I’m writing to commend state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens and author of HB 1588, for listening to gun owners on the subject of background checks for private transactions.
Most gun rights advocates do not object to background checks for private transfers. What they do object to is the retention of purchaser or transferee information by government.
The concern about local or state government using the information necessary for the NICS check to compile a registry has been adequately addressed in the most recent version of the bill, which provides that the agency conducting the background check may not retain a copy of the record used for the check, which must be returned to the seller after the completion of check.
I know there are many who don’t want to see background checks for private transactions and I also know there are many who feel registration of firearms should be mandatory and the background check should be used as one means to compile a registry.
Both sides have arguments to support their positions. For example, a registry might be used by law enforcement to trace ownership of a firearm left at a crime scene. On the other hand, registration has historically been the first step to government confiscation.
Reasonable people can disagree. I view a registry of any sort as a threat to our Second Amendment rights, but I also acknowledge that background checks for dealer sales have done much to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Federal law prohibits the retention of background check information by the federal government in the case of dealer sales. If the same requirement is made applicable to state authorities in the case of private transactions then arguably there should be little for gun owners to object to other than the inconvenience of getting the check and the fee involved.
No system is foolproof and there no doubt are those who would refuse or neglect to comply with Rep. Hope’s proposed law, especially members of the criminal class.
But any inconvenience to the law-abiding resulting from the proposed law should be easily outweighed by its prospective benefits. Any law that helps to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms should be encouraged if it does not abridge our constitutional rights.