Since Flanagan Bought His Glock Legally, Why Have Background Checks At All?

In case you didn’t know it, there’s absolutely no reason to pass laws regulating guns. Want to know why?  Because criminals don’t obey laws.  And since the only people who use guns in ways they shouldn’t be used are criminals, what’s the point of passing more gun laws, right?

The idea that gun laws are a useless response to gun violence doesn’t come from me.  It doesn’t even come from the NRA.  It comes from the place that has tried to pass all kinds of gun laws the last few years, namely, the White House.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s today’s headline from the NRA-ILA website:  “White House concedes new gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Virginia gunman.” The headline links to a story in the Washington Times that quotes WH Press Secretary Josh Earnest that background checks wouldn’t (and didn’t) stop gunman Vester Flanagan from legally purchasing two Glocks and using one of them to fatally gun down Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

flanagan                Now the truth is that the ability of Vester Flanagan or anyone else to purchase a gun and use it to commit mayhem has absolutely nothing to do with whether guns should be regulated at all.  But the NRA and its self-appointed messaging minions like John Lott are out there busily selling the idea that the reason we don’t need gun laws is that they don’t work.  Lott got out there the same day as the Virginia shooting and proclaimed that “virtually all” NICS background checks were “false-positives,” meaning that not only did the background check law not work properly, but worse, it deprived law-abiding people from being able to protect themselves with guns.

So I went to Lott’s website to see whether this comment had even the slightest bearing on the facts, because according to Brady and other gun-control organizations, including the ATF, NICS denials over the years have kept several million guns out of the wrong hands.  And here is Lott’s ‘evidence’ that ‘virtually all’ NICS transaction denials should have been allowed to proceed.  According to our intrepid gun researcher, there were 71,010 initial denials, of which 4,681 were referred to ATF field offices for further investigation, and the remaining 66,329 “did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after [further] review.”  Of the 4,681 referrals, the ATF reversed 572.  Lott doesn’t present a single bit of evidence for how many of the remaining 66,329 were reversed, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming that ‘virtually’ all NICS denials deprived law-abiding citizens from buying guns.

Further on, Lott makes brief mention about background checks conducted by what are called Point of Contact state agencies that utilize the NICS databases but conduct the background checks themselves.  In fact, the total number of POC background checks exceeds the number conducted by the FBI, which means that POC denials also probably exceed the denials that come from the FBI. If Lott is unaware of POC procedures, he shouldn‘t be writing about the regulatory system at all.  If he knows about what goes on in POC states and chooses to ignore it, then his claims about how NICS deprives ‘virtually all’ law-abiding citizens from getting guns is a conscious effort to state a case that isn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no fan of the ATF and my book, Gun Trafficking in America, is a study of how the ATF has screwed up big time since it first got into the gun regulatory business thanks to GCA68.  But it seems to me that if gun violence is going to be addressed honestly, then laws and regulations are tools that need to be evaluated in clear, evidence-based terms.  Given what I have written about the ATF, I would be the last person to criticize John Lott if he could back up his pronouncements on the inadequacy of NICS with solid data that makes sense. Or is the attack on NICS really a way to divert attention from engaging in a serious discussion about gun violence itself?

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