WASHINGTON — Senior Democrats have reached agreement with the National Rifle Association on what could be the first federal gun-control legislation since 1994, a measure to significantly strengthen the national system that checks the backgrounds of gun buyers.
The sensitive talks began in April, days after a mentally ill student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University. The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, had been judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which should have disqualified him from buying handguns. But the state of Virginia never forwarded that information to the federal National Instant Check System, and the massacre exposed a loophole in the 13-year-old background-check program.
Under the agreement, participating states would be given monetary enticements for the first time to keep the federal background database up to date, as well as penalties for failing to comply.
To sign on to the deal, the powerful gun lobby won significant concessions from Democratic negotiators. Individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could petition their states to have their names removed from the federal database, and about 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records.
The federal government would be permanently barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks. In addition, faulty records such as duplicative names or expunged convictions would have to be scrubbed from the database.
“The NRA worked diligently with the concerns of gun owners and law enforcement in mind to make a … system that’s better for gun owners and better for law enforcement,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., who led the talks.
First: If someone is so dangerous they can’t be trusted with a gun then I don’t think they can be trusted with a can of gasoline and a book of matches either. Either they can be trusted in public or they should be locked up.
Second: Making the least agreeable portions of the infringement on our rights more palatable just means it will be more difficult to justify getting rid of it entirely later on.
Third: The longer this infringement stays in place the more accepting of it people are. The ban on new machine gun sales is so well accepted that most people believe they are banned entirely. Today it would be really tough to repeal the ban on machine guns and day by day it’s getting more difficult for people to even consider repealing the Brady Act.
Fourth: The Brady/FBI database and reporting system is so close to a database of all gun owners and their guns that it is a hazard to the health of our freedom. Which has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peal anyway.
All that said, borrowing from a great book I just listened to recently, Survival of the Sickest, “Why would you take a pill that will kill you 40 years from now?” The answer is, “Because it will keep me from dying tomorrow.” And so it is with this agreement.