Universal Background Checks: Two Counterproposals

The passage of I-594 in Washington unsurprisingly has anti-gun groups frothing at the mouth to push onerous firearm restrictions in many other states. Dubbed a “reasonable” solution to “gun violence” the initiative has already proven to be anything but. Just yesterday, the Lynden Pioneer Museum in northern Washington announced it would return firearms featured in its World War Two exhibit to their owners as a consequence of the poorly constructed law. I anticipate this will only be the first of many unintended outcomes in post-I-594 Washington. Given this new information, how could all this frustration have been avoided? Below are two alternatives to “universal background checks” that are not only more palatable for gun owners, but would likely be far more effective than the current anti-gun model.

One of the best (and least disruptive) alternatives I have seen proposed is to modify drivers’ licenses to reflect prohibited person status. Under such a model, persons convicted of disqualifying crimes or found mentally incompetent by a court of law would have their current license revoked and confiscated as part of the standard legal process. Newly prohibited persons would then be required to apply for a new drivers’ license, at which point they would receive a new card which clearly identifies them as ineligible to possess a firearm. Such a system requires no FFL involvement. Furthermore, it would be no more difficult (perhaps less so) to determine if someone wrongfully and knowingly transferred a firearm to a prohibited person. Private face to face transactions and private tables at gun shows could just as easily be retained with the only requirement being that sellers see the buyer’s ID prior to transferring the firearm.

In addition to the above system, a sort of online “EZ-Check” for private transactions would also be a solid alternative to the current “universal background check” model. Such an application would be a public-facing web application that would request certain pieces of identifying information from the potential buyer, such as name and license number, and would return a good or bad result based on NICS records. This is essentially the way the current dealer-exclusive NICS background check system works. Requiring the buyer’s license number would provide a second factor of authentication to protect against abuse of the system and random lookups.

After the way registration schemes have turned out in peer nations, such as Great Britain and Australia, gun owners are right to be concerned about “universal background checks” as proposed by anti-gun activists and ardent prohibitionists. Taken individually, both of the above systems address concerns surrounding prohibited persons and firearm access. Together, the two offer a solution that is actually far superior to any proposal from supposed “gun safety” groups.

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