Criminals don’t follow the law.
This painfully obvious truth is at the heart of a major problem with the latest round of gun control legislation put forward by Democrats — and some Republicans — in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
A number of legislators are pushing for so-called “universal” background checks which would require a background check before any gun is transferred at any time.
At present, only licensed dealers must perform background checks. Private sales, or transfers among family members, and friends aren’t required to run such a check..
There’s a reason that Second Amendment advocates are wary of “universal” checks, according: the criminals being targeted by such laws simply don’t get their guns through means that would require a check.
A study in 2016 by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys inmates who used firearms in the commission of their crimes found that just under half— 49 percent — either stole the firearms they used, got them “off the street” or other illegal means.
Only 6.7 percent said they went through a background check using their own names.
Universal check laws don’t have statistics on their side, either.
A 2017 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that of three states that had introduced universal background check laws, only one saw a significant increase in the number of checks done after the law.
The two others, Washington and Colorado, saw no significant changes whatsoever. The authors note that much the effect comes from noncompliance. The solution? More assertive enforcement.
What does that assertive enforcement look like, when transactions between friends and neighbors have literally no nexus to government whatsoever?
Short of a statewide or national firearms registry — which would draw fierce opposition from even the most moderate gun rights advocates — there’s simply no way to enforce checks on private sales.
If a law can’t be enforced and doesn’t do any good, does it really have any business being a law?