James Taranto: universal background firearms checks means that anybody can request one.
James Taranto makes an excellent point about the major problem with proposals to expanding who can request a background check on firearms:
Currently access to the FBI’s background check system is limited to licensed firearms dealers, who have an incentive not to abuse it lest they lose their license. If it’s opened up to all prospective sellers of guns–that is, to everybody–what’s to prevent someone from abusing it, say by requesting a background check on Greg Sargent, who presumably has no interest in acquiring a gun?
The system only gives a yes-or-no answer as to whether the putative buyer is eligible to own firearms under federal law. But if you’re looking to dig up dirt on someone, a “no” answer on a firearms background check would give you a nice clump of it.
Greg Sargent is mentioned because he wrote an article wondering why anybody would be against universal background checks: I’m not entirely certain that Sargent realizes that the system he wants would more or less guarantee that people would end up using it to do evil, right out of the gate – and, more importantly, they’d be using it to do evil in unexpected (and unintended, for given value of ‘unintended’) ways. Or that mischievous or malicious people could do it to people like Greg Sargent; that, in fact, they will do it to people like Greg Sargent, simply because they can.
But then again, if Sargent’s done nothing wrong then of course he has nothing to fear…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: Here’s a copy of BATF Form 4473, which would presumably be the template for any new documentation necessary for universal background check inquiries. As James Taranto tacitly noted in his post, it’d be horrifically easy to abuse; you don’t even need to know somebody’s Social Security number to fill out the form.
I am telling you; this will be abused. And if the feds decide to compensate by making the rules more difficult for everybody then reputable firearms dealers will rightly freak out, because they didn’t do anything wrong. And when they do freak out they’ll find plenty of people on Capitol Hill who will be happy to back them up. Fair warning.