As a member of the NRA (I’m actually an endowment member so they can’t throw me out no matter what I say) I get emails from the NRA-ILA alerting me to state and federal gun laws which either weaken or strengthen gun ‘rights’ and the NRA’s response to such laws on both sides. The NRA has never bumped into a law which might make it more difficult for red-blooded Americans to exercise those precious 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but as a follower of don Corleone’s admonition to Michael about keeping friends close but enemies closer, I always read what the NRA-ILA has to say.
The last missive I received contained a summary of laws recently introduced in Congress which represent “longstanding proposals that would burden innocent Americans at every turn.” Chief among these proposals is the old bugaboo about ‘universal’ background checks which the NRA characterizes as a “perennial favorite of the gun control crowd,” because it “seeks to interpose the government (and expensive fees) into every exchange of firearms, including between trusted neighbors, close friends, and even family members,” This warning is then followed by the NRA’s coup de grace statement about all GVP-backed legislation, namely, that it will “chip away at the right to keep and bear arms until it becomes out of reach to the average American.” The same, old, slippery-slope argument which is used against ‘responsible’ gun regulations every, single time.
The gun violence prevention (GVP) community always cites the endless public surveys which allegedly show that a solid majority of Americans, even gun-owning Americans, even NRA, gun-owning Americans, are in favor of some extension of background checks beyond the initial, over-the-counter sale. I don’t believe these polls not just because the NRA is totally against such an idea, but because those survey results don’t square with anything I ever experienced in selling more than 12,000 rifles, shotguns and handguns in my own retail gun store.
I can guarantee you that every time I sold a gun in my shop, the purchaser filled out an ATF Form 4473 which I then used to contact the FBI-NICS examiners in West Virginia in order to get an approval for the sale. When the ATF audited my shop in 2013, they couldn’t find one, single instances in which we failed to get FBI-NICS approval before completing a sale. But I can tell you that at least half the customers made overt and nasty comments about the ‘goddamn government,’ or the ‘goddamn Kennedys,’ or the ‘goddamn Clintons’ while they were filling out the 4473 form. And I can also say without fear of contradiction that had the instant FBI-NICS check been voluntary, those same customers would have turned it down.
Nobody likes the government when it comes to be told what we must do. We pay taxes because we have to pay them, we (usually) drive at the speed limit because otherwise we might end up adding points to our license, paying a fine and seeing our insurance rates go up. In fact, many of us wouldn’t even bother to buy automobile insurance except we don’t have a choice. So why would anyone believe that just because people say that FBI-NICS is a ‘good thing,’ that those same folks can’t wait for the imposition of universal background checks?
Last month more than 26,000 guns were purchased in New York. How many private gun transfers took place? Less than 700. In New York State every gun transfer now requires a NICS background check, and it is simply not possible that in a state as big as New York that less than 3% of all gun transfers go between private hands. And yet many of the same folks who can’t be bothered to walk into a gun shop to give a gun to someone else will say they support universal NICS checks.
Know why the NRA opposes NICS checks? Because they know how gun owners really think, which is still something of a mystery for the GVP.