The Problem With Universal Background Checks

The truth about UBCs is quite nefarious...

Unless you’ve been completely out of the loop or engrossed in the circus around President Trump with regards to the Cohen testimony, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed two major gun-control bills recently. HR 8 and HR 1112. Both claim to address issues in the firearms purchase process here in the US, most notably by criminalizing the private transfer of a firearm wihout an accompanying federal background check. Hence, the “universal background check” or “UBC”.

The premise

The aboveboard reasoning is to close a “loophole”, by where criminals supposedly purchase guns from family and friends, rather than the more expedient processes of theft, and “borrowing”, i.e. some gangs have what amounts to a disposable armory where if you need a gun, you just take it, do your dirty deed, and ditch the gun. The loophole is also blamed for where so-called mass shooters acquire their guns, despite the fact most bought their guns at retail and passed the normal in-store background check anyways, due to government negligence.

The Flaw

The basic flaw is that the government is involving itself in a private matter. I own a gun, I have every right to sell it for currency or barter it for goods and services rendered. I can sell a GLOCK 19 to my friend for $500, or in exchange for another gun, or a car part. Or nothing at all. He may need a gun, and I chose to give him one because I’m a really good friend. The government nosing in due to ‘safety’ is not an excuse.

High-concept philosophical arguments aside, there are several practical flaws when it comes to universal background checks. The biggest one is proving a violation of the law occured after the date of enactment. To explain this, one has to know the basics of firearms serializing and tracing in the US.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 made serial numbers on any firearm sold at retail mandatory. Prior to that, most manufacturers serialized for quality control, but it wasn’t legally required. After 1968, it was. Manufacturers were (and are still) also required to log when each gun was produced. You can call GLOCK today with the serial number of your GLOCK 30 and they will tell you when the gun was made if you ask. So can law enforcement, by the way.

Manufacturers also are required to log the “dispositon” of each gun produced. Was it and 5000 others purchased by RSR, a huge distributor? Was the gun destroyed in testing? Was it acquired direct by a small gun shop in Texarkana? Is it a tradeshow sample? Did the Miami PD buy it? The manufacturer has to log that.

OK, so let’s follow the path of a US-made GLOCK 41. It has the serial number XYZ123, and say it was made in 2015 in Smyrna. I’m using the US-made GLOCKs as an example since I’m unsure of how foreign-made guns get logged at their factories.

Anyways, let’s say the G41 was logged as “complete” on June 21st, 2015. It sat around in a box in Smyrna for a month and didn’t leave the factory til July 28th. Both these events are logged, by law. The date of production, and the date where it left the factory.

Let’s say RSR purchased it as part of a lot of 5000. G41 XYZ123 made it’s way to RSR’s warehouse in Dallas. A clerk logs it into RSR’s “bound book” (a literal book, or digital system that logs the acquisition and disposition of every gun in a licensed gun dealer’s inventory) as being in the inventory of the Dallas warehouse. Again, it’s a legal requirement. The logs say it showed up on August 1st 2015.

G41 XYZ123 sat in the Dallas warehouse til October 15th, 2015 until Bob’s Gun and Grub Emporium in Texarkana, TX (bullets and bacon, yo) purchased it and 19 other G41s. The guns don’t make it to Bob’s until October 31st. Happy Halloween. Bob logs the acquisitions into his bound book and calls it a day. Trick or treat.

G41 XYZ123 sits at Bob’s til June 4th 2016. .45 ACP is an expensive hobby so .45 ACP pistols don’t move fast. Finally, because it’s 2016 and it looks like HRC might be President (link back to Trump article) G41 XYZ123 gets bought by Juan “Jack” Bautista because he really wants a .45 and he’s afraid it could be hard to get in the future. Since Bob’s is a licensed retailer of firearms, Bob has to make Jack fill out a Form 4473 (link) and subject Jack to a NICS background check.

Jack passes the check, and Bob takes the 4473 and stores it in his files, as is required by law. The 4473 contains Jack’s personal info as well as the details of the gun he purchased, G41 XYZ123. Note that this information is not conveyed to the Feds. All the Feds know on June 4th is that Jack purchased a handgun at Bob’s. They don’t know it’s G41 XYZ123. The only reason they know it’s a handgun is because the federal age for handgun purchases is 21, and for long guns it’s 18, so the type of gun is reported to NICS.

Ostensibly the NICS data is purged after a period of time.

So, to summarize up to this point. All the Feds know about G41 XYZ123 is that it was produced on June 21st, 2015 at GLOCK in Smyrna, GA. It was then purchased by RSR on July 28th 2015. RSR didn’t receive it until August 1st 2015 at their Dallas warehouse. Bob’s Gun and Grub in Texarkana purchased it on October 15th and it didn’t show up at Bob’s until October 31st 2015. It sat at Bob’s until June 4th 2016 when Jack purchased it.

Now, all these little bits are “known” by the Feds but only in the sense that each link in the chain (manufacturer, distributor, gun shop) has to log the acquisiton and disposition of G41 XYZ123. The Feds don’t record this info. They can request it without notice, though.

Which they do during audits of licensed gun businesses or when a crime occurs and a gun is used.

The Point Of Failure

Fast foward to 2017. Trump won the election. Jack has this G41 sitting around doing nothing. He has a bunch of guns, but the G41 is an expensive hobby and he’s already got a G19 for carry purposes. So he decided to ditch the G41 for $500 sometime in May of 2017. His wife’s friend April buys it. Since Texas is cool, Jack selling April the G41 direct is legal, as long as Jack can reasonably be sure April isn’t a convicted felon or up to illegal activities. Jack can’t run a federal background check so it’s really just up to him to decide.

April has the G41 for awhile, and then say in January 2020 she sells it to Lindsay in Longview, Texas. Lindsay moves to Tusla, Oklahoma for work in January 2022.

In 2022, the Democrats have a supermajority in the House and Senate. Despite President Trump, they push through a universal background check law via veto override. UBCs become the law of the land on March 10, 2022. After that date, anyone purchasing a gun in the US is legally required to get a background check, regardless if the purchase is at a gun shop, or a private sale.

On April 2nd, Lindsay gets into a car accident. The car’s a total loss and the gap insurance sucks, so she’s on the hook still for $1000 or so. She can’t afford $1000. So she decides to sell one of her guns, namely G41 XYZ123. She remembers her co-worker, Jimmy, was thinking about getting a gun. So she hits up Jimmy, and Jimmy offers her $400 for the gun and some ammo. Lindsay knows about the UBC law, and so does Jimmy. However, they don’t want to go to the gun shop and pay $40 for the clerk to run a background check. So Jimmy just gives Lindsay $400 cash and takes possession of the weapon.

Unbeknownst to Lindsay, Jimmy is a prohibited person. Back in 2008, Jimmy got busted for selling cocaine. Jimmy did 2 years in the pen, and has been clean since. However, Jimmy likes to smoke a little weed. On April 18th, 2022, Jimmy gets pulled over for speeding. The cops, because reasons, decide to search Jimmy’s car. In his car, they find the weed, and G41 XYZ123. They book Jimmy, and find out he’s a prohibited person in terms of the gun, regardless.

So they ask Jimmy, “where and when did you get the gun?”

Jimmy, not being a snitch, says he got it from Lindsay back in December. Lindsay cannot access NICS, and Jimmy (other than the weed) is a good guy, so Lindsay could not have reasonably known Jimmy was a prohibited person after all.
Remember they did flout the UBC law and the gun changed hands a few weeks ago.

The cops initate a trace on G41 XYZ123. They call the ATF, which then calls GLOCK. GLOCK tells them they transferred the gun to RSR Dallas in July 2015. The ATF calls RSR who tells them the gun was transferred to Bob’s Gun and Grub on October 15th 2015. The ATF calls Bob’s and Bob’s goes through their 4473s and says they transferred the gun to Jack on June 4th 2016. The ATF sends someone to visit Jack, who says he sold the gun to April in 2017.

The ATF generally gives up a “trace” after that point, since they realize the last documented transfer of the gun was 5 years ago. Plus, Jimmy only possessed the weapon, he didn’t do anything with it. Nevermind having to find April. So they tell the Tulsa police what they know and leave it at that.

Tulsa PD brings in Lindsay, who knows about the UBC law. So (thankfully by chance) she independently corrobotates that she sold the gun to Jimmy in December, and had no idea he was a prohibited person. The cops have to let her go.

Remember, they broke the law by transferring the gun without a background check after March 10th, 2022. The gun was produced prior to March 10th, 2022 so the police cannot use the serial number to “prove” Jimmy and Lindsay broke the UBC law. G41 XYZ123, and 500 million (or more) other firearms were produced prior to March 10th, 2022. A lot of those guns changed hands “off the books as it were”.

The Government’s Solution - A Registry!

Oh, the registry. The favorite talking point of the semi-knowledgeable anti-gunner. If only all the guns in the US were tracked, all the time, we could figure out how guns get into the hands of bad people!

Maybe so, but these people naïvely assume 100% compliance. Criminals aren’t going to register their guns, and once a gun drops “off the radar”, the trail is near-impossible to discern. The only person that can prosecuted is the last “registered” owner who sold the gun without consulting the almighty government.

A registry won’t work for a myriad of reasons, most of which are just logistical.

A registry, at it’s core, is just a database. A hypothetical gun registry would have to track, in near-realtime, 500+ million items with associated data, that changes quite a lot. And, last time I checked, the government hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory with their competency in databases. Tax records, Obamacare, and even the NFA database are riddled with inaccuracies and errors.
In a post-registry firearms ownership world, accuracy would be important, since non-compliance would be a felony. How bad would it suck if the government audited their gun registry, and came looking for a gun you never owned to begin with? In cases like this, the burden of proof is on the accused, and not the accuser.

Another factor would be in “performance”. Right now, NICS, the federal background check system, slows and even crashes during peak times. If universal background checks and registration were the norm, the system would grind to a halt routinely. And I guarantee there’d be no budgeting for upgrades and enhancements. 500+ million data points and transactions, running on early-2000s technology, at best. This would be by design - they can’t repeal the Second Amendment, but they can try to make exercising it (legally), a huge mission.

Again, the prior record of the government with regards to data proves the futility. Remember when the Obamacare healthcare “marketplace” crashed on day 1? Ironically, the contractor responsible for healthcare.gov, CGI Federal, actually built a long gun registry for Canada. Canada, who has far fewer long guns than we do, actually scrapped the registry after spending billions for something that didn’t work and was of little use to law enforcment.

Conversely it would be a exercise in futility to enforce. Enforcement (ironically) requires armed agents of the State to execute. What strikes me as odd is that gun control supporters are often fellow travelers with anti-police movements and so forth. So, who is gonna enforce it then? The chess club?

And in the end, a federal registry of Title I (non-NFA) guns is prohibited by the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA). That law would have to be repealed to even begin thinking of a registry.

Also a registry would take time to build and execute, time enough for gun owners to take their business underground. The stats back this up. Here in the US, compliance with registration is often abysmal, with rates sometimes being below 10%. Globally, it’s worse, with off-the-books guns often outnumbering legally-registered guns. If someone wants a gun, they’re gonna get one.

However, all the roadblocks to a working registry would be a feature, not a bug. Crashing computers, delays on purchase, and so on, would discourage legal gun ownership. Illegal ownership would continue, but it would be difficult to continue the practices and traditions of firearms ownership.

It’s All Part Of The Scheme

As we’ve noted, a UBC won’t work without a registry. A registry of nearly half-a-billion guns or more would be inefficient and ineffective. The legal exercise of our rights would become perilous. Eventually, after a generation or two, the whole idea of private citizens owning arms would be culturally unacceptble, and then it’s over. The government would then have a true monopoly on the application of violence, and the people would be little more than subjects at that point. Of course, it’s not a huge problem if the government is benevolent, which it rarely is, but it becomes a problem if the government is malevolent, which it often is.

It’s incrementalism at it’s finest.

Freedom is fun, amazing, and a little dangerous. It’s also worth defending.

What Can I Do?

Get out there and spread the good word. Take people who aren’t into guns to the range. Show them how it’s done. Getting more people on board always helps.

Also support the various organizations fighting for the Second Amendment out there, including:

Second Amendment Foundation

NRA

Florida Carry

Jews For The Preservation Of Firearms Ownership

Yes, I listed the NRA here. Though as of late they’ve proved less-than-dedicated to the Second Amendment, in this case they have come out against the concept of UBC, so I’m putting them in there.

Also contact your representative. Even if they are a die-hard new-wave Democrat, at least they know not all their constitutients are on board with this harebrained scheme.

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