By Jon Vitale
Elm Staff Writer
The House of Representatives has passed a new bill, by a margin of 240 to 190, known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Bill of 2019, which aims to reduce gun violence in the United States by expanding background checks, expanding waiting periods on gun purchases, and regulating private transfers of firearms between citizens.
All of these measures, the House hopes, will contribute to reducing gun deaths and make our streets safer. Only eight House Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill, which was initially co-sponsored by five Republicans. Advocates have called the bill the most significant gun control measure in 20 years, NPR reports.
The bill has garnered fierce criticism from pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s executive director, Chris Cox, spoke out against the bill, saying “criminals will continue to get their firearms the way they always have — through the black market.”
Recently on the Liberty Report, former Congressman Ron Paul levied a similar criticism, stating “Anti-gun bureaucrats need not go that far, to use the expanded background check system to abuse the rights of gun owners.” These criticisms have left House Democrats and other advocates of the bill unphased, as they continue to argue for more restrictions on gun purchases to keep our country safer.
The intentions of our politicians to protect us ought to be well-regarded. Indeed, public safety is a serious matter, as is gun crime in the United States, and for our politicians to simply ignore such glaring issues would be a major problem.
However, it is always important that we decide on policy based not on its intentions, but its effects. While the intentions of gun control bills like the Bipartisan Background Checks Bill of 2019 cannot be denied, a broader analysis indicates that this is another instance of a well-intentioned policy that does nothing to accomplish its goals, and if anything runs contradicts its own mission of keeping Americans safe.
There is no reason to believe that placing additional waiting periods on gun purchases will have any impact whatsoever on gun crime. Assuming every perpetrator of a gun crime moving forward acquires his firearm legally, all an extended waiting period would do is delay the crime from happening, not stop it from happening entirely. However, it would stand in the way of law-abiding citizens quickly obtaining their means of defending themselves. This puts citizens at risk; it does not protect them.
The private transfer clause, though clearly well-intentioned, also is detrimental to its goal of preventing gun deaths. Again, while preventing private transfers between citizens might prevent some crime (again assuming that those who perpetrate gun crimes by and large obtain their weapons legally), it will also make it more difficult for gun owners who might need their guns taken away from them. Last year, per an NBC report, almost two-thirds of gun deaths were suicides, not homicides, and this has been the trend for decades. A greater concern should be encouraging gun owners with suicidal thoughts to give their gun to a trusted friend. We should not be restricting that process because, once again, it does not make citizens safer.
The intentions of bills like this are worth applauding, but these measures are ill-conceived when it comes to making the public safer. Government should make its mission to protect our rights, not to regulate them.