I suppose in the current political climate, any suggestion that common ground exists between those who would increase restrictions on guns and those who would like to see a Sherman tank in every driveway should be celebrated. Still, I'm not sure what to make of this article in yesterday's Times: "Both Sides in Gun Debate Agree: Punish Background-Check Liars." According to this piece, last year about 80,000 Americans were kept from buying guns after they failed background checks. Although it is illegal to provide false information in an attempt to buy guns, only 44 of those 80,000 people were charged with a crime. Just about everyone involved in the gun-control debate thinks this number is too low. Maybe.
Let's say, though, that President Obama issues an executive order requiring the Justice Department to investigate these liars more thoroughly. What will this accomplish? After all, in order to convict someone of a crime, prosecutors must establish that the person knowingly provided false information: A fair number of these people may simply have made a mistake. As for those who tried deliberately to game the system, how many will be prevented from getting their hands on guns as a result of these new measures? Since they were willing to commit one crime to acquire a gun, why wouldn't they be willing to commit another one, i.e., avoid the background check altogether and buy a gun on the black market?
If anything, the fact that 80,000 people were, in fact, prevented from buying guns suggests that, contrary to what gun enthusiasts claim, current laws DO (at least kinda sorta work) and ARE (at least kinda sorta) being enforced. And yet we still have psychopaths managing to (legally) get their hands on guns. So, y'know, maybe a little added regulation wouldn't be a bad thing? Maybe? Hm?