The idea of a universal background check sounds good on the surface and most people see it as a reasonable thing to do in order to try to make sure that those attempting to purchase a firearm are not known to be someone who should not have one. Proponents claim that it will stop felons or mentally disturbed people from acquiring these weapons. Opponents claim that this is nothing more than a placebo that is just feel good legislation because there are too many ways for these people to acquire weapons outside the channels that would be required to perform them. It is sort of like thinking that laws against using or selling drugs will keep drugs off the streets and keep our children safe from them. Some opponents believe the purpose of the universal background check is to build a completely updated list of which law abiding citizens have what weapons and because there is also a call for this on the purchase of ammunition, they believe it would also provide data on the amount of ammunition that is in the hands of law abiding citizens. They complain that it would do nothing to gain any insights on outlaws since outlaws would not participate, so it does not make sense to view it as a means to try to control outlaws. There are already background checks in place that tend to keep outlaws trading on the black market and no matter how universal they make the requirement for a background check, there is no way to get the black market to participate. Opponents also express concern about the reasoning for universal background checks if it really does not do anything to limit unwanted firearms sales? There is concern that this information would allow for the confiscation of the arms and ammo from law abiding citizens if the government decided to. Even if this is not the intention, it certainly does present the opportunity of this government or any invading force to use this information to this end.
There are also many other concerns about this proposal. The mental health aspect of it would require that information that is strongly protected now be made available to what ever body performs the background check. There is a strong belief that this would most likely result in people needing help choosing not to seek it because that would result in public disclosure of their personal information.
There is a lot of concern on both sides of this issue and as is usually the case when things are done in a reactionary manner there seem to be a whole lot of potential for unintended consequences to the current proposals. So, if not this, then what?
In my opinion, at this point, I think that some sort of addition to the current forms of identification that we as citizens now carry could be implemented. I am thinking that something along the lines of the “organ donor” option most ID forms now have. It would be possible to modify the procedures of each state’s ID department to allow a citizen to indicate that they want to be “licensed/qualified” to purchase firearms which results in a background check being performed and upon passing, a new ID is issued with a “firearms approval” notification such as an icon of some sort on the license. I see this being a national thing where the “icon” is the same nation wide and its placement is the same on every ID (like the bottom left corner on the back of the ID or some such thing). A national minimum requirement for background checks could be established that each state would have to meet. What ever the details turn out to be, the results would be an ID check much in the same way as age is checked for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco. This would then allow people to simply look for the icon on an ID, along with the expiration date, resulting in a legal way to determine that the purchaser is approved for firearms/ammunition purchases. This would work for all sales. providing a way for private sales to occur where the seller also has a simple way to verify the buyer is approved.
There could then be laws enacted that require this ID be checked. It also allows for law enforcement to send people out to try to purchase firearms or ammunition and verify that the ID is being requested and take appropriate action where they are not. It will not eliminate the black market problem but it does give law abiding people the ability to determine that they are not contributing to the problem by selling (or gifting I suppose) to a person that has not been approved. It also provides the ability for law enforcement to check the ID of any person they discover carrying a firearm, which would otherwise be legal, to determine that the person has the approval to purchase firearms and if not then they can then pursue a line of questioning that could result in an on the spot background check which, upon failure, allow for these weapons to be confiscated pending a full investigation.
This would allow for procedures to be in place where a mental health provider could flag an individual through the licensing board resulting in a suspension of the firearms approval for a period of time with a procedure that would require the license carrier to get an updated license, with penalties for not complying. In all cases, the normal expiration dates on the ID would allow the firearms approval to be removed upon renewal. This is also something that could be verified and checked through routine law enforcement checks. That is, on a traffic stop, or other interaction with law enforcement, where the ID is run anyway, the current status of the firearms approval could be verified and if the approval has been removed but the license still has the approval, a citation resulting in a fine and or suspension/confiscation of their ID could be issued.
This would also have to allow for the proper appeal of anything that results in the denial or removal of the firearms approval on the ID and/or the confiscation of firearms.
I believe that this is a much more practical approach to trying to keep firearms out of the hands of people that should not have them without unduly infringing on our rights. I am sure that there is much more to be considered about this possible solution to this problem. I would want there to be protections against the confiscation of firearms from people on mere technicalities. There should always be a process that allows a person to reclaim the firearm. I am thinking of a situation where a person left the ID home, or their “approval” has been suspended for a period of time but it is not necessarily permanent. Even if the individual is permanently restricted from possessing firearms or ammunition, they should have the option of selling, or receiving the proceeds from the sale of, their confiscated possessions rather than having them permanently confiscated and eventually destroyed. My thoughts here are with regard to someone having a number of weapons and then suffering a mental disorder that results in them no longer being able to possess firearms; they should not be required to simply lose those forearms and should have the option of selling them or gifting them to someone that is qualified to own them. Simply allowing the confiscation and destruction of firearms in this way could turn into a means to infringe on our right to bear arms through the misuse of this type of proposed law and that should be guarded against.
That is my opinion on how this could be done.