I can hear the screaming about President Obama’s “executive actions” already. However, the first phase that was announced isn’t that big of a deal. It just isn’t.
Now, to be sure, the actions taken by the President will have virtually no effect on the mass shootings that he wants to keep us all ginned up about. If you’ve done any research, you know that mass shooters of late (and historically) have obtained their guns “legally,” albeit either they lied or the government screwed up. The point is that a FFL (federal firearm licensee) sold most of those guns AFTER a background check. So this “gun show loophole” that is being closed will have little effect.
All that is happening is that the ATF will be expanding what makes someone a gun dealer and subject to doing a background check on a customer. Right now, a FFL has to do a background check, but many “dealers” do not. What is a dealer? Ahh, that is the question. Let’s say I have 100 guns that I’ve collected over the years and I want to sell them. Am I a dealer? Probably not under current law. What about if I buy and sell guns as part of my “hobby,” am I a dealer? Maybe. Intent and profit are two key buzzwords in that determination.
What I hear the President saying is that he is expanding the definition of a gun dealer. That folks is simply a regulatory action. We don’t like it because of the slippery slope argument or the “infringement” on the Second Amendment. Both of those are arguments for another day. But what makes someone a gun dealer is already set by regulation. Bureaucrats change regulations ALL THE TIME.
An example: Did you know that if you sell five or more used cars in Georgia in a calendar year, you are considered (prima facie) a used car dealer and subject to regulation? OCGA 43-47-2. But if you sell 100 guns a year from your personal collection, you might not be considered a gun dealer.
Further, did you know that eight states already require universal background checks for ALL gun sales? CA, CO, CT, DE, NY, OR, RI and WA (plus DC, but it’s not a state) already have vastly expanded the background check law to include ALL sales. This new or proposed federal regulation isn’t even going that far. Why? Because background checks don’t matter. Gun ownership is what matters. As an aside, the top three most heinous mass murders of late occurred in the first three states set out above. Ironic, no?
Were I a tyrant wanting to hinder the sale or transfer of guns, I would simply require that ANY transfer of a firearm only be done by a licensed FFL. You can’t afford to go through that process , so you sell it to a local FFL who then sells the gun to someone. What’s the difference, besides the $25 fee you might pay to the FFL?
Think about it. Why would the government do that? So that now there is a record of every gun sale in America. Who owns what and where they live is now a government record. Of course, the criminals wouldn’t bother with the whole FFL thing, so we’re not counting them. When you need to get to gun confiscation, you’ve got the data you need.
Once you allow bureaucrats to be bureaucrats, you start getting ever increasing restrictions on your lives. This is just such an example. Freedom was cool, too bad we didn’t stick with it.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.