NRO’s Andrew Johnson notes that the NRA rushed to counter its own spokesman for the new school-safety initiative shortly after this aired yesterday on CNN, but Asa Hutchinson’s “support” for expanded background checks was, shall we say, nuanced. While Hutchinson did say he was “open” to expanded background checks, his idea for expanding them runs counter to the proposals circulating in Congress at the moment:
HUTCHINSON: — on my task force — on my task force, we had varied opinions on that issue, but it was not the focus of our task force. And so it’s — it’s — if you’re looking at my personal opinion on background checks, I hope Congress can look at a way to do better in having good records in the NICS system, or the system that does the background checks, so that we actually have information as to who’s been adjudicated mentally ill, that we can have information, better information, on convicted felons and that we make sure that when someone purchases a firearm, that it’s going to someone qualified to own it. We’re all for that.
As to how they work out…
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is that you’re open to expanding background checks…
BLITZER: — personally.
HUTCHINSON: Yes. Absolutely. I’m open to expanding background checks if you can do it within a way that does not infringe upon an individual and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor, somebody that, here in Montana, and have a casual sale. We don’t want to infringe upon those rights, either.
And so I’m more focused on the safety and protecting the kids in the school. I think our initiative will do that more than going down this path of passing stricter laws that somehow we pat ourselves on the back and think we’ve done something for safety when we haven’t.
Perhaps the relevant point here would be to ask how many of these shootings take place after “casual sales,” and whether a demand to route those through a licensed gun dealer would prevent them. That certainly wasn’t the case with the Newtown shooting, in which the mass murderer actually was prevented from purchasing his weapon by the background check, and stole them from his mother instead before murdering her as well. While I think that the inconvenience of having to pay a dealer for a background check before a “casual sale” may be overstated a bit, it sounds a lot like the other “solutions” offered in the wake of the shooting, none of which would have prevented it or even slowed it down.
Therefore, Hutchinson’s support for expanding background checks sounds more like support for the federal government to enforce the laws they already have on the books. We already know that federal agencies do almost no follow-up on failed background checks, and Joe Biden claims it’s because they don’t have the resources to do so. If that’s the case, then how will forcing people to involve gun dealers in transactions with family members and friends improve the situation? The issue here isn’t gaps in the law — it’s lack of resources for enforcement of the laws on the books now, and perhaps lack of will. At the very least, we should at least enforce the laws we have before passing more that we won’t enforce, either.
That may be why, as the New York Times reports today, that Senators are skeptical about the push to expand background-check requirements:
With Senate Democrats still struggling to line up support, the success or failure of President Obama’s four-month campaign to overhaul gun laws will most likely revolve around a single provision: a proposal to expand federal background checks for gun purchases.
Background checks, both advocates and independent researchers say, would have a bigger potential effect on gun violence than any other measure under consideration — including the much-discussed assault-weapons ban, which has little chance of passing in Congress. Proposed federal gun-trafficking laws and changes to mental health databases would have a marginal impact on gun violence, experts say.
But even though around 90 percent of those polled in public surveys support background checks, the fight for it and the rest of the first major piece of gun control legislation since 1993 faces a difficult test in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, Senate aides said that formal debate and substantive votes on the gun issues would probably slip to the week of April 15 — a setback considering that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, had pledged that it would be the first issue to come up when Congress returns from spring recess next week.
The NYT offers up the false “40%” statistic, fronting it with a “federal officials estimate” fig leaf:
But no background check is required for about 40 percent of gun purchases, including those made online or at gun shows, federal officials estimate. Requiring checks for those purchases would be the single most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, advocates say.
There seems to be a lot of false claims being made on behalf of this bill, including the idea that it would have prevented the shooting that its advocates exploit to push it. That’s reason enough to slow this down, so that the real issues of current enforcement of existing law and the failure to follow up on flunked checks can start to take precedence.
Update: Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post gives the 40% claim three Pinocchios … again.