According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), “there have been 16,808,538 applications in 2012 so far to the end of November.” Based on these numbers, any implementation of “universal background checks” could cost Americans over a billion dollars per year.
Estimating the amount of the proposed universal background check cost, or what some see as a "tax" on their rights, requires a little math. Considering that only a small fraction of gun purchase applications are denied by the National Instant Check System (NICS), while a larger number of applications would pertain to purchases of multiple firearms, the ATF’s 16,808,538 gun purchase application number is a conservative estimate of the number of dealer brokered guns sold in the United States during the first 11 months of 2012.
Using a little algebra, we can impute the number of private sales in 2012 by way of the Obama Administration’s assertion that 40% of gun sales in America are executed through private sales. Though this 40% figure has been lampooned as “Two Pinocchios” by the Washington Post, the Administration still justifies its demand for universal background checks with this 40% claim.
Let’s calculate the cost of universal background check implementation. First let’s assume, conservatively, despite the reported surge in gun sales between Black Friday and New Years, December’s gun sales will merely be the arithmetic average of the first 11 months: 16,808,538/11 or 1,528,049.
So 16,808,538 + 1,528,049 = an estimated 18,336,587 total guns sold thru NICS checks in 2012.
To estimate the total of all gun sales, including private sales, we apply the Administrations 40% factor: 18,336,587 +.4x = x where x is the total guns sold in 2013. Solving for x, we find that x = 30,560,978 guns sold per year.
40% of 30,560,978 = an estimated 12,224,391 privately sold guns per year. Now, how much would it cost to shift these private sales to universal background check based sales?
Assuming that Congress will simply force gun owners to broker private gun sales through the declining number of federal gun dealers in the United States, then we need to ask gun dealers. Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Springfield, VA is one such gun dealer. A representative told examiner.com that Sharpshooters would sell guns on consignment for 20% off the top of any sale, or for a $40 flat fee if the seller brings a buyer to the store.
But, beware, Sharpshooters’ warns, if the gun is not sold, the owner must go through a background check and fill out the intrusive ATF Form 4473 (which the dealer must keep on file for 20 years for possible ATF inspection) before she can get her gun back.
Let’s assume, conservatively again, that the typical dealer would agree to perform the background checks and record keeping for $40 per transaction – that would mean that the universal background check tax on Americans would be, conservatively, if all gun owners first found a seller, and then went to the dealer to perform the universal background check, $488,975,640, or nearly a half billion dollars per year.
“Adding a half billion dollar universal background check tax on gun owners is outrageous,” says John Pierce, co-founder of OpenCarry.org. “This economy is bad enough, and now they want to add a tax on constitutional rights?”
But Pierce also explained that if universal background checks are instituted, private sellers will no longer be able to readily conduct sales to family members, friends, neighbors, or at gun shows or yard sales, so gun buyers will generally have to be found though dealers via consignment sales at gun shops.
A universal background check tax using consignment fees which will likely be much higher than a flat $20 per gun. Checking the first page of used handgun sale offers at GunsInternational.com, the cheapest handgun out of 47 offered for sale was a Kahr CW40 semi-automatic pistol listed at $399.99; the most expensive firearm on this page was a Heckler & Koch P7 M10 Blue .40 S&W CAL offered for 3,995.00.
Using the Shooters 20% consignment sale fee as a benchmark, and a conservative average used firearm cost of only $425.00 (the 3d lowest asking price of any of the 47 gun sample from GunsInternational.com), Americans could conceivably have to pay as follows: 12,224,391 private gun transfers * $425.00 per gun * .2 = $1,039,073,235, or over a billion dollars per year.
A conservative estimate of the cost of imposing universal background checks onto Americans would thus arguably be somewhere between $489 million and a $1.04 billion. Philip Van Cleave, President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League opposes pushing the federal background check system and its’ costs onto private sellers because “background checks, even universal ones, are easy for criminals to get around with a straw purchase.”
Moreover argues Van Cleave,
“universal background checks would not have prevented any of these recent tragedies,” pointing to the mass murders committed by Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech, 2007), Anders Behring Breivik (Norway, 2011), Jared Loughner (Tucson, AZ, 2011), James Holmes (Aurora, CA, 2012), and Adam Lanza (Newtown, CT, 2012) who all either passed, or could have passed, dealer background checks to buy guns.
And apparently Vice-President Joe Biden (D) agrees with Van Cleave, stating this week at lunch with Democrat Senators in Washington DC that universal background checks are not "going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting."