So-called “universal” background checks are one of the Left’s go-to gun controls. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly push them as a way to keep Americans safe, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) pushes them to prevent another Sandy Hook-like attack, and Moms Demand Action pushes them as part of the group’s “common sense” gun control agenda.
But there is a problem: Universal background checks do not work. In fact, they have failed everywhere they have been implemented, and this failure is demonstrable.
To begin, it might be wise to define a universal background check. What is this strange creature to which the Left so doggedly clings?
Practically speaking, a universal background check is the very same background check America now has for all retail gun sales. It is a check whereby the criminal history of a would-be gun buyer is sifted by the FBI before the gun sale is allowed to proceed. One difference between a universal check and the checks currently in place is that universal checks occur on private sales and retail, instead of simply occurring on retail sales alone.
Amid the emotional roller coaster that often seizes Americans following a firearm-based, public mass attack, the Left will push an expansion of background checks—from our current retail system to a universal system—ubiquitously as a means of safety. But the problem with such a push is that it is does not deal with the fact that our current background check system fails to stop latent criminals at retail, which can only mean it would also fail to stop latent criminals on private sales, were it to be expanded.This is why the existence of universal background checks in certain states around the U.S. has not translated into the safety that the Left promises.
In other words, an individual with criminal intent, but no criminal history, can pass a background check to buy a gun at a retail establishment—as Gabby Giffords’ attacker Jared Loughner did in 2010. In the same way, an individual with criminal intent but no criminal history would be able to buy a gun via a private sale if universal background checks were in place. And in the case of someone like the Sandy Hook attacker—a 20-year-old who stole his guns—no degree of background checks would work because he bypassed the buying process altogether. This is why the existence of universal background checks in certain states around the U.S. has not translated into the safety that the Left promises.
Consider California, where so-called “universal” background checks are the law of the land. On Dec. 2, 2015, the two San Bernardino attackers had no problem rushing a county building with rifles and handguns and killing 14 co-workers. Universal background checks posed no hindrance. Or think about the Oct. 8, 2016, Palm Springs attack in which two officers—Jose Vega and Lesley Zerebny—were killed. The alleged attacker, John Felix, possessed a stolen gun. Moreover, the stolen gun was an AR-15, which proves not only the impotency of universal background checks, but also of banning so-called “assault weapons.” (In the end, such bans only apply to law-abiding citizens.)
Consider Washington state, where universal background checks were adopted as the law of the land in 2014. On Sept. 23, 2016, an attacker had no problem entering a Burlington mall, opening fire with a rifle, and killing five people. And in Colorado—a state that instituted universal background checks in the wake of the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary—one gunman randomly shot and killed three individuals on Halloween 2015, and another gunman shot and killed two civilians and a police officer in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack on Nov. 27, 2016.The bottom line? Universal background checks are a universal failure.
Following the Planned Parenthood attack, CNN anchor Brianna Keilar told Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, “[The gun control] efforts which you spearheaded obviously didn’t prevent [the Planned Parenthood shooting].”
Multiple examples could be listed from other countries with universal background checks, all of which would show the checks do not deliver safety internationally, either.
For instance, France has universal background checks, yet it also had 12 innocents killed in cold blood during the Jan. 7, 2015, Charlie Hebdo attack. Moreover, on Nov. 13, 2015, armed terrorists killed 130 in Paris. Similar stories of armed attacks during recent months and years could be cited from Quebec, Munich and Copenhagen, all three of which have universal background checks and myriad other stringent gun controls.
The bottom line? Universal background checks are a universal failure. They inconvenience law-abiding citizens attempting to acquire the firearms they need for self-defense, yet pose no hindrance for latent criminals and/or terrorists (or for criminals and/or terrorists who steal the guns they use).
Additionally, universal background checks pose a threat to freedom. They do this because they are not enforceable apart from a gun registry. After all, how can a state know when a gun changes hands unless said state possesses a registry containing the names of every gun owner and a list of the guns owned? This is why 32 out of 33 New Mexico sheriffs opposed recent Bloomberg-endorsed efforts to heave universal background checks upon the backs of law-abiding New Mexicans.
The sheriffs wrote a letter warning that, if implemented, Democrat-sponsored universal background checks would lead to a gun registry in New Mexico. The universal background check scheme was subsequently defeated.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AWRHawkins, or reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.