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On Federal Background Checks

As new talk of expanding Federal background checks raises to a fevered pitch in the US Senate, we think it’s important to go into some detail on CGF’s position.
Some of the debate is moot for those of us in California as we are forced through expensive and duplicative background checks and waiting periods on virtually every firearms transfer. CGF is suing to overturn waiting periods for people the State already knows aren’t prohibited and already own guns. We’re also suing to stop the State from delaying valid purchases by those who aren’t prohibited because the State’s background check database is incomplete.
Even with nearly universal background checks, California still has a higher gun homicide rate than the State of Texas where there are only background checks on commercial sales. However, technology has certainly reached a point where the Federal government could make it very easy, and free, to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons.
Though we certainly like some of the gun owner protections and rights expansions in the Manchin-Toomey proposal, such as those licensed to carry a firearm being able to buy handguns in any state, there are serious issues with the additional costs that the proposal would place on law abiding gun owners.
We’ve advocated for a simple, secure system for making background checks available to private parties and we are cautiously optimistic that Senator Tom Coburn’s proposed amendment parallels that idea. Though the devil is always in the details and we reserve judgment until we read the actual text of the bill, an online buyer self-check system strikes a balance of respecting the Second Amendment and privacy rights while making it easier for the law abiding to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Ideally, these non-retail transfer rules should fully preempt and exempt us from conflicting state laws. California forces friends and even some family members to spend $35 and take three total trips to a gun store to simply gift or sell a firearm. If the buyer or gift recipient has a 30 day background check document from an online government service, a carry license, or any other NICS-backed proof of eligibility like a Certificate of Eligibility, there should be no more cost in time or money to transfer a firearm.
And remember, obtaining a carry license in California is likely to get much more realistic in the 7 or so states that maintain unconstitutional carry license regimes, like ours. Asking responsible gun owners to make sure they aren’t selling a gun to someone prohibited using a process that is fast, free, and simple is not much to ask. We think it would even pass the strict judicial scrutiny that fundamental enumerated rights require.

The Manchin-Toomey proposal, however, is a gift horse we have to look in the mouth. We hope that Senator Coburn will provide the Senate with a more carefully-considered measure.