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August 14, 2013

More Background Checks? Bloomberg says ‘No’

Eighteen-year-olds have the legal right to get married, vote, and even sign up  for potential combat in our nation’s armed services. Under federal law, it is also legal for adults 18 and older to possess handguns.  One thing that an 18-year-old can’t legally do, however, is walk into a federal firearms licensee (FFL), undergo a background check, and purchase a handgun at retail. Federal law prohibits FFLs from selling handguns to anyone younger than 21, even though federal law and many state laws do not prohibit handgun possession by those individuals.

In 2011, NSSF filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Court in support of a lawsuit brought by the NRA seeking to overturn the restriction on 18-to-21-year-olds purchasing handguns through FFLs. Among other things, there is hypocrisy in trusting these individuals to use handguns in defense of the country, but not in defense of their own homes.

Moreover, there is no restriction on 18-to-21-year-olds purchasing long guns from FFLs, or handguns from anyone besides an FFL.  The lawsuit is still being considered in court, and Bloomberg News Service decided to opine on the issue Sunday. Unsurprisingly for an organization whose namesake is the ringleader behind the anti-Second Amendment movement in the country, Bloomberg News doesn’t think the ban should be overturned.  The editorialists seem quite comfortable with the irrational prohibition on purchasing handguns through dealers.

But a closer look at the issue reveals the hypocrisy of Bloomberg’s position. The gun-control lobby has stressed the importance of more background checks, but what the current law really accomplishes is to push these transactions away from FFLs. Allowing FFLs to sell handguns to all adults would actually result in more background checks, because aspiring handgun owners between 18 and 21 are currently pushed into the private market.

This should be a litmus test for Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group and other outspoken proponents of so-called “universal background checks.” American adults are already legally allowed to purchase handguns — right now some are just forced to do so without a background check.   One has to wonder:  Are proponents of additional background checks more interested in playing politics with the issue than they are with extending NICS checks to buyers of handguns who are 18 to 21?


Larry Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @lkeane.

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