mass shootings that are driving this debate, although they may help keep firearms out of the hands of more ordinary criminals.


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Another thing to consider with this ‘universal background check’ is that if they start keeping the info to compile a record, will they then decide to gang up for limiting the number of guns someone can own. The background checks done now are supposed to be destroyed within 48 hours. We already know Holder doesn’t like to do that. As long as we have a prezzy who wants to pick and choose which laws he breaks and which he enforces, we’ll have chaos.

Kissmygrits on January 30, 2013 at 9:33 AM

What’s to stop them from simply declining your permission to own a gun if they ‘decide’ you’ve bought too many?

If they can make those background checks expansive to unknown depths on the data on your life, what’s to stop them from simply citing unknown reason for that decline and citing ‘privacy’ concerns as the reason for not telling you?

[I can easily see them using that type of rationale, just to twist the knife a little more]

Galt2009 on January 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM

So Ed Morrissey doesn’t have a problem with the government intruding on a private sale between individuals. Glad that’s on record.

SirGawain on January 30, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Congress would have to mandate that people conduct background checks for private transfers. That’s not as onerous as it sounds

The hell it’s not, joker.

SirGawain on January 30, 2013 at 11:05 AM

This would basically amount to a national gun registry. FFLs are required to keep all their records so all the government would have to do is scoop up those documents and they could then track any firearm to it’s owner. Or they could just skip that and start a database via executive order by declaring that is the only way to know if people are indeed using the background check system and not selling guns illegally.

n2sooners on January 30, 2013 at 11:24 AM

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

That seems even easier to understand than the 2nd! Managing and limiting personal property is not one of them…

rgranger on January 30, 2013 at 12:29 PM

S

o Ed Morrissey doesn’t have a problem with the government intruding on a private sale between individuals. Glad that’s on record.

Indeed. What part of “shall not be infringed” is so confusing to you, Ed?

mountainaires on January 30, 2013 at 12:52 PM

The Blue Staters are already lining up at the TAXPAYER TROUGH. They can see an “opportunity” in this “crisis” and they won’t let it go to waste.

Guv. Jerry Brown sounds like he’s first in line:

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/30/California-No-Money-To-Disarm-Roughly-20-000-Felons-And-Mentally-Ill-People

mountainaires on January 30, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Understand this law: It is not about gun shows. It would BAN the transfer of guns to your heirs. It would ban militias and force registration of all arms.

Redglen on January 30, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Malachi45 on January 30, 2013 at 12:33 AM

On the contrary, what I said is 100 percent correct, until you can get Incorporation overturned all you are doing is ranting.

SWalker on January 30, 2013 at 2:35 AM

No, what you corrected was the statement from someone who said the BoR originally did not apply to the states. He was correct, it didn’t. You were not correct. Much of it has been incorporated by now and none of us disagreed with that fact, even though I dispute what the SCOTUS has done. Go back and read what you corrected.

Malachi45 on January 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Wrong answer, please try again. There was no “BoR originally did not apply to the states” in our conversation at all. The discussion was what is the law, and has it been for our entire lifetimes. We were not discussing fantasy team historic what if’s.

SWalker on January 30, 2013 at 1:51 PM

We need at least as tough background checks on the illegal immigrants who are invited to stay here by the president. If a kids parent has RESTRAINING orders out, or violations of flaunting our laws, they are TOO violent, too unpredictable to be citizens, and should take the whole family home. Crazy? go home. A Car Theif, go home; a murderer…your whole family goes home.

A background check can’t be one thing for one issue and another thing when it’s something Obama is permissive on. And since the second Amendment is a constitutional law, we should also have equal restriction applied at the federal level against abortion. I think we ought to find some “Privacy” in the constitution for gun owners.

Fleuries on January 30, 2013 at 2:10 PM

SWalker on January 29, 2013 at 7:59 PM

While that position has been argued and won before the USSC, in regard to some of the Amendmends, the Bill of Rights was intended to restrain the federal government, not the state governments.

petefrt on January 29, 2013 at 10:21 PM

WRONG ANSWER. The Amendments to the US Constitution are the Supreme Law of the Land. No State is afforded the right to exempt themselves from any Amendment to the US Constitution.

SWalker on January 29, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Read the other guy’s post, then read yours. It aw sbbeing discussed becaus eye brought it up. You emphatically said he was wrong. He wasn’t. You were. Still are. And are now wrong about the issue being brought up.

Sheesh, just man up and admit it.

Malachi45 on January 30, 2013 at 2:15 PM

It was being discussed because he brought it up, that is.

Malachi45 on January 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Steps to reduce violence (not just “gun violence”) :

1) Remove restrictions on all citizens for carrying arms concealed or openly. If you are a US Citizen, over the age of 18, you can carry. Look up Vermont Carry.

2) Restrict “Gun Free Zones” to only those places that have two or more armed security personnel. This does not mean someone can’t carry a firearm there, just not in, oh, jail or prison. A school, without two armed security people, would not be allowed to restrict a parent, teacher, janitor, etc., from having a firearm on campus. Perhaps, as a bone to the Liberals (who aren’t really liberal) install a thumbscan safe in the classroom where the firearm can be stored safely. But you can keep it in your car.

3) People can keep firearms out of their homes, should they desire. I won’t even get snarky and require that they label their homes as “gun free zones” or anything. It is a choice..and if they don’t want a firearm there, OK. It’s a Right, not a Requirement.

Just three starting proposals.

ProfShadow on January 30, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Any Republican who votes for Universal background checks is voting for a Federal Firearms Registration Database.

The current AG has been pushing to keep the NICS records for 10 years, and many people still don’t think the NICS background check records are being destroyed or deleted now.

thmsmgnm on January 30, 2013 at 6:06 PM

You are just naive if you think an increased background check program will not lead to registration. This is the problem with many Republicans – they can’t see past the ends of their noses. The libs are in it for the long term and patiently bit off one chunk at a time. Republicans keep taking them at their word and say “well that isn’t so bad, I’m only giving up a little bit of my liberties.” Then we look back and wonder how we managed to totally surrender all our rights one little bit at time. When are we going to figure out this game? There is no compromising with these people and we just have to learn to say no more. Heck, already the BATFE has no problem going to gun dealers and illegally copying all their 4473′s. Who is going to remind them that is illegal if you want to stay in business? Where is that information going? Bueller?

NO COMPROMISE! MOLON LABE

tballard on January 30, 2013 at 6:09 PM

How about some BACKGROUND CHECKS on Obama and his administration full of people who have genuine criminal histories??

landlines on January 30, 2013 at 6:10 PM

I like you, Ed, but you haven’t thought this through.

Congress would have to mandate that people conduct background checks for private transfers. That’s not as onerous as it sounds; internet sales use federally-licensed dealers as brokers to handle the transaction, and dealers could offer that service for private transactions, too. It would add to the cost of the sale, but it’s not an insurmountable issue.

This would be a de facto firearm registration. Right now, if I buy a firearm, that information is given to the federal government. They’re supposed to destroy it, but I have no faith that actually occurs. Even with that illegal information, the government can’t identify the owners of specific guns, because I can sell my firearm.

If information about that sale also goes to the government, a simple spreadsheet with names and addresses will allow a targeted confiscation in the future, should outcry from some crisis like Sandy Hook permit the politicians to get away with it.

Congratulations, you just gave Dianne Feinstein and Charles Shumer the first orgasms of their dull, pasty lives.

applebutter on January 30, 2013 at 7:27 PM

Just another stupid, liberal, feel-good, do-nothing idea.

End of story.

JackM on January 30, 2013 at 9:24 PM

I’m with War Planner in the comments: “No problem with background checks; just no permanent registration of firearms.”

Have no idea why GOP and people like you fail to understand that background checks will be a “national registration database” in no time at all.

Really, REALLY, STUPID IDEA.

riddick on January 30, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Understand this law: It is not about gun shows. It would BAN the transfer of guns to your heirs. It would ban militias and force registration of all arms.

Redglen on January 30, 2013 at 1:33 PM

.

Any Republican who votes for Universal background checks is voting for a Federal Firearms Registration Database.

thmsmgnm on January 30, 2013 at 6:06 PM

.
Dittos what both of you said.

The Progressives have always been in the “con-business”, and still are.

listens2glenn on January 31, 2013 at 2:35 AM

How about some BACKGROUND CHECKS on Obama and his administration full of people who have genuine criminal histories??

landlines on January 30, 2013 at 6:10 PM

.
First we have to investigate YOU after a comment like that, to see if you’re a “racist”.

listens2glenn on January 31, 2013 at 2:38 AM

Just another stupid, liberal, feel-good, do-nothing idea.

End of story.

JackM on January 30, 2013 at 9:24 PM

.
No, we’d be better off if it were a “do-nothing” idea.

They want more Federal DOMINION over us, and this gives it to them. : (

listens2glenn on January 31, 2013 at 2:41 AM

1. They don’t enforce current laws.
2. Current mental health “no buy” lists are not updated.
3. How can the current system not be considered de facto registration?
The forms must be kept almost in perpetuity by dealers, must be available to law enforcement investigators and under certain circumstances must be turned over to ATFE. The record of undergoing a check, no matter what they say, is recorded in police computer systems. We all know that nothing that goes into a government data base ever disappears.
4. This is another tax (trundling off to the FFL to pay for another background check and transfer fee) that further drains meager personal budgets to discourage having guns.
5. This bipartisanship is nothing more than giving in to another invasive entre to tyranny.

ironked on January 31, 2013 at 8:07 AM

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