« »

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bipartisan effort to draft universal background check bill stumbles — slightly

Greg Sargent:

Okay, I’ve got some more detail for you on the status of Senate negotiations over the plan to expand the background check system.

A couple weeks ago I reported that the bipartisan group of Senators negotiating this deal — Tom Coburn, Joe Manchin, Chuck Schumer, and Mark Kirk — were 95 percent of the way there. That was reiterated in press accounts over the weekend. But then Coburn, who is central to the discussions because of his sterling “gun rights” record, went on TV and said the deal is not close — that the sticking point has to do with whether to keep records on sales.

Here’s the situation, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The sticking point right now only concerns guns sold in rural or remote areas. The Senators have agreed on a key provision: How background checks would be expanded to most private sales. The way it would work is that in most cases, if you want to sell me a gun, you and I would go to a federally licensed dealer, who would run the check for a fee and okay the sale. In that case, a record of the sale would be kept by the gun store — which is already how it works for existing background checks. Coburn, according to the sources, does not have a problem with this.

However, Coburn wants private buyers and sellers in remote areas (how this would be defined is not yet clear) to be able to remotely get federal dealers to run the background check, via an internet portal. This is the central focus of negotiations right now. In these cases, Coburn says, no record of the sale should be kept. Dems disagree, arguing that some kind of record is necessary for enforcement.

OK, so this is stupid, right? What’s happening here is that Republicans and other gun nuts have been fearmongering about a “gun registry” that could be used by Adolph Joseph Hitlerstalin to send black gun grabbin’ helicopters to gun owners’ houses. I trust I don’t need to explain to most of you why this is on the insane side of the real world concerns dial.

But is it really a hang up? Well, probably not. It’s more Coburn putting up a fight over a trivial detail to show the gun nuts that he’s still on their side. And frankly, if they’ll gullible enough to buy the paranoid gun registry/gun grabbing fantasy, they’re dumb enough to let Coburn pull the wool over their eyes.

“[T]his sticking point is not insurmountable,” Sargent reports. “After all, depending on how you define ‘remote area,’ the concession Coburn wants (no records on those sales) might only end up impacting a small minority of sales, ones that would not be criminal in any case (since the person passed the check). If this were done, you’d still see a dramatically expanded background check system.” Not much of a downside there.

The only downside I can see is the aforementioned enforcement problem. Since there would be no record of these gun sales, what we’re really talking about are background checks on the honor system. Democrats are very correct to be concerned about this. But this sticking point might be overcome by defining who’s a gun dealer and who’s just some guy selling off a squirrel rifle he doesn’t use anymore. It seems to me that the kind of private sales that Coburn’s worried about don’t happen all that often, so maybe anything more than two or three sales a year should qualify you as a dealer — in which case records would have to be kept.

No one’s hair’s on fire over this, so it seems more like a speed bump than a road block.

Search Archive:

Custom Search