by Bob Barr
For all the Left’s ongoing hoopla about the dire necessity for “common sense gun control,” nothing currently being proposed makes any more sense than measures already tried and failed. The American public has seen and heard it all before, and is even less interested in buying into it today than in years past.
But the Left keeps trying. Their latest gambit is to attack ammunition purchases.
Earlier this month, Democrats in the Florida legislature filed a bill they call “Jamie’s Law,” named after a victim in the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The legislation would subject all purchases of ammunition to background checks.
When making this same proposal nearly three years earlier in the U. S. Senate, leading gun-control advocate Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut called the lack of background checks on ammunition sales a “ludicrous loophole” that allows would-be killers to amass “arsenals of ammunition.”
Even for the typical anti-gun nonsense spouted by Democrats, Blumenthal’s hyperventilating is extreme; but then again, so is the proposal, whether as federal or state law.
The basic premise of the legislation is that it would prevent people who are already prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms, from buying ammunition. Really.
The only situation in which Jaime’s Law might be considered even remotely applicable would be in stopping an individual from purchasing ammunition for a firearm they acquired illegally. It does not take a firearms expert or criminology PhD to know that finding ammunition is far easier even than for a criminal to get their hands on an illegal firearm
For the sake of argument, though, let us take Democrats at their word and assume there is an actual need for this proposed law. For instance, a “prohibited” person erroneously passes the first background check to purchase a firearm, and (for reasons that defy logic) later goes back to buy ammunition, subjecting himself to a second background check that hypothetically would prevent that purchase. What this scenario — which serves as the sole justification for Jamie’s Law — clearly suggests is that the background check system itself is the problem, not that more background checks are needed.
The suggestion is not entirely off-base (though the proposed solution is). Failures of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) allowed the killers in both the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, and the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shootings to obtain firearms they should have been prevented from purchasing.
The obvious – dare I say, “common sense” — solution to tragedies such as these, however, lies with better and more consistent enforcement of the existing background check system on firearms, notwithstanding that the system even as currently configured has worked remarkably, but not perfectly, well for over two decades.
Creating a whole new background check criteria and database for purchasing rounds of ammunition is wholly unnecessary and would be phenomenally costly and disruptive to the industry and to lawful firearms owners — which, of course, may be exactly what Blumenthal and his fellow gun-control advocates in the Florida legislature want.
Ironically, albeit predictably to anyone with even a passing familiarity with government data systems, proposals such as Jamie’s Law would wind up reducing the effectiveness of federal background checks, and placing citizens in greater danger, by overwhelming NICS with requests. Ammunition purchases by nature are exponentially more common than sales of firearms, and there simply is no way NICS could handle such volume, meaning more purchases would be approved by default (as required by law now).
In addition to making NICS less effective, an ammunition check procedure would come at a significant cost to law-abiding citizens who could no longer easily pick up ammunition for a trip to the range or before a hunt.
Jamie’s Law is a solution in search of a problem. Fortunately, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis understands both the constitutional and practical consequences of such a proposal, and never would sign such legislation even if it were to somehow make it through the Florida legislature. Still, if history of the gun control movement is our guide, this and other counterproductive and unconstitutional measures will continue to have life breathed into them by gun control advocates in the Sunshine State and elsewhere.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.