By now, you’ve probably seen a letter sent by a cabal of Attorneys-General, asking Congress to impose background checks on ammunition sales. If you haven’t, you can read it here. While it may seem well-intentioned, as most anti-gun legislation purports to be, it contains multiple examples of plainly irrational thinking.
It is actually somewhat interesting that they don’t focus solely on mass shootings, although that’s probably because the actual numbers of true mass shootings (that aren’t related to some sort of other criminal activity) are quite small, statistically speaking. But they do, as per usual arguments, include suicides in their plea for more government overreach. Now, I’m a little curious as to how a background check is going to prevent suicide, especially given the massive holes in reporting on the current system, but hey, they’re political lawyers, so they must know best.
They really get down to their demands in paragraph five, when they say “[t]his bill would make it illegal for individuals who are already ‘prohibited purchasers’ under federal law…from purchasing or possessing ammunition.” Horrible grammar aside, the only way ammunition hurts anyone is if it is loaded into a gun. Since these individuals are already prohibited from both purchasing and possessing firearms, this is basically an admission that laws don’t stop criminals and prohibited persons from getting and carrying guns. But don’t worry, they have a solution – another law.
“[W]e believe that extending those same requirements to ammunition will reduce gun violence and suicide.” They don’t bother to add in facts to this particular belief, but that’s probably because a study in 2016 found that only 7% of criminals who used firearms procured them from a licensed dealer using their own name, and less than 1% bought them at a gun show (despite that dastardly “gun show loophole”). So, criminals skirt background checks by stealing them, procuring them on the black market, or getting them from a family member or friend. But, surely they won’t do the same thing with ammunition. Surely adding a background check on ammunition will stop them from getting it, right?
In paragraph six, they state that this idea “adds these protections without infringing on law-abiding citizens’ right to own firearms….” Note that they stick with the right to own firearms. However, the Second Amendment protects the right to both keep (own) and bear firearms. Firearms without ammunition are useless, and the Attorneys-General are basically asking Congress to add an additional hassle to a law-abiding citizen’s purchase of ammunition in the belief that it will help alleviate firearm crimes. If the citizen has already submitted to a background check to purchase their firearm, why are you asking them to submit to another one for the ammunition?
Honestly, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that the real purpose of this proposal is to make exercising the right to bear arms a hassle. Right now, I can go online, comparison shop to find the best prices, then order the ammunition I need to practice with my firearm. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I ordered over $300 worth of ammunition online to attend a law enforcement instructor course. I had it delivered to the hotel I was living in while traveling. This law would stop that. If we judge it by firearms laws, I would have to order the ammunition, go find a local dealer, then get that dealer to agree to conduct the transfer for me. That would add anywhere from $20 to $50 (plus another hour or so of my time) to my ammunition order on the belief that it is somehow helping stop crime (with no evidence to back it up).
They say it keeps me safe – I say they are making it more difficult for me to exercise a Constitutional right. I also say they are hoping that the additional step will discourage individuals from exercising their right. Keep in mind, these are the same people who claim that producing photo identification to vote discourages individuals from exercising their right to vote. But they want to put a (second) background check (involving photo identification, a form, and a criminal record check) on my ability to exercise my right to bear arms. Rights are rights – there aren’t supposed to be favored rights and disfavored rights. Just because people are scared (despite currently decreasing murder trends) doesn’t mean that my rights suddenly become less important.