Over the past few months, debate has raged in Washington state and nationally regarding referendum items I-591 and I-594. Quite literally opposites, I-594 seeks to implement a statewide “universal background check” system similar to the one established in Colorado back in 2013. Meanwhile, I-591 seeks to counter the anti-gun push with protections against “universal background check” schemes and firearm seizures without due process. With elections just weeks away, I-591 unfortunately looks certain to fail with only moderate support. On the other hand, pushers of I-594 have enjoyed financial backing from billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer. Because of this, Washingtonians have been bombarded by an anti-gun media blitz that in large part has been rife with misinformation. While recent polling suggests that some of our friends in the Pacific Northwest may be wising up to these tactics, whether this will translate at the polls remains to be seen.
As I mentioned previously, Colorado implemented a similar system last year. At the time, anti-gun groups were loudly parroting that 40% of firearm sales take place without a background check. To support this claim, these individuals cited a 1997 National Institute of Justice survey that covered methods of firearm acquisition amongst a sample of between 1000 and 2000 people, depending on the question. In order to come to their conclusion, anti-gun groups had to assume that all online, gun show, flea market, and familial transfers were done without a check. Quite obviously, this is not the case. Those of us familiar with federal law were quick to call attention to this dishonesty and in time, even major media outlets shed some light on the bad statistics. Despite this debunking, rabid gun-control advocates, such as Mark Kelly, continue to refer to this misleading conclusion.
Since Colorado’s law went into effect in July 2013, some interesting statistics have been released by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. Most notably, the organization has revealed a mere 4% of background checks since implementation can be credited to the new law. Of these checks, less than 0.1% have resulted in denials. This evidence seems to suggest that 1) most firearm acquisitions take place at licensed dealers where background checks are already required per federal law, and 2) that those who would be prohibited from owning firearms continue to do so illegally and the law has not stopped them.
It is not surprising that gun-control advocates would be off by an order of magnitude when it comes to this issue. Within the last week, I have personally seen at least two “journalists” claim that firearms can be purchased online or at a gun show without a background check. As the sensible among us already know, any sales by licensed dealers or transactions that cross state lines are already subject to background checks. Transfers between individuals of the same state usually do not require background checks. This is not unique to gun shows, flea markets, or sales arranged online. Furthermore, despite anti-gun claims, new laws applying background checks to all transactions will not prevent determined individuals from obtaining firearms. The Colorado experience makes this fact abundantly clear.
I-591 Initiative: http://wagunrights.org/
Bad Stats Used in Colorado Gun Control Push: http://wp.me/p3myco-mx
A Deeper Look at the 40%: http://wp.me/p3myco-z