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Brady Campaign signals exclusive focus on 'universal background checks'--for now

No matter one's background
Photo © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Last Friday marked the 20-year anniversary of the so-called "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act." To observe this anniversary, the Brady Campaign released one of their "studies," this one titled "20 Years of Brady Background Checks: The Case for Finishing the Job to Keep America Safer." This column has already noted why American gun owners should be concerned whenever the Brady Bunch talks about "finishing the job"--their "final solution" has nothing to do with keeping anyone "safer."

Looking at the report itself (PDF file), it becomes immediately clear that the Bradys are quite aware that facts and logic are not doing their side any favors, so they carefully avoid them. For example:

Let’s think about background checks in another way. Imagine if [murder victim Zina Daniel's] husband were on the “No Fly” list, but the TSA allowed 40 percent of airline passengers to fly without undergoing a security screening. Would Americans feel safe in the air? Not likely. Yet that is precisely the percentage of gun purchases made daily without a background check.

Yep, a categorical statement that precisely 40 percent "of gun purchases [are] made daily without a background check." That, of course is not only not "precisely" true--it's not remotely true. We've talked about this before. As John Fund notes in the National Review:

The dubious statistic of guns that avoided background checks — which is actually 36 percent — comes from a small 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, very early in the Clinton administration. . . .

If that alone didn’t make the number invalid, the federal survey simply asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all Federal Firearm Licensees do background checks, only those perceived as being FFLs were counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no idea that the dealer was actually “licensed.”

Fund goes on to report that John Lott makes the case that the actual percentage these days is likely to be in single digits. Even fact checkers writing for the rabidly (and reliably) anti-armed citizen Washington Post found the "40%" figure unconvincing, soon updated their assessment to "Two Pinocchios" (indicating significant omissions and/or exaggerations), and finding that figures of 14 to 22 percent would be much more defensible. Then, when Obama continued to use the "40%" figure, the Post's fact checkers changed their rating of the claim to "three Pinocchios" (out of a possible four).

The report also, of course, credited the background check law for the dramatic decline in violence that coincided with enactment of the law, but even the far-left New Republic, clearly sympathetic to more restrictive "gun control," seems less than fully persuaded:

The original Brady Law established the nation’s first universal background check system and, if you take the report at face value, it had a huge impact: Gun violence fell by nearly 60 percent after the law’s passage. But most experts think that decline is mostly about other factors, like economic trends and changes in the drug markets.

What might be more interesting about the New Republic article, though, is its assertion that the Brady Campaign and other forcible citizen disarmament groups appear poised to drop (for now) advocacy for the banning of so-called "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazines, in order to fully focus on "universal background checks."

This new report, in contrast, focuses exclusively on strengthening the existing background system—and that’s no accident, lobbyists and experts say. Many strategists think the advocates for gun violence legislation made a serious error last year, by trying to push both background checks and restrictions on weapons and ammunition. “The next time we’re going to try to push something, it should be one piece of legislation and one only,” says Jim Kessler, senior vice president at the think tank Third Way. “The reality is, you try and do two things, you get none of them done.”

And that may indeed be a winning strategy for them, and would certainly be in keeping with the gun prohibitionists' time-honored "a little at a time" strategy, perhaps most clearly articulated by Nelson "Pete" Shields, chairman of the Brady Campaign back when the group was called "Handgun Control, Inc." (before it occurred to them that perhaps a stealthier approach would be more successful):

I'm convinced that we have to have federal legislation to build on. We're going to have to take one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily — given the political realities — going to be very modest. Of course, it's true that politicians will then go home and say, "This is a great law. The problem is solved." And it's also true that such statements will tend to defuse the gun-control issue for a time. So then we'll have to strengthen that law, and then again to strengthen that law, and maybe again and again. Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal — total control of handguns in the United States — is going to take time. My estimate is from seven to ten years. The problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns sold in this country. The second problem is to get them all registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal.

After they get their "universal background checks," then they can shift their focus to banning whichever guns they can most successfully convince the public are "too dangerous" to be entrusted to private citizens. Perhaps more alarmingly, after winning on the background checks, it will be time to use the data generated by the checks to create a de facto registry, which would of course be essential for the long term goal of confiscation--and remember that even the Obama administration's National Institute of "Justice" has noted that background checks are useless without registration, and gun and magazine bans are useless without confiscation.

Then again, they just may not be able to help themselves when the urge to push for gun bans hits them--these people tend not to be characterized by their exquisite self-control.

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