In all of the controversy about various gun control laws, the one thing I’ve never been able to understand is opposition to background checks. I have serious reservations about stricter gun controls, but, arguing against background checks? That one had me scratching my head.
Then I came across the following blog. The Rhino Den is one of the few places we civilians can go to learn what real warriors think on all manner of current events. It is also the home of Ranger Up, an online store that sells military and MMA wear. These guys are the real thing, warriors and combat veterans with more than a few degrees from places like West Point and the deserts of Iraq.
I asked the author of the following piece how he would describe The Rhino Den. His response says it all. “A group of Veterans who, despite the claims of others, still have a fundamental belief that the USA is still the greatest place in the Universe. These Veterans bring to their readers an Unapologetically American stance on everything as they, at one point in their existence, had written a blank check to Uncle Sam for the amount of “up to and including their life.” This group of individuals unite the .45% of the population who actually know what it is like to serve in combat and give them a sense of belonging with a writing style that only few can appreciate and understand.”
So, with permission, I’m rerunning this piece here. Whether or not you agree with the position, the guy makes a cogent argument against background checks.
Why I am Opposed to Background Checks
I realize that, in writing this, the boss of Ranger Up has already stated that he takes the opposite stance from me—that he is in fact in favor of background checks. With that, this article is not written from the point of view of arguing and saying he’s wrong, but rather to explain why I, a former Airborne Grunt, PSYOP Team Chief, and current political worker in the field of gun rights, believes that background checks are, in fact, wrong and a bad idea.
The first and most important point to make comes by way of a mental exercise that I ask you take part in with me. I would like for you to imagine for a moment that you grew up as a Catholic. Your family brought you to Catholic services often, you were educated in the Catholic school system, and having attained adulthood, you attend services and confession on a regular basis.
But, as you’ve aged, you have done some studying on your own in the field of religion and philosophy. In those studies, you have come to realize that you disagree with some of the major tenets of Catholicism and, after a great deal of personal thought, decided that the religion as a whole is wrong and that you would like to leave it.
As you begin to walk away from the church and separate yourself, an agent of the government approaches you and says “hey, we think it’s totally fine that you want to leave Catholicism. But, before you do, I need to run a background check on you and make sure that you’re not a criminal. Oh, and before you go practicing some other religion, I’ll need you to take a course proving your knowledge of comparative religions.”
How does that grab you? Do you think that would fly well with you or the American public at large? If not, why not?
This is exactly what we have done to the Second Amendment. Why is it treated any differently from the First Amendment?
Yes, I already see where your brain is headed, and that is what I would like to address next.
“But guns are designed to kill people…the people in church aren’t committing mass murders. It’s different.”
Yes and no. Yes, guns are not religion—they are a mechanical device. However, a couple notes on that.
In 1997, 39 members of a group known as “Heaven’s Gate” were found dead after being convinced by their leader to take their own lives based solely on an ideology. If this had been a mass shooting, it would rank in the top five worst of all time.
In 1978, the leader of the People’s Temple, Jim Jones, convinced over 900 members of his church to take their own lives and also murder their children based solely on an ideology. No mass shooting has claimed even 10% of the number of lives that the People’s Temple church did in one day.
On September 11, 2001, 19 Muslims killed nearly 3,000 people by using box cutters after being motivated by nothing more than an ideology. No mass shooting has ever come anywhere close to the havoc wreaked that day.
The point of all this being, of course, that the First Amendment, when viewed in its purest form, can be seen as every bit as dangerous as the Second—if not more so. And at no point am I arguing for background checks on First Amendment issues (though there most assuredly are those out there who do and are), though it is clear that it, too, can lead to mass death and destruction.
But there is more, and a point that I fear is vastly overlooked in most of the debates on gun control. Setting aside comparison to religions, consider that what a background check system truly is—the scrutiny of a life of a person prior to them exercising their “right” that is supposed to be inherently theirs. This is no small issue when considering the United States Constitution as a whole—especially in light of certain hot-button issues being won or lost in the courts based on the right of privacy.
I firmly believe that if I must have my privacy invaded and ask the government for permission to do something, then it is not a right, but rather a privilege.
Yes, I see where many have their brains going here, as well, and I would like to address some of those issues.
The first question that usually arises is something akin to “then how do you propose to keep guns out of the hands of criminals???” This is somewhat of a flawed question and here’s why—it assumes, first of all, that background checks can do that very thing. That would be demonstrably wrong (Chicago, I’m looking in your direction) on several levels. Secondly, it is ignoring the fact that a felon not being allowed to own guns is a relatively new phenomenon (1968 Gun Control Act). Third, it fails to address a massive hole in the overall problem; namely, that if we as a society have deemed an individual too unsafe to own a firearm, why is he walking freely among the populace?
Consider this fact: a felon is allowed to drive a car. How many people are killed with a car every year? In 2011 alone, over 30,000 people were killed in automobile-related incidents (accidents, vehicular homicide, etc.). This exceeds the number of firearms deaths in the same year, even when suicides are factored in to the data (which account for a relatively large amount of firearms deaths and relatively small number of automobile deaths). The point being, if we are so concerned with what a felon can and cannot do once he/she is released from prison, shouldn’t we prevent them from driving, as well?
Again, this presents the question of whether or not people who go to prison are “rehabilitated” and, if not, why are they being allowed to walk free? If they are a threat to society, isn’t that what we have prisons for?
Ultimately, some of these questions become admittedly convoluted and even somewhat philosophical in any legal sense. Everyone has their own opinion on what rehabilitation of prisoners means and what they should or should not be allowed to do, and that is an argument not destined to be solved any time soon.
However, it brings me to the next point: what, exactly, is a background check investigating? Most people when confronted with this term assume something rather vague, e.g. “It’s to make sure you’re not bad…” Well, that’s great; but who’s defining what is and is not “bad”? This is, I’m afraid, no small issue given that we currently employ people at the top levels of our government who honestly believe that “returning veterans” are a serious domestic terrorist threat. Stop and ponder that the next time you hear “more extensive background checks” or something like it. If the check is “is person X a felon or not,” that’s one thing; but I just heard a President arguing for much more than that.
So, in closing, there are three primary reasons why I am opposed to background checks, and they are all related to what our country is—not a democracy, but a Constitutional, Representative Republic.
One, it treats the Second Amendment like a bastard child compared to the other amendments in the Bill of Rights by assuming your guilt and turning it into a privilege rather than the right it was inherently supposed to be.
Two, they don’t work and never have. Criminals have—and always will—have access to guns. The background check system as it stands means one thing and one thing only—that law-abiding citizens are inconvenienced and slowed down when they wish to purchase a firearm.
Three, it leaves wide-open the ability of government to dig into your life and determine what constitutes good and bad behavior and, going back to point one, means one is asking for permission rather than seeking to exercise their rights.
There are a lot of other reasons why I believe this, but they would take another 1,000 or so words (the validity of the BATF, what “rights” are, the myth of a “gun show loophole,” etc.). I welcome any and all input and, though I believe that it will be a long time before background investigations go away (i.e., probably never), still think that it is a valuable discussion for a number of reasons, given our current political climate, as it deals with the nature of our liberty and what it is this country was founded upon.