President Biden’s quest for sweeping gun control legislation relies on a hopelessly broken background check system.
Now the president has called on the Senate to pass two bills that have already cleared the House.
The first bill, titled “Bipartisan Background Checks Act,” would expand background checks on firearm sales and close a gun show and online sales “loophole.” This bill seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Any licensed armed dealer in the United States already has to do a background check on any firearm they transfer to another party, no matter the location. Gun control advocates believe that guns are being sold at gun shows without any check being done by private parties and that one may buy a gun online and it will be shipped to his house.
While it is possible for a private party to sell a gun to another at a gun show or in the parking lot of a gun show, it should be remembered that a convicted felon even walking into a gun show or touching a firearm offered to him in a parking lot by a guy who doesn’t want to sell inside the show, commits a felony. I think it’s a fair question to ask why President Biden isn’t doing more to ensure felons aren’t going to gun shows. It’s already illegal for any person to sell a firearm to a felon or to any person they believe might put that firearm to use for an illegal purpose. How would requiring a background check deter anyone from selling a gun to a felon or dangerous person if they were already inclined to do so anyway? Adding a new law will do nothing to help enforce the laws we already but which are not being enforced.
As for online sales, it’s illegal for a private owner to ship a firearm to another person across state lines. He may ship it to a licensed gun dealer who may affect that transfer to another party, but direct transfers are illegal. Requiring a background check between these private purchasers would not change that prohibition one bit. And again, if the idea is to prevent felons from obtaining illegal weapons why not prosecute people who attempt to buy guns and commit a felony just when they attempt to do so?
Finally, the Instant Background Check System is neither “instant” nor does it really contain full “background” information that can be relied upon definitively.
In December 2017, the Chicago Tribune ran a story titled: “FBI’s gun background-check database is missing records of millions of cases.” The story gives a very complete picture of what a mess the background check system is.
“[Seven] million records are absent from the system, based on a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics.”
“At least 25 percent of felony convictions… are not available.”
“The government-funded a four-year effort beginning in 2008 to try to estimate how many records existed of people who should be barred under federal law from buying a gun but aren’t flagged in the FBI system. That effort was abandoned in 2012 because of the cost.”
“[It] misses an untold number of drug addicts, because there is no good mechanism for probation or parole services agencies to share that type of data..”
“[The] military was ‘not consistently submitting criminal history data to the FBI criminal history files.'”
In a piece titled “Sources, Secret Service inserted itself into case of Hunter Biden’s gun,” Politico offered a recent example, which would hit President Biden himself pretty close to home, of how this background check system remains hopelessly broken.
According to Politico, Hunter Biden had an altercation with his wife who was concerned for his mental stability. She tossed a recently purchased .38 revolver, belonging to him, into a dumpster behind a supermarket in Willmington Deleware. While local authorities, and even the FBI, got involved in trying to retrieve the missing firearm (because it was disposed of near a school) the Secret Service attempted to confiscate the original paperwork that Biden had used to purchase the firearm from the licensed dealer who sold it to him.
Here’s is why that may have happened: In filling out the transaction form that prompts the FBI background check needed to complete the purchase, Hunter gave a “no” answer to the question “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
He lied on that form and signed his name to it. Five years previously, Hunter Biden had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after getting “popped” for cocaine on his urinalysis test. Biden’s other substance abuse problems are a matter of public record openly discussed by his own family. Hunter Biden may belong on a poster of who should not have firearms given his very public reputation for various forms of substance abuse.
The background check system should have stopped him from making that purchase. His false statement on the transaction form would then be evidence in a felony charge against him for an illegal attempt to buy a firearm, but that didn’t happen. Hunter Biden passed that background check because his discharge from the Navy for drug use was probably never entered into the system. He is also unlikely to be charged for swearing falsely on the transaction form as well, not because he is being protected as the son of the president, but because almost no one is ever charged for this offense.
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) published a report in 2018 titled “Few Individuals Denied Firearms Purchases Are Prosecuted and [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)] Should Assess Use of Warning Notices in Lieu of Prosecutions.” GAO states that in 2017, the background check system denied firearm sales to 112,090 prohibited persons who illegally sought to obtain a firearm. The ATF opened investigations into 12,710 denials.
Tellingly, the United States Attorney’s Offices around the country brought just 12 cases forward for the prosecution of offenders.
Clearly, the background check system is a leaking sieve that President Biden believes can be fixed by just pouring more water through it, as this latest bill would do. When the government takes authority on itself to deal with things like this, it has to be accountable to the People for its successes or failures in how it is exercising authority on our behalf.
In order to address the problems, which President Biden and gun control advocates think this country has with the wrong people getting guns, the broken background check system should first be fixed.