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The Gun-Control 'Compromise' the Left Will Never Accept

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/John Locher, File

So-called “Gun Safety” advocates don’t really care about public safety, and it’s easy to prove that all they really fear is an armed populace who opposes their political agenda.  Here’s the deal: They could have the “Universal Background Checks” (UBC) they’re fighting for, if they made just one small compromise.

Now, Second Amendment supporters understandably cringe at the word “compromise” because for generations the GOP dictionary has defined it as: “Giving the Democrats half of their ridiculous demands and then hoping they say nice things about us on TV for a few days.”   But that’s not real compromise, it’s capitulation.

An artful deal gives each side what it most wants, with concessions that shouldn’t be painful for either side.   

Gun-controllers claim to worry that many states allow individuals to sell firearms privately without background checks, and they say that this puts guns in the hands of “prohibited persons” who’ll use them criminally.  They probably figure that a background check requirement would mean some of these criminals are turned away by law-abiding sellers.  Maybe.  But we needn’t debate whether this happens often enough for UBC laws to have a meaningful effect on public safety.  They say yes, we say no.  But with the right deal it doesn’t matter - let’s let them have their way.  Almost.

We gun rights advocates actually believe that Universal Background Checks can enable tyranny.   The other guys think that’s crazy and paranoid.  But our logic is that if the would-be gun banners in government knew exactly who has what guns, a ban becomes more tempting because it’s easy to enforce – just knock on the listed owners’ doors.  But when, say, 20% of all the semi-auto rifles are in unknown hands, a ban must rely on voluntary compliance, and they know that’s never going to happen.   Nancy Pelosi knows there’ll still be millions of ARs and AKs out there even after the confiscation raids she might envision, so enforcement of a ban becomes a waste of political capitol and pointless bloodshed –why bother?  Tyranny averted.   

If they don’t think gun confiscation can enable tyranny, they forget what real Democrats like Hubert Humphrey argued on the presidential campaign trail not too long ago (and never got a peep of criticism from extremists in their own party):  “the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”

It doesn’t matter whether they’re nuts to think that Universal Background Checks will meaningfully help public safety.  Or if we’re nuts to think that we can prevent tyranny by having guns the government doesn’t know about.  With true compromise, it simply doesn’t matter.

All we ask in exchange for Universal Background Checks is this: Stop collecting data about who’s buying what guns.  It’s like HIPPA privacy for gun owners.  A background check doesn’t require a database on gun owners and serial numbers any more than liquor laws require the government to know how often I buy my preferred spirit.

For ten bucks, any seller could phone in a buyer’s driver’s license number to find out whether the buyer’s prohibited from buying a gun (appallingly, the current check system is off limits to responsible private sellers wishing to conduct a check).  The new system could even be used by anyone to check out a babysitter or contractor.  This system would record only that the ID was checked and issued a confirmation number.   The seller can keep the confirmation as a defense to a false charge of selling to an unqualified buyer.  The system knows only that someone was checked but has no idea if they even bought a gun, let alone what model or serial number.

Stop there, and that’s the compromise we usually get: They get most of what they want, and we get nothing.   So here’s the real compromise: even firearms dealers will no longer have to keep a record (known as Form 4473) of who bought what – those eventually end up in government hands for databasing.  The dealer verifies his customer by ID, (just like a liquor retailer who cards a customer) but gun purchases are private.   

Win-win.  We win our tyranny insurance, and they win the public safety they swear is their goal.  But their opposition to this type of genuine compromise belies their true goal of political control that requires their opponents to be disarmed.   

Cue the crickets.

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