I am a different kind of gun dealer. Though I share the same interest and passion for firearms, I often find myself at odds with the politics of some of my more vocal fellow enthusiasts and industry colleagues.
I’ll start by saying that my colleagues and I share many values and core beliefs. We are patriots, loyal to the Constitution, respectful of our neighbors, responsible with our guns and proud of our American firearms heritage. On policy, here is one point where I differ (friends, hold on to your National Rifle Association coffee mug!):
I believe that we should have universal background checks on all firearm purchasers
“All gun laws are unconstitutional!” This is the battle cry of hard-core Second Amendment (2A) community members. Many of these folks are well-intentioned, educated and passionate. But do they, or should they, really believe this statement?
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Second Amendment is a human right equal to, and the ultimate guardian of, all other rights. But having a right does not mean that it can be exercised without any responsibility or care. (Think of the common argument that the First Amendment doesn’t allow shouting “fire” in a crowded theater — or “Go White Sox” from the bleachers at Wrigley Field.) The founding fathers believed that the Constitution, Bill of Rights and democracy depend on a communicative, cooperating and responsible citizenry.
So how do we balance seemingly absolute rights of an individual against the needs of a democratic society? There must be compromise, because neither extreme view can prevail lest we lose our rights, our democracy or both.
When asked if everyone has the absolute right to own a firearm, some people, the loudest people, would immediately shout “Yes! Shall not be infringed!” Do they really believe this? It would imply that mass murderers, child rapists and the criminally insane should have unfettered access to firearms. I don’t think that is what they really believe. We should have laws against dangerous people having access to guns.
Once you admit that there should be laws to prevent certain people from acquiring firearms, then you can no longer claim that all gun laws are unconstitutional. Friends, please, stop making that ridiculous claim.
I want to know that the person to whom I am selling a gun is not a lunatic or violent criminal. Background checks are not 100% accurate and have limitations, but enforcing background checks improves the odds significantly that the gun will be used lawfully and responsibly.
I refuse to sell a firearm to someone that has not passed a background check. That’s my decision and frankly, if you are a responsible firearm dealer, that should be your decision as well.
If implemented correctly, background checks are reasonable and constitutional. But if implemented poorly, those checks may be an unconstitutional infringement. The devil is in the details. The universal background check system must be accurate, limited in scope, timely, and fair.
Accurate: Data must be collected consistently across all jurisdictions, recorded accurately, reviewed periodically, purged when no longer needed and immediately conclusive.
Limited in scope: The data collected from firearm dealers and buyers must be narrowly limited to only the information required to run the pass-or-fail background check. The only inquiry data should be the buyer’s personal identifiers. The system cannot become a firearm registry that records who owns what guns, which would violate current federal law and privacy rights.
Timely: Background checks must be instant. Fifteen minutes is inconvenient at worst. Delays of days and weeks are an infringement of a right.
Fair: The background check system must be fair in planning and execution. Who decides what information goes in? What are the standards for a “pass” or “fail”? What is the cost and who will pay for it? How do we ensure that the cost and burdens do not disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities?
Please do not confuse my moderation in this policy for a lack of commitment to the Second Amendment. I am passionate about the personal and societal benefits of responsible firearm ownership for self-defense and defense of the free state, including the responsible possession of commonly used semi-automatic firearms. I simply ask for your reasoned consideration and your constructive voice.
Benjamin D. Ferdinand is owner/manager of Benjamin Specialties LLC Modern Firearms in Libertyville. He is a retired member of law enforcement.
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