The Totalitarianism Of Universal Background Checks – OpEd

Finally, some sanity, and from a somewhat unexpected source. The ACLU is concerned about the civil liberties implications of the new Harry Reid Senate bill to establish so-called “universal background checks” for firearms purchases. The organization has tended toward silence on gun rights, but at least now it recognizes aspects of the problem with this terrible proposal.

Ever since Sandy Hook, the Obama administration and its progressive choir have demanded a new Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). Now it looks like that plan is toast. California Senator Dianne Feinstein blames gun owners and the NRA, and in a sense we should have expected all along that this proposal would get nowhere. Such a ban would mostly target “semi-automatic” rifles—which, despite all the hysterics, simply refers to any standard rifle that fires one round each time the trigger is pulled—that happen to have esthetic elements like the pistol grip that do not in fact add to the weapons’ lethality. This is the nonsensical standard used to ban some classes of weapons instrumentally identical to the ones banned in 1994.

The first AWB devastated the Democrats politically, and probably contributed as much as anything to the Republicans’ crushing victory in the 1994 congressional elections after forty years in the legislative minority. It also hurt Al Gore in his run against George W. Bush in 2000. The ban generally prohibited ordinary but scary looking rifles, which are used in about two percent of violent crimes committed with firearms. The law did not apply to, say, most of the weapons used at the Columbine school massacre in 1999. But it did interfere with Americans’ basic right to own what we can fairly call the modern version of the musket. Millions of Americans own such weapons like the AR-15, the most popular rifle and one targeted by the Democrats’ proposal for a new, robust AWB. These weapons are used for hunting, sport, and self-defense. They are not, despite all the misinformation to the contrary, repeating, military-style rifles.

In any event, the unpopularity of an AWB always doomed this proposal, especially under a Democratic president as distrusted on the right as Obama. The Republicans have the House and too many Democrats in the Senate are loyal to their gun-owning constituents.

So this whole time, the real threat to our firearms freedom has been these less debated, peripheral proposals—proposals that strip people the state deems “mentally ill” of the right to bear arms, proposals that violate the civil rights of released convicts, proposals to increase penalties for violations of current law, and, as disturbing as anything, proposals to institute “universal background checks.”

The gun restrictionists have pointed to polls showing more than 90% approval of such background checks, including among a vast majority of conservatives, Republicans, and gunowners. Liberty is always attacked on the margins, and most Americans don’t go to gun shows and so don’t see the big deal. Surely the state should know who is armed. Surely we don’t want people buying and selling guns freely.

But, in fact, universal background checks are arguably even more tyrannical than banning whole classes of weapons. Why should the government know who is armed? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to freely buy and sell private property without government permission? Half of Americans see background checks as the first step toward full registration then confiscation. Many fear that the new law would create records of these deals that would not immediately be destroyed, which could form databases or enable government in further nefarious purposes. The progressives have tended to regard any of these worries as paranoia, but it looks like the ACLU is now among the paranoid.

There is no need to discuss pure hypotheticals. There have been gun confiscations in the United States. After the Civil War, officials conducted confiscations to disarm American Indians and blacks became the target in the Jim Crow South. Confiscations followed Hurricane Katrina, along with the rest of the government’s martial law response. Since many gun controllers openly say they want a total ban of certain kinds of firearms, or all firearms, why wouldn’t gunowners fear that registration will lead to confiscation? The U.S. president promised that he would not take away Americans’ rifles, then went ahead and proceeded to propose to do just that. Add all of this to the database growth, the warrantless wiretapping, the domestic surveillance drones, the frightening executive power grabs concerning detention, interrogation, and executions, and the overall militarization of policing that has unfolded thanks to the wars on drugs and terror, and it seems fairly appropriate that in the age of Bush and Obama, civil libertarians of all stripes would resist the drive toward universal background checks or anything with such an Orwellian name as that.

This whole matter should also remind us of the interlocking nature of personal liberties. Abolishing the Second Amendment necessarily means abolishing the Fourth as well. Just ask the millions of black and Hispanic young men stopped and frisked in New York City in the name of gun control and with the purpose, as the police commissioner reportedly put it, to “instill fear” of police in these demographic groups. It is the violations of privacy that concern the ACLU, but anyone jealous of her security in her papers, persons, and effects should recoil at the thought of the state collecting these records.

Of course, it should go without saying that when it comes to criminal enterprise, universal background checks are unenforceable. In a country with as many guns as there are people, criminals and the state will always get the weapons they want. Firearms are easier to manufacture than many illegal drugs, and we see how well the state has stamped those out. The rapid developments in 3-D printing makes it even crazier that we’d still be talking about gun control as anything but a threat to the liberty of the law abiding.

The AWB looks defeated for now, but perhaps that was always known to be inevitable by our cynical civilian disarmament fetishists in Washington, DC. Perhaps the real goal was to get what could be gotten now—the beginnings of a national database of every lawful gun owner. The so-called gun show loophole—the freedom of owners to sell firearms to one another with few encumbrances—is a pocket of liberty. Closing this loophole would be a tragedy. We can only hope that civil libertarians across the spectrum ban together to challenge this march to erode these core freedoms.

Anthony Gregory

Anthony Gregory is a Research Editor at The Independent Institute. His articles have appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, East Valley Tribune (AZ), Contra Costa Times, The Star (Chicago, IL), Washington Times, Vacaville Reporter, Palo Verde Times, and other newspapers.

4 thoughts on “The Totalitarianism Of Universal Background Checks – OpEd”

  1. My right to defend my life and property is as absolute as, and inseparable from, my right to live. The unfortunate and inconvenient truth is that the core premise of the Left is this: you have no right to live. By their lights, you are no more than a thing, an animal, or a machine. Therefore, you have no right to the fruits of your labors. You are a ‘resource’ at best, a fungible, and ultimately disposable asset of the State. Or you are in their way and must be eliminated. There’s the last 200 years of leftist philosophy and its practical consequences in a nutshell.

    The ‘progressive’ refusal to acknowledge the value of individual human life over an evanescent conflation of group rights and collectivist ideology is one of the principal reasons why no peace, no accommodation, no compromise can ever be made with them. Theirs is a reckless, willful and fundamentally evil disregard for the most fundamental of all of our rights: and that is the individual’s right to live.

    This premise is, has been, and continues to be central to the justification for the wholesale slaughter of millions of human beings – and the enslavement and impoverishment of hundreds of millions more.

  2. “But, in fact, universal background checks are arguably even more tyrannical than banning whole classes of weapons.”

    Not discusswed is this elephant in the living room: Under the UCB, every law-abiding citizen has to get the governments OK (via the check) in order to buy/transfer a firearm. Then all some future fuhrer (he may be here now) has to do is declare a National Emergency, real or imagined, and shut down the checks “for public safety” – Viola! an instant ban on any future transfers.

    Los Angeles did that in their last riots and it was only those Korean shop owners with AK-47s that prevented large areas from burning down. This is not some paranoid dream. Three or more states have already modified their laws to prevent their governors from interfering with lawful gun owners during a declared emergency.

    For those of you who do not now own a gun: Suppose the emergency is REAL and the rioting mob are headed your way, intent on getting their “fair share” of your property or family. Your neighbor can’t/won’t loan you a spare gun because of the laws and the gun shops are shut down. Welcome to the Left’s Brave New World.

  3. VOTE OUT the Obamas, Reid, Fienstine, Pelosie and all anti-gun people! Join, donate and support the NRA and support the “Constitution” of this Great Country!

  4. Gun Registration = Gun Confiscation
    Written on Friday, April 5, 2013 by Frank Grochowski
    The on-going debate on gun control shows that history does repeat itself. Time passes, and memory dims. Events that once shook the world are now nothing more than forgotten horrors to be read in old history books. These books and the old bodies moldering in their graves seem to have no impact on today’s world, where new generations enjoy the fruits of their forgotten sacrifices. People today enjoy the benefits that were long ago paid for with spilled blood, while having to spill none of their own.
    We are living in a time of a “gimme generation,” a generation that seems to want everything for nothing, and they want it now. They demand instant gratification for their every desire – after all, the world owes them a living, right? So in attempting to achieve their Utopia on Earth, they are willing to sacrifice a few basic rights in exchange for a temporary sense of safety, and fairness, while getting all their free stuff, without having to pay for it or make any sacrifices of their own.
    Today’s politician simply has to tell the masses what they want to hear, with pretty words, while telling them something is for their own safety or the public good. But while people are enjoying their easy life and free stuff, they don’t remember that everything comes with a price, and there really isn’t any free stuff. The Government cannot give you anything that it does not first take away from someone else, but it can control your life through laws, regulations, and taxation.
    The main topic of discussion these days is gun control. Liberal progressive politicians are trying hard to convince people to give up their guns in order to stop violence. You know the mantra: Guns are bad and hurt people, so give up your guns while we all sing Kumbaya. Without guns it will be a safer world for everyone. But there is a problem with this mantra: Do you really think criminals will give up their guns? Each gun law seems to just give birth to yet more gun laws. When the citizens’ guns are gone and only the government has guns, what then? We will be at the mercy and control of the prevailing regime of the time, with no means to resist. When this happens, the government is no longer the servant, but the master. It will then enact even more laws for “your protection” and the sheeple will have no choice but to fall in lock step and obey.
    Consider the following historical facts:
    1929 – the USSR established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    1911 – Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    1928 – Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill and others who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    1935 – China established gun control. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    1956 – Cambodia established gun control. From 1975 to 1977 one million “educated” people, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    1964 – Guatemala established gun control. From 1964 to 1981, one hundred thousand Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated
    1970 – Uganda established gun control. From 1971 to 1979 three hundred thousand Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
    The body count is not yet in on the number of Serbs who were unable to defend themselves and were exterminated, but the television images should still be fresh in your mind. Adding the victims of genocide in Barundi, Darfur, and Iraq brings the total number of victims who lost their lives because of gun control to approximately 100 million people in the last century. These are cold, hard facts.
    Every time gun registration has been enacted “for the safety of citizens,” it has led to gun confiscation.
    We should learn from the mistakes of the past: the next time someone speaks out in favor of gun control, ask which group of citizens they want to see exterminated.
    Rights are lost in small, insidious increments that seem inconsequential at the time, but they are never regained. Compare the erosion of rights to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon was not formed in one fell swoop, but little by little, day by day, grain of sand by grain of sand until finally there was a gaping chasm. Rights that were paid for in blood are now being frittered away by a generation that has never had to sacrifices (with the exception of the few and the proud who voluntarily join the military). How many of these individuals has ever stood graveside to accept a folded flag “On behalf of a grateful nation”?
    Even the leader of the greatest nation on earth has never spent a day in the armed service of his country. Yet the “gimme generation” saw nothing wrong with this and elected him to the highest office in the land-not once but twice. The Oval Office where Obama puts his feet on the desk is the same Oval Office where Woodrow Wilson guided the country during WWI, Franklin Roosevelt steadied the helm during the dark days of WWII, Harry Truman gave the orders to load the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car with Little Boy and Fat Man; and where Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon set the course that took us into and out of Viet Nam. It is the same office where President George Bush drew a line in the sand and put an end to the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. That Office and all those events were bought and paid for in American blood.
    If you make a lie big enough and repeat it often enough, people will believe it and the myth becomes reality. Gun control is NOT for the ‘good of the people’; gun control is about one thing and one thing only: government control!
    Wake up America!!!!

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