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Gun Control Regulations Won’t Work – John Lott

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Today, upset that Congress has refused, in his words, to do “something, anything” to stop gun violence, President Obama released executive actions that bring the country closer to his oft-stated goal of “universal” background checks that cover the private transfer of firearms. The current law is very clear. Only federally licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks, and only sellers whose “principal objective of livelihood and profit [is] the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms” are required to obtain a federal license. Anyone “who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms” is specifically exempted from the licensing requirement.

But that doesn’t matter to Obama, whose actions today will require many sellers to get a license if they sell even a single gun. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters that licenses would now be required based on such things as, “whether you sell firearms shortly after they’re acquired or whether you buy or sell in the original packaging.” In an era when private individuals can set up their cell phones to accept credit cards, accepting credit-card payment for one gun will now make selling firearms your “principal objective of livelihood.”

Yet Obama doesn’t have to unilaterally rewrite the law to achieve meaningful reform. He could easily pass universal background checks through Congress, just by including three simple and reasonable changes:

1) Don’t charge gun buyers. All background checks currently on the books make gun buyers and sellers pay for the cost of transferring or selling a gun. Some states require a processing fee as well as compensation to the licensed dealer who oversees the private transfer. Yet, if it’s really true that background checks reduce crime, everyone benefits, not just gun buyers. Why not pay for the background checks out of general revenue?

Background checks on private transfers add about $80 to the cost of transferring a gun in New York, up to $60 in Washington State, and $125 in DC. These fees can put guns out of the reach of those who are the most likely victims of violent crimes: poor people living in high-crime, urban areas. If gun-control advocates care more about passing universal background checks than about who pays for them, this should be an easy and fair fix.

2) Fix the system so it stops falsely flagging law-abiding people. The current federal background-check system is a mess. Virtually everyone who fails a check is legally eligible to buy a gun. During a recent Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton claimed that, “Since [the Brady Act] was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented.” In reality, there were over 2 million “initial denials” — almost all of which turned out to be mistakes.


Source: John Lott, http://www.nationalreview.com