A bipartisan group that is ostensibly looking to ensure people who are not legally allowed guns cannot access them is being pushed in the Senate. The group includes John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The legislation was introduced on Tuesday, and the cross-party cooperation makes it more likely to pass. Critics fear too much government control of constitutionally protected gun rights.
The legislation includes measures to make States and agencies produce plans for sending records of people to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). The idea being, that if every piece of information is fed into the system, it would send up red flags if a person is not eligible to purchase a firearm.
The two main Senators behind this had positive words for their program. Sen. Cornyn said:
“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence. … This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”
Senator Murphy reiterated the safety aspect, saying that, “this deal will strengthen the background check system and save lives. Our bill marks an important milestone that shows real compromise can be made on the issue of guns.”
However, critics of the measures have a lot to say. The primary argument against this is one of individual freedom. For this system to work, it would necessitate all information in the nation to be stored, accessed, and ultimately approved or disapproved by the Federal government. If the power is taken from the states to decide who is and isn’t entitled to buy a gun, critics suggest that the rights of Americans may become a politicized privilege. Many view it as a precursor to “Universal Background Checks” on a national level. Universal Background Checks: An American Fantasy
Opponents are quick to point out what happened with Lois Lerner and the IRS. She was responsible for approving charitable status for organizations, but used the system to block conservative groups to diminish their political influence in an election. Accusations against her state that any group with the words “freedom,” or “liberty” in their application were automatically rejected.
Should a single government agency become responsible for the decision on who can and can’t purchase a firearm, it would weaken state laws, allow for politicized corruption, and likely prejudice certain groups of people.
The group is using recent events to highlight their case, yet this should not be an emotional decision. It’s a question of who controls the power to allow people to exercise their constitutionally protected gun rights.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.