This article comes from Reason magazine, detailing some of the problems with Attorney General Barr’s proposal to expand background checks for buyers of firearms.
Attorney General William Barr is reportedly floating a proposal to expand background checks for gun buyers that is similar to an unsuccessful 2013 bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R–Pa.). The proposal would require background checks for “all advertised commercial sales, including gun sales at gun shows.”
Manchin and Toomey’s Public Safety and Second Amendment Protection Act would have required that federally licensed firearm dealers, who are already required to conduct background checks, be involved in all sales at gun shows and all transfers resulting from online or print ads. It explicitly exempted transfers “between spouses, between parents or spouses of parents and their children or spouses of their children, between siblings or spouses of siblings, or between grandparents or spouses of grandparents and their grandchildren or spouses of their grandchildren, or between aunts or uncles or their spouses and their nieces or nephews or their spouses, or between first cousins.”
Barr’s proposal would do pretty much the same thing, but it also would authorize licenses for “transfer agents” to help gun owners comply with the background check requirement. The idea, presumably, is that the new category of licensees would make compliance easier by providing an alternative to firearm dealers.
This proposal is less sweeping than the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which the House of Representatives approved last February. That bill, which was supported by 232 Democrats but only eight Republicans, would ban almost all gun transfers by people who are not licensed dealers. It applies to any sale, whether or not it happens at a gun show and whether or not the firearm was advertised.
The House bill makes an exception for “a transfer that is a loan or bona fide gift between spouses, between domestic partners, between parents and their children, including step-parents and their step-children, between siblings, between aunts or uncles and their nieces or nephews, or between grandparents and their grandchildren.” If money changes hands, in other words, a background check would be required even for transfers between relatives.
Both proposals share the same problems as any other effort to expand the reach of background checks. First, the categories of prohibited buyers are irrationally and unfairly broad, encompassing millions of people who have never shown any violent tendencies, including cannabis consumers, unauthorized U.S. residents, people who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies, and anyone who has ever undergone mandatory psychiatric treatment because he was deemed suicidal.
Second, background checks are not an effective way to prevent mass shootings…