The phrase “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass,” has been misstated and misused over the years.
But one interpretation resonates with the American public, as it applies to United States law governing the sale of firearms. As it stands, the law appropriately requires licensed gun dealers to ensure that background checks are conducted before they sell potentially deadly weapons.
The background check requirement does not, however, apply to firearms transactions that occur at gun shows or via the internet.
In light of this inconsistency, the law is an ass.
After all, a gun sale is a gun sale, and, possibly with a few exceptions, the same requirements imposed on licensed dealers should apply at gun shows and online — in order to provide consistency and promote public safety, all within the bounds of the Second Amendment.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives recognized that having different requirements for gun sales, based on the seller or the venue, is asinine.
To that end, the House voted 240-190 to expand the background check mandate, applying it to gun shows and internet sales.
The takeover of the House by Democrats following the 2018 elections set the stage for the vote. When Republicans were in control of the chamber, they wouldn’t give the measure a fair hearing. But when House Resolution 8 made it to the floor this week, it passed — largely along partisan lines.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R.-Fla., was one of eight Republicans who supported the resolution.
“Our laws cannot be effective if there are gaping loopholes that allow criminals and deranged individuals to purchase firearms at gun shows or over the internet without being subject to background checks. ... I voted for HR 8 to close these loopholes — a proposal supported by over 90 percent of gun owners in America, according to respected polling organizations,” Buchanan stated.
Unfortunately, leaders of the Republican-led Senate have said they’re unlikely to take up a similar measure — even though it contains a sensible provision to require the FBI to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials if an undocumented illegal alien attempts to obtain a firearm. The White House has signaled its opposition as well.
The use of background checks is not a panacea for America’s gun violence crisis. It remains too easy to obtain firearms, including guns that have been stolen from law-abiding citizens, on the nation’s streets. It remains too easy for unstable individuals to assemble high-powered weaponry and stocks of ammunition suitable for warfare.
The requirements for background checks have withstood political and legal challenges. They are well-established parts of federal and state laws. If anything, their accuracy and efficacy should be improved.
Most of all, the requirements should be consistently applied regardless of the sellers or method of transaction. HR 8 would do just that.