A Modest Proposal For How To Expand Background Checks.

Now that the Senate is trying to come up with some kind of law that will enable everyone to say we are safer than before a young man who claimed ISIS sympathies shot 49 people in an Orlando club, I’d like to offer a modest proposal that might make a difference in whether any new gun regulation will have the desired effect.  And the desired effect in this case is to keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands; i.e., the hands of suspected terrorists, whatever that means.

And the reason I say ‘whatever that means’ is that to be suspected is one thing, to have it proven is something else.  Which is known as ‘due process,’ a very important legal protection that might take a real shellacking in this particular case.  Because as I understand it, the government will be able to deprive someone from being able to buy a gun just by putting their name on some kind of ‘watch list,’ a process that will take place in a secret court.

ar           Adam Winkler, whose book on the Heller decision is now required reading by everyone on both sides of the gun debate, claims that this process wouldn’t deprive anyone of their Constitutional protections because it’s no different than what happens now when the government goes into court for approval to wiretap your phone.  But it is different because even if the FBI listens to my rantings on the telephone, I can still get off the phone, leave my house and go out to buy a gun. And since buying that gun is currently another Constitutional ‘right,’ which Constitutional protection should disappear first?

So I have a modest proposal that I somehow hope will be considered by all the lawmakers who are discussing this issue right now.  I also hope it will be considered by lawmakers who will be considering an expansion of background checks to cover private sales, which is another amendment to the bill that was offered by Senator Chris Murphy last night.  And finally, I hope my modest proposal will be considered by the vast galaxy of pundits and influencers who are all offering their own ideas for what to do, along with the public health researchers and legal scholars who are also weighing in on the issue at hand.  Note, by the way, that I don’t care whether Street Thug Trump or the NRA read what I have to say; Donald’s getting his hair in place for a fictitious Manhattan fundraiser that’s not going to raise him millions of bucks, and the NRA is getting ready for whatever they are getting ready for, as long as it involves some disparaging remarks about Hillary, gun-grabbers, so on and so forth.

It seems to me that just saying that we want to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ is putting the veritable cart ahead of the veritable horse.  Because the real question that we should be asking is: what kinds of guns? The Orlando shooter would never have walked into The Pulse with a bolt-action rifle like a Remington 700, or a semi-auto hunting rifle like a BAR.  For that matter, he also wouldn’t have showed up with a pump or semi-auto shotgun because, like the guns mentioned above, none of these weapons would have allowed him to get off multiple shots in the few minutes it took him to create mayhem inside the club.

If background checks were required only for all transfers of assault-style rifles and concealable handguns, this would cover the weapons that are probably responsible for 95% of the gun injuries which occur every year.  Less guns that require regulation would also make it easier for the regulators to do a more effective job. And while the ATF is certainly not going to relinquish an inch of their regulatory authority without putting up a fight, what we really don’t want is another Orlando-type massacre because another suspected something-or-other slipped through the cracks.


6 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal For How To Expand Background Checks.

  1. Exactly Mike. Most other countries have different purchasing laws for each kind of gun. Most severely restrict assault type weapons but allow hunting and target weapons to be purchased more easily. Why is the US so far behind? (Sarcasm)

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  3. Mike,

    I’ve been thinking along the same lines, so I wanted to ask you, as someone with far more knowledge on the subject.

    It seems to me that what makes one firearm more “effective” than another is: 1. how many rounds per minute it can deliver;
    2. the caliber of the rounds.

    I haven’t found much in the way of ranking guns by how quickly they fire, though. Are there ways to look that up?

    • Interesting question. You would have to take into account a number of different factors but one thing that stands out with the AR-style guns is that they not only can take mags that hold many more rounds than more ‘traditional’ sporting rifles, they also can be reloaded much quicker.

      • My understanding is that caliber matters less than how *many* rounds the shooter can get onto target quickly. So if the shooter can get 1 round from a .308 rifle (pretty powerful) on target in a 2-second time period, the shooter with a a .223/5.56mm (most common AR15 round, and has very light recoil) might be able to 3 or 4 rounds on target in that same time frame. Those 3 or 4 rounds are far more devastating than the one larger, more powerful shot.

        That’s part of the reasoning behind the AR15’s development, to get more rounds on target, and to allow the soldier to carry more rounds (because each cartridge is lighter). I own and shoot AR15s chambered for 5.56mm/.223, and I’m always astonished at how quickly I can get rounds on target. It’s an efficient weapon, to be sure.

        Mike – thanks for the blog. I was made aware of it recently, and one gun guy to another, and as a guy who’s also a technical writer, I think you do a fine job of clearly explaining a number of serious issues. Good work!

      • Is there a way, then, to come up with a calculation based on the different factors? For instance, I’ve seen the videos for the bump gun modifications that look like they can turn a semi-automatic gun into full-auto.

        I don’t know what the right number would be, but it seems to me that, if you can throttle the number (and caliber?) of rounds a gun can fire, it would still be serviceable for self-defense, but would be less suitable for the kinds of mass shootings like Orlando, and that such a throttle could apply to both handguns and rifles, and be less susceptible to legal loopholes (like the bullet button).

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