Opinion

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Closing Range

They’re Coming for Your Guns, Someday

HR-8 pretends to be about “universal background checks,” but there’s devilry in the details

Last week, the U.S. House passed HR-8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, the biggest “congressional vote on gun control in decades” according to Politico.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats sure don’t dither, do they? HR-8 was banged out of House Judiciary (chair, Jerrold Nadler, D-New York) on Feb. 6 on an unanimous party-line vote, reported to the House the 22nd, passed the 27th 240-190, with eight GOP yeses and two Democrat noes for “bipartisanship.”

This bill pretends to be about “universal background checks,” but there’s devilry in the details: HR-8 would spawn a new Section 922 Subsection (t)(1)(A): “It shall  be  unlawful  for  any  person  who  is  not  a  licensed  importer,  licensed  manufacturer,  or  licensed  dealer  to  transfer  a  firearm  to  any  other  person  who is not so licensed, unless a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer  has  first  taken  possession  of  the  firearm  for  the  purpose  of  complying  [….]”

If HR-8 becomes law, every firearm that changes possession (not just ownership), gift or sale, would require government scrutiny, brokered by a gun dealer. Any exemptions? Darn few, basically the nuclear family unit. Grandparents are OK, aunts and uncles, but not first cousins. Inherited guns? First, to the executor, and then, to heirs after a background check!

How about borrowing? Well, “temporary transfer” either “in the presence” of the owner, or at a “shooting range” or hunting, is legal – only if the “transferor” has “no reason to believe” anything untoward or illegal may happen.

Next, HR-8 would drop a major part of existing law, eliminating a five-day limit on background checking for handgun purchases, as well as a 20-day requirement for non-federal law enforcement to expunge records of successful transfers from agency records. Bureaucrats could then slow-walk everything in “process” while local law enforcement could build and keep whatever lists they wish. Nice!

HR-8 would enable regulations that will “not include any provision placing a cap on the fee” charged for transfer, nor any requirement that dealers process any private transfers.

If, in HR-8’s brave new America, you do find a dealer who doesn’t gouge or drag things out, do you get the gun? Sure, but only after you “certify” your receipt of a “notice” of section (t)(1)(A) listed above “on a form prescribed by the Attorney General.” In other words, if that gun shows up anywhere else and you haven’t reported it stolen, you’re an instant felon.

Talk about maximizing harassment. Still, HR-8 would do nothing to prevent any state from writing its own (hopefully much stricter) version of “universal background checks.”

Most insulting of all, HR-8 declares nothing “shall be construed [to] authorize […] a national firearms registry,” at least not by this Congress.

Today, when federal firearms licensees (FFL for short) transfer guns, buyers must fill out (truthfully) a Form 4473 listing personal information and the gun’s particulars. Dealers then must keep those 4473s for at least 20 years. But HR-8 also would mandate FFLs conduct transfers “as if the [FFL] were transferring the firearm from the inventory of the licensee to the unlicensed transferee.” Thus, a second seller-gun-buyer record goes into the FFL’s permanent (not 20 years), detailed “Bound Book.”

So, upon retirement or relinquishment, FFLs must turn all “firearms transactions records” in to the National Tracing Center (NTC) for, you guessed it, permanent storage after already-standard-procedure conversion from paper to microfilm.

NTC already has over 400 million records (indexed by gun serial and FFL license number), with between 5 and 9 million new “in the business” records created every year, but that database isn’t complete. Unknown millions of firearms have moved at least one “private sale” away from either a 4473 or bound book record. Universal background checks would re-record all those guns, at least to microfilm, enabling all to be matched with their owners. Why?

Well, HR-8’s real intent is clear: Collect new data on all guns, and owners, into a de-facto “national firearms registry” preparatory to the joyous day when gun-haters in Congress finally “have the votes” to fund a Big Data conversion of NTC microfilms into a fully searchable database. Then, we’ll wait for the ecstatic day when confiscation has the votes.