The seemingly innocuous House Bill 1229, which proposes a de facto ban on private sales, is ridiculous, unnecessary and dangerous.
Ridiculous, you ask? How can a bill dealing with firearms safety be ridiculous? The bill sends you to jail for six to 18 months for loaning a shotgun to your nephew without getting a background check on him.
How about this: Your neighbor, who you’ve known for 20 years, wants to borrow your rifle to take on a trip to Nucla to shoot prairie rats. Bang, both of you wind up in jail for six to 18 months. You should have gotten a background check on him. Don’t bother the government with the fact that you know he already has 10 guns. Just call up the dealer, make the arrangements and pay for the check. Absurd. And it doesn’t do a single thing to make anyone safer.
There is no way for the proponents of this bill to fix these problems. They can’t write enough exemptions into the bill to alleviate these problems. If they do, every transfer of a firearm is exempt.
The bill is unnecessary. It is already illegal to transfer a firearm to a person who you know or reasonably should know is ineligible to possess a firearm. It’s in the Colorado Revised Statutes, 18-12-111. Look it up.
And this bill is dangerous.
How do you know that a firearm possessed by anyone was obtained with a background check? You don’t. You can’t. That’s the problem. There’s no way to enforce universal background checks.
Well, there is one way. Let’s say you are driving from your house to the farm for a day of work and you happen to have a couple of firearms in your truck with you. Let’s say you neglect to use your signal when making that turn to head out of town and get pulled over by a city policeman. The officer sees your guns and asks if you legally obtained those weapons with a background check.
You say, “Yes.” He says, “Prove it.” You can’t. The paperwork, for one, is in the file cabinet of a now-defunct hardware store and the former owner/dealer is working on a drilling rig in North Dakota. The other was a gift from your mom 30 years ago and the paperwork was legally shredded 10 years ago.
The police officer says, “OK, I’ll just hold on to these things until you provide me with proof that you obtained them with a background check.” You can get the proof of the background check on the firearm you purchased, eventually. The former dealer still has his FFL (federal firearms license), so he has the files; it just may take a few days.
I have no idea how you prove you obtained the gun your mom legally gave you 30 years ago, as those records no longer exist.
No worries. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his minions, the authors of and proponents of this bill, have an idea for you. Actually, gun owners will come up with the idea themselves to avoid the hassle of waiting three days to prove they own a firearm legally: a gun registry.
A centralized database of lawful gun owners and all the guns they own so that a law enforcement officer can check to make sure everyone who has a firearm has passed the government approval for gun ownership.
All the government needs to know is: What guns do you possess? Give them the serial numbers and manufacturer’s names, please, and they’ll be happy. Heck, they’ll probably even give you a six-month grace period to just come clean and register every firearm, even the ones you got without a background check.
The only way to enforce a policy of universal background checks would be to register every firearm in the state of Colorado. And history has shown that gun registries are always the first step toward confiscation.
Ridiculous. Unnecessary. Dangerous.
Greg Brophy is a Colorado State Senator from Wray. This article originally appeared in the Denver Post.