Generally when the subject of additional federal mandates regarding background checks for gun purchases come up, Second Amendment advocates turn a deaf ear… and for good reason. These are frequently backdoor attempts to limit the rights of gun owners and potential, legal purchasers. Further, too many of them lead to even more suspicion about the expansion of databases chock full of information regarding gun owners around the nation which many liberal politicians would dearly love to get their hands on. But when a suggestion comes from John Cornyn – he a long time holder of an A+ rating from the NRA and a staunch gun rights proponent – I’m willing to at least listen. And that’s what’s happening now.
So, John… what have you got for us? (Fox News)
Backed by the National Rifle Association, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader is introducing legislation that would reward states for sending more information about residents with serious mental problems to the federal background check system for firearms purchasers.
The bill promoted Wednesday by Sen. John Cornyn, who has an A-plus rating from the NRA for his gun rights record, is far more modest than a Senate measure expanding background check requirements that the organization and Republicans helped defeat two years ago. Cornyn’s proposal also is narrower than a measure a top Senate Democrat announced this week…
Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman for NRA legislative affairs, said the bill took “meaningful steps toward fixing the system and making our communities safer.”
There are a couple of reasons to at least give this proposal a fair hearing beyond the fact that even the NRA is on board with it, but there will still be serious concerns to be addressed as we get all the specifics. On the plus side, I fully agree that there are certain individuals in this country who must forfeit their right to keep and bear arms, at least for a period of time. These include those guilty of violent crimes who have demonstrated that they can not be trusted to act as law abiding gun owners. Also, as unfortunate as it may be, there are some individuals with such debilitating mental instability that they similarly can not be trusted to responsibly handle a weapon. If that’s the chief (and only) goal here, then we can take a look at it.
Also, this isn’t a federal mandate to the states. It’s an incentive / disincentive program where certain federal grant money can be increased for those states which comply and decreased for those who refuse. (But the option to refuse still exists.) That makes any such proposal at least a bit more palatable.
But there is a huge concern which I would want to see addressed before this gets a green light. We learned the hard way through the auspices of the horrendous New York SAFE Act how quickly an innocent sounding proposal to “keep guns out of the hands of crazy people” can go completely off the rails and turn into a program of massive gun confiscation, as it did for tens of thousands of New Yorkers already. Without proper oversight, state governments can demand all sorts of medical information and begin rescinding gun rights from people for reasons as vacuous as once having medication for depression temporarily prescribed to them.
For Cornyn’s proposal to be at all secure it needs to make a clear distinction between those who have been lawfully adjudicated as being dangerously insane (with the opportunity to clear their name in court) and those who authorities “might have questions about” who must then go and spend the time and money to prove themselves sane in a court of law. The latter is nothing but pathway to madness and gun confiscation. If this plan can show beyond a shadow of a doubt that only the truly insane and dangerous will have their information fed into the system, then we might want to give a thumbs up to the proposal. But we’ve been burned once too often in the past and they’re going to have to prove it to us first.