With his announcement that the Justice Department will seek to tighten up the definitions of who counts as a gun dealer and must then conduct mandated background checks on potential customers, President Joe Biden is taking another small step in the direction of the broad reimagining of which people get guns and how in the United States.
The changes build on last year’s welcome but limited gun law following the Uvalde school shooting, and could bring us closer to a more than reasonable requirement for universal background checks, instead of letting some sellers hide behind inane loopholes.
We would consider driver’s license and car insurance laws and regulations more or less meaningless if you could evade them by simply buying your car from an unregistered seller at some sort of car show that (wink wink) definitely wasn’t a car dealer. Apply this to any controlled commercial activity you want and it makes about as much sense. Do you get to legally sell liquor if you do it from the trunk of your car without checking IDs? Do you get to have an unlicensed business providing legal advice and representation as long as you don’t call yourself a lawyer?
This has been a basic and obvious principle as long as we’ve had efforts to regulate firearms, yet the loudest, most extreme pro-gun voices who falsely claim to represent the views of responsible gun owners have continuously argued that it is somehow unreasonable to expect basic compliance and standardization across gun sellers.
Will perfect compliance with background check processes prevent every bad, unstable or ill-intended person from getting a gun? No, and no one should expect it to, just as no one ever said that seat belts will save every single life that would otherwise be lost to a traffic collision. The point is we’ve decided that, on balance, having these rules in place will be better for everyone, and having glaring loopholes moots their effectiveness. Congress should take the hint and go back to the drawing board.