The focus in Washington is slowly shifting from legislation banning certain semi-auto firearms and standard capacity magazines to proposals for “universal background checks” – just as we had warned it would. Politicians know that America’s gun owners are beside themselves in opposition to gun and magazine bans. They’ve watched as fearful shoppers have cleared the nation’s entire supply of AR and AK type rifles in just a couple of weeks, leaving manufacturers and importers eight to 12 months deep in backorders. The politicians remember what happened after the ban was passed in 1994, and they know there would be a serious price to pay for supporting bans on these popular tools today. On the other hand, the politicians seem to assume that a new law requiring background checks on private firearm transfers would have less negative impact on their ability to be elected. That’s an assumption that could get them in deep trouble.
While gun and magazine bans are overt assaults on the right to arms and, by comparison, “universal background checks” seem much less onerous, the fact is inserting government bureaucracy into private transactions is just as unconstitutional, and potentially more dangerous in the long run, than the proposed bans. The core of the gun-rights movement understands this and has already geared up for the fight and for the paybacks in the next election.
Even though some in leadership at the NRA have made comments that have been reported as a willingness to negotiate on the background check issue, the true activists in the organization – the guys who do the volunteer work, recruiting, working on campaigns and participating in grass-roots rights organizations – know that there can be no compromise on principles and fundamental rights. That’s why we created the national Coalition to Stop the Gun Ban, which includes dozens of rights organizations from every corner of the United States. One of the foundational principles of the coalition is opposition to, not only gun and magazine bans and restrictions, but also to any federal interference in private firearms transactions, and that opposition comes with a promise of active and concerted reprisals against any politician who is foolish enough to vote for, or in any way endorse, any of these rights-infringing proposals.
Some of the reporting suggesting that NRA, certain “conservative” politicians, or even members of the firearms industry might be willing to compromise on expanding background checks are clearly trying to convince wafflers that these proposals have broader support than they actually do. Mayors Against Illegal Guns director Mark Glaze is leading the wishful dreaming with suggestions that firearm manufacturers would support “universal background checks” in hopes of negating negative publicity.
He told CQ News that his group thinks the industry would support it to avoid the “black eye” they get whenever there is a shooting involving an assailant who should not have access to guns.
Of course, this ignore the fact that all of the recent high-profile murderers either passed a background check to obtain their guns, or in the case of the Connecticut monster, murdered the guns’ rightful owner and stole them. That didn’t keep Glaze and his boss from doing their best to black the eyes of the industry.
Glaze also suggested that federally licensed firearms dealers should also support “universal background checks” because it would force private buyers and sellers into their stores, and isn’t increased foot traffic what every retailer wants?
Mr. Glaze is either totally delusional or he is hoping that stating the idiotic in an upbeat and confident manner might actually fool someone into thinking that it’s actually a good idea.
There is no rational reason for anyone in the industry to support any of this nonsense and millions of reasons why they should not, but I’ll just present one: Smith & Wesson.
What the Great Purge of 1994 is to politicians, so the sale of Smith & Wesson in 2001 is to the firearms industry. Smith & Wesson had been an iconic brand in the industry for 150 years, but when they signed an agreement in May of 2000 with the Clinton administration to restrict the way they sold their guns, the gun-buying public nearly drove the company out of business. One year later, the company, which had been purchased for $112 million just a few years earlier, was sold for $15 million and the assumption of $30 million worth of debts.
The point of the story is that, just as the portion of the public that clambers for gun control is not the portion of the public that votes based on a politicians position on gun control, the portion of the public that blames gun manufacturers when a lunatic abuses one of their products is not the portion of the public that purchases those products and keeps the companies in business. Politicians, manufacturers and retailers must understand that if they don’t “dance with the one what brung ‘em,” they’ll find themselves with a long, lonely walk home at the end of the night.
It’s time for Congress to quit arguing over complicated, resource-sucking schemes that have no chance of reducing crime or atrocities and instead focus on proven strategies that actually work.