This week, Nancy Pelosi is making good on her promise to bring sweeping gun control bills now that the Democrats are in the House majority. As with nearly all gun control proposals, the first two bills being offered this week won’t make us any safer. Arguably, they will make the law-abiding even less safe.
The first bill H.R. 8, sponsored by California Congressman Mike Thompson requires a background check for every firearm sold, including personal transfers. When many people hear the words “background check”, or “universal background check”, they respond positively. Although, they might not know that instant background checks have been federal law since 1993. To be clear, H.R. 8 isn’t addressing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and other state-based instant background check systems. H.R. 8 includes only personal transfers and sales that occur apart from of Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) gun store, such as gifting a firearm to a friend.
H.R. 8 includes the language: to ensure individuals prohibited from gun possession are not able to obtain firearms. How does this bold claim hold up to scrutiny?
Bill sponsor Mike Thompson from California's 5th district needs to look no further than his own state’s results of its “comprehensive background check” laws. A study in the 2019 Annals of Epidemiology found that there was no change in the homicide rates in the 10 years following the passage of the 1991 law. Californians were no safer, but how do background check laws make us less safe?
Consider an instance where a woman was in fear for her life after having left an abusive spouse. Under the proposed law, borrowing a firearm overnight from a friend would make both people criminals. In 2015 in New Jersey, Carol Bowne begged the State to allow her to protect herself. Under New Jersey’s gun permitting scheme, Bowne had to get a permit to purchase a gun, although she had filed a restraining order against her violent ex-boyfriend. The process took two months. While Carol Bowne had to beg the government for her right to defend herself, her ex-boyfriend stabbed her to death in her driveway. Waiting cost Carol Bowne her life.
Meanwhile, H.R. 8 does nothing to address the cascade of government failures that continue to expose the deficiencies in NICS. The killer in the 2009 slaughter of 13 at Ft. Hood, TX was able to legally purchase his gun, despite an ongoing terrorism investigation against him. The killer in the 2015 massacre of nine church members in Charleston, South Carolina would have been denied his gun purchase, had NICS been properly updated with his felony drug possession conviction. After each of these failures, the FBI said it would work to improve the system. Yet just weeks ago, a convicted felon was able to buy a gun —despite the NICS rules that should have prohibited him— and killed 5 co-workers in Aurora, IL.
Yet Congressional Democrats expect us to believe that just one more gun control law, on top of this cascade of failures, will make us safer. It won’t.
The second bill is H.R. 1112, sponsored by South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn. Currently, there is a three-day window after the NICS check has been requested, for the FBI or other agency to deny the purchase. H.R. 1112 extends this window to 10 business days. Currently, law-abiding gun owners see the three-day window as a safety net. If NICS does not return an answer after three days, then the gun store may release the gun to the purchaser. Although the language in the bill includes the phrase, “strengthen background check procedures,” this bill would only lengthen the process for law-abiding gun owners.
H.R. 1112’s sponsors expect us to believe that this extra time will stop criminals from getting a gun. But, according to a 2016 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics titled, Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, only 1.3% of prisoners obtained a gun from a retail source and used it during their offense. It is overwhelmingly law-abiding citizens who will be at the mercy of the FBI to give them permission to by a firearm.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Caucus will likely pass both of these bills. We can expect the debate on the floor of the House of Representatives to be long on dramatics and short on facts. Refer to the facts above, and don’t be fooled by Congress members trying to convince us that their actions will save lives. They won’t.