As controversial as the various proposals for gun control legislation have been in the wake of the Newtown shooting, one idea that’s managed to survive the debate and gain some traction, even among gun owners, is universal background checks.
That impulse is a good one. We all want to stop criminals and the dangerous (or potentially dangerous) mentally ill from getting weapons. As a gun owner myself, I consider background checks an acceptable price to pay for the right to own a gun. I share that belief with many other gun owners.
At the same time, NRA head Wayne LaPierre reportedly plans to tug at that thread a little in his Senate testimony this week, when he will argue, according to a Washington Post report, that “background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them.”
He’ll get flak for this, of course, but background checks, like all proposed gun legislation, deserve some scrutiny — for the reason LaPierre suggests, as well as others.
For one, criminals tend to ignore laws and are loath to provide their personal identification in the midst of pursuing criminal activity. As Glenn Kessler reported in the Washington Post this week, a 2004 survey of inmates in state prisons who were incarcerated for crimes committed with handguns found that only 11% bought their guns from licensed gun dealers. The vast majority acquired them from friends, on “the street,” or stole them. So now matter how well intentioned, background checks…