A couple days ago, I asked those of you who are pro-gun and have sold guns privately how, without a background check, you made sure you weren't selling to someone who would fail a background check, and would it bother you to know that you might be an unknowing accessory to a shooting crime.
Thank you, to those who answered. I'm disappointed that only a few of you did so. A couple hundred of you chose not to answer. So I went to some of the pro-gun blogs to look at repostings of my question and the comments people left there, as well. Here are some links to those:
So, here is what you had to say:
The most common response was that you only sell to those you know or that carry a concealed carry license. Selling only to someone you know personally and who won't abuse their right is a responsible thing to do, and I approve. Using a concealed carry permit is a good second choice. You assume that, since they passed a background check to get the permit and haven't had it revoked that they are safe. Generally you're probably correct. The problem is that not all violent crimes result in the withdrawal of conceal carry permits, and those crimes vary widely from state to state, and I wonder about the comparative speed of reporting to the NICS background system compared to the speed of removal of the certificates from the offenders. Of course, you are also discounting the majority of gun owners, who don't have a CCL. Running a background check takes only 5 minutes in Oregon.
Another choice that a couple of you mentioned is that you would approve of a firearms owner identification card as a stand-in for background checks, like Illinois' FOID card. This is updated quicker than most CCLs and is controlled by law enforcement. I could go for this. This is something which I feel is very promising and is a fine compromise. Personally, the 5 minute background check is probably more reliable in my mind, but at least you wouldn't have to go to a FFL to be reasonably sure the person you are selling to is safe. Also, almost no states have such a card and would need to spend quite a bit of money to implement it. Now, the usual paranoia applied to some who felt unhappy with having government oversight at all, but this is true for CCL too. (to you guys, I think you need to get over your "tyranny paranoia", fellas.)
A couple of you suggested using other, publicly-available internet background check programs, of which there are several out there. Just be aware that they may have very different databases they pull from and might not include all of those reported to the federal background check system or be updated frequently. Fees will vary, too. But, it's better than nothing, right? I didn't get the feeling that anyone actually does this, including the couple who suggested it.
There's also the suggestion that the federal NICS background check system be available to anyone, online. I think there are some serious privacy issues there. I think many people would feel uncomfortable having their private background information available to just anyone. For now, I'd say let law enforcement have exclusive access.
A handful of you simply expressed scorn at having a background check at all (one wrote "Who fucking cares?", one suggested repealing as many rules as possible, and another said flatly "I assume all I sell to are honest."). To those few I say that you are playing a dangerous game with people's lives, for your own benefit.
Several of you who said you would only sell to those who show you a CCL card also suggested this is common practice. I hope so, but I know for a fact that many times (if not most times), private sales take place without one. Consider, for instance, online sites where private sellers offer their weapons online, for my city and region, for everything from hunting rifles to pistols to semi-auto assault rifles. Here's a sampling:
Almost all of the listings for sales in those links are from private sellers, and not a single one I could find said in their add that they were screening the buyer in any way whatsoever.
My personal preference would be that the buyer and seller go through an FFL for the sale. In Oregon, this would require the filling out of a form, a small fee (I've heard a cost between $14-$20), and a 5-minute (literally, in nearly all cases) phone background check. It's a system that is already in place, unlike a FOID-like card, is updated much quicker, and is relatively speedy. If someone is already shelling out $200-$1000 for a firearm, I doubt that small fee would prevent the sale, nor a quick jaunt over to the nearest FFL.
So that's the legal issues, but many of you followed up your reply with a comment basically saying (and I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not legally bound to be concerned about how the buyer is going to use his weapon, and I don't have a moral obligation to be concerned, either." Some of you went on to compare the unknowing sale of a gun to a potential killer as being of no more concern than unknowingly selling a car to a drunk driver or gasoline to someone who would burn up victims tied to a mobile home or something. In other words, once the gun sale is done, you wash your hands of it and sleep with a good conscience, just as you would selling any other item.
Sorry, I'm not letting off the moral hook that easy. It's true you have no legal obligation. But when you sell a lethal weapon, don't you feel you should do all you can to prevent it from falling into criminal hands? When I sell a car, I get the buyer's license information. If they don't have a driver's license, I wouldn't sell. It's that simple (comparable to the CCL or FOID card check for guns). Of course, if someone has a driver's license it doesn't mean they're safe drivers, but at least I've done that small part. If I didn't do at least that amount of checking, I don't think I'd be able to sleep afterward. How could you? If there were a 5-minute background check system that would exclude sales to those who have a history of dangerous or impaired driving, you bet I'd be a supporter of it. Wouldn't you?
There is currently a bill in the U.S. Senate to tighten background checks, improve reporting to the NICS system, and to require a check for all private sales. I'm a supporter of this. Here's a good recent article on this: