“Background checks” has become the rallying cry of the anti-gun extremists. They continually villify the NRA, gun owners and politicians who oppose this “common sense measure”. So, why the opposition?

First, and foremost, the anti-gun faction and media propagandists have so misrepresented this issue, that few people, other than informed gun owners, actually understand the issue. I believe this misinformation campaign is to blame for the travesty that is Washington’s Initiative 594.

Since the Brady Law took effect in 1994, all Federal Firearms Licensees have been required to complete a background check on prospective buyers prior to completing any gun sale. BATFE reports that approximately 90 – 92% of all gun sales are made through FFL’s and are covered by this law. All sales that cross state lines, including online sales, are required to be processed through an FFL. Shipping guns is legal only between FFL’s. A majority of gun owners support these background checks. The NRA supported the passage of the law and supports NICS, the system used to perform them.

“The Gunshow Loophole” is a misleading term referring to sales between individuals where an FFL is not involved. The majority of sellers at gun shows are FFL’s who are required to do the background check. Some gun shows allow unlicensed private sellers to make sales, as well. Private sellers are not required by federal law to do background checks. In fact, in most states, a private seller is not allowed to access the system at all. Since it is a federal offense to sell a gun to a prohibited person, most sellers make an effort to avoid this by doing things such as asking to see a gun permit. BATFE and DOJ figures indicate that less than 2% of guns used by criminals were obtained at gun shows, flea markets or swap meets.
“Expanded Background Checks”, already in place in some states, usually require background checks to be done at gun shows and other such venues. Sometimes “expanded background checks” apply to other private sales as well. Most gun owners are not opposed to these background checks, either, and they weren’t met with much opposition in the states where they were passed. A CNN poll showed 83% support for gun show background checks and 70% for private sales between non-relatives.

“Universal Background Checks” is a phrase often uses interchangeably with “expanded background checks”. They are not however, the same thing. Universal Background extend the requirement from sales to any transfer and brings them into the home and family. To what extent this intrusion is required varies. The most extreme version, that passed in Washington in 2014, does not make any exceptions for family or household members, nor does it make an exception for firearms training classes. As it is written, any time a gun changes hands, however briefly,  it is subject to the background check requirement. The only exception is “certain temporary transfers” between spouses. Two unmarried household members wouldn’t qualify for exemption, nor would other close relations such as siblings, parents or children. This law requires both parties to go to the FFL and pay a fee of up ton $100 each time a gun changes hands. One spouse could not legally take the other spouse’s gun to the range without a background check before and after. The same situation would apply if someone wanted to take his father’s or brother’s rifle on a hunting trip. An instructor can no longer legally provide guns for students to use during class.

In the case of Colorado’s law, which is very similar to the failed federal bill of 2013, spouses and children are exempted for transfers between themselves. However, that law specifies that if a gun owner leaves his guns for over 72 hours, a transfer occurs and the background check requirement applies. This means that if a gun owner goes on vacation and leaves his guns at home, if someone else is in the home, background checks must be done before leaving and again when he returns for him to “transfer” his guns back to himself. There is no exception made even if the guns are in a safe. It hasn’t been specified, but due to the vagueness of the statute and this precedent, presumably this would also be the case in Washington.

Although no poll has been done regarding support for these extreme measures, the CNN poll found that support for background checks of sales between family members was only about 55%. Considering that the poll showed support dropping as the proposal in question became more intrusive, it is reasonable to suppose that support is very low for the most extreme measures which actually constitute Universal Background Checks.

The anti-gun extremists continue to use figures based on the generic question of support for “background checks” and apply them to Universal Background Checks which are a completely different thing. They also continue to blatantly lie about what Universal Background Checks are and talk about “all gun sales” and “the gun show loophole”, as though that were the extent of the laws or proposed laws.

So, now I ask: what sane person thinks it’s necessary to public safety to pay for a background check to loan a gun to one’s brother? What sane person thinks it’s “common sense” to criminalize with firearms safety classes? What sane person supports requiring a background check for a person who travels for work every time he returns and departs, to “transfer” his guns that stay in the same place? Most of all, how does any of this improve public safety?