What the Hell Do Background Checks Have to Do With Sandy Hook?

Office of Joe ManchinOffice of Joe ManchinHere is how Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) explains the motivation for the background check legislation that he and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) unveiled today:

Nobody here in this great Capitol of ours with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again. I think that's what we're doing.

By "a day like that," of course, Manchin means December 14, when Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The Manchin-Toomey bill would require background checks for people who buy firearms from private sellers (i.e., sellers who are not federally licensed dealers) at gun shows or anywhere else if the transaction is initiated online. Since Manchin describes that requirement as a response to the Sandy Hook massacre, you might reasonably surmise that Lanza bought the rifle he used in the attack from a private seller at a gun show or after seeing it advertised online. But you would be wrong, since the rifle belonged to Lanza's mother, who purchased it legally from a federally licensed gun dealer after passing a background check. And if Lanza had tried to buy a gun on his own, it looks like he also would have passed a background check, since it seems he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record, which is typically the case for mass shooters.

Hence it is hard to see a logical connection between the Newtown murders and the proposal offered by Manchin and Toomey. But that does not matter, because it makes them feel as if they are doing something to prevent such crimes. And isn't that what laws are for, to make legislators feel better? President Obama certainly seems to think so. Notice that Manchin implicitly endorses Obama's view that anyone who fails to support new gun controls does not have "a good conscience."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    I'm more offended that he called the Capitol "great".

  • Drake||

    Maybe he is just referring to it's size - or the amount of ill-gotten revenue flowing through the city.

  • ||

    Two-four-six-eight
    Homer's crime was very great
    Great meaning large or immense
    We use it in the pejorative sense.

  • James Sinclair||

    *like*

  • Restoras||

    Nothing. That's not the point. They have to be seen doing something even if that something is nothing except the stripping of rights from those they purport to represent.

  • albo||

    We have to do something
    This is something
    So let's do it.

    Declare victory, go to dinner with lobbyists.

  • Esteban||

    Had a long email back and forth with some liberal friends last week. One admitted that although he doesn't love obamacare, he supports it because it meant doing something. Didn't even hide it.

  • H. ReardEn||

    anyone who fails to support new gun controls does not have "a good conscience."

    Bad conscience! BAD!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    How long am I going to have to wait until Toomey decides to pull a Specter and switch parties?

  • H. ReardEn||

    The next primary.

  • Paul.||

    When the tea party kicks his ass out of office.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Petard, hoist.

  • Tim||

    In 1994 gun owners ended fifty years of Democrat House majority and in 2014 it will be the 20 year anniversary. We'll see how they do this time.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Yeah, and we still had to live with the 1994 law for ten years and only because it had an expiration clause. They won't make that mistake again.

    Remember the Republicans rolling it back in 2001 when they controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency? Or again in 2003? Yeah, me neither.

  • WTF||

    And isn't that what laws are for, to make legislators feel better?

    Actually, no, it's to make their idiot constituents feel better so they vote for the legislators.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Has nobody ever studied logic?

  • Irish||

    I hope everyone likes the Archduke's post. He's been having a really hard time lately.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    THANK YOU

  • ||

    How has he been having a hard time?

  • ||

    Due to the sequester, he's had to severely cut back on actual pants-fan-related activities.

    Also, climate change.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    I'm forced to wear pants in public.
    My utilikilt over jorts has been frowned on.

  • ||

    Pantsfan isn't bothered by the sequester, he's Canadian. His financial problem is that we've been at about parity for over three years and Canadian prices are still higher than US prices.

    But yes, definitely climate change.

  • Irish||

    Jesse, it was a joke because his link is to a page about the 'Appeal to Pity' logical fallacy.

    Try to keep up.

  • ||

    Shut up Irish, you're being mean! I'll go comment over at Gawker, better to be a small fish in an even smaller intellectual pond.

  • T||

    I think that's an intellectual puddle. Of what, I leave to someone to determine.

  • Bobarian||

    More like a wet spot.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    More like an intellectual drool cup...

  • fried wylie||

    since the rifle belonged to Lanza's mother

    I've been saying it for years, that parents should be conducting background checks on their children.

  • T||

    Mine is being raised by anti-government bitter clingers. He probably won't pass.

  • fish||

    See....the system works.

  • PapayaSF||

    I think we should have background checks on presidential candidates. I know, too late, but if it saves one life, it'll be worth it.

  • DaveAnthony||

    "How can the GOP heartlessly stand there and block this legislation while we parade a bunch of children and parents of dead children and lie and distort the truth to emotionally manipulate people to accepting our agenda? Why it's just downright evil!"

  • Tim||

    Gloat:

    "Waite-Simpson was lead sponsor of the primary gun-control bill introduced in the Vermont legislature following the mass murder of 20 first graders and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, last December. Lamenting that she thought “it would be different this time,” Waite-Simpson says her multifaceted legislation was defeated as a result of what she calls “the libertarian bent that remains strong in this state.”

    http://www.7dvt.com/2013vermon.....crosshairs

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    “Burlington is saying ‘our state government isn’t doing anything, our federal government isn’t doing anything, so we’re going to do something,’” comments State Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson (D-Essex), Vermont’s foremost gun-control advocate. “Burlington’s trying to take control of its borders.”

    Probably the only time you'll hear a Democrat talk about border control in glowing terms.

  • Tim||

    Oh yeah. And blame libertarians not Republicans.

  • Rasilio||

    That's because there are no Republicans in Vermont

  • Hyperion||

    Well, I just she can only hope that twice as many kids are killed next time.

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    Her multifaceted legislation was defeated because even arch-commie Vermont legislators know that their state survives in not-insignificant part due to tax revenues generated off the money hunters spend there, and that antagonizing those people is a shitty idea.

  • BakedPenguin||

    So what does Joe Thiesmann have to do with gun control, and should we break his leg again if it passes?

  • Hyperion||

    Both legs.

  • NeonCat||

    And his prostate.

  • Bobarian||

    Damn you!!!

  • Bobarian||

    Easy on Theismann, he's been having prostate problems.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Nobody here in this great Capitol of ours with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again. I think that's what we're doing.

    Let's go over the facts one more time:

    1. Nancy Lanza purchased the firearms used in the incident.
    2. Nancy Lanza passed the background checks.
    3. Nancy Lanza had the firearms registered in her name.
    4. Nancy Lanza had legal possession of the firearms.
    5. Adam Lanza took custody of one of the firearms and shot Nancy Lanza four times for the purpose of taking her firearms. (Felony Murder)
    6. Adam Lanza took additional firearms and her car, drove to Sandy Hook Elementary, killed 26 people.

    At what point in this chain of events would a "universal background check" have prevented Adam Lanza from murdering 27 people?

  • Hyperion||

    Doesn't matter. They have to pass 'something', so that the next time they can say 'well, we tried background checks, that didn't work', so now we have to just ban all guns.

    So then they start back at the same point and see what they can get through.

    It's just an inch at a time for progs. In time, it adds up. Over the last 100 years, they've managed to fuck things up to the point of FUBAR. And they aren't done yet, they're never done.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    At the point where there's a blanket denial on all approvals?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    at "does someone you know fail a background check"?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Hey if everyone you know (family, friends, colleagues, that homeless behind your gym) hasn't passed a background check, how can we know you won't pass this firearm to someone who shouldn't have it? Or shouldn't have it ex post facto.

    "Your linear nature is inherently destructive. You have no regard for the consequences of your acts."

  • LarryA||

    At the point where there's a blanket denial on all approvals?

    "You want to buy a gun? That's crazy. We have to turn you down.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's not supposed to do anything except make parents feel better by giving the appearance of doing something.

    When the next event occurs, there will be more restrictions. And so on and so forth until national registration and confiscation.

    Can't do it all at once. Must move in baby steps.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    baby steps.

    why do you hate the children

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    At some point we need to recognize that we are not dealing with people engaged in a good-faith effort to understand, and then solve, actual problems.

    Rather, we are dealing with cultural bigots who despise us.

    Once we understand that, we can stop trying to argue facts and logic with these people, and, instead, beat them over the head with their bigotry.

  • Restoras||

    They care about one thing and one thing only - remaining in power. They may or may not despise us - I beleive they see us more as an impediment to total power than anything else - but they most certainly are not bigots. Bigots have principals, twisted though they be, that guide thier thoughts and actions. The scum we are dealing with are more than willing to sacrifice their principals at any given moment to remain in power as well as consoliddate more power to themselves.

  • wwhorton||

    Give the man a prize!

    The Progressive movement is based on and fueled by emotional appeal, hate, suspicion, mistrust, guilt, and wishful thinking--but no logic, reason, or facts. You can't argue with Progressives because there isn't anything to argue against.

    Looking solely at guns, you can't understand this issue if you look at it in the context of attempts to address a specific problem with legislation. It just doesn't work, logically. Look at it instead as the east and west coast liberal establishment versus the southern and midwest conservatives (with libertarians associated by default), and it makes more sense.

    Anti-gun legislation isn't for preventing children from being killed, although you have to sell it like that. It's for attacking people who own guns, who tend overwhelmingly to be non-Progs. If these people were honest, they'd say what they really think: "Private citizens who own guns are ignorant, dangerous rednecks, and even though they didn't kill these particular children, they're the type of people who would if they had the chance. So let's make sure they can't have the things they value, like guns in this case, until they either become like us or die off."

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    Exactly. This isn't about preventing mass shootings; it's about eradicating gun culture, which urban/coastal elites despise as another way in which our country is backwards, evil, dangerous, unenlightened, etc.

    They have a particular burr up their ass about us because we don't go quietly.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Texas without guns is like a whorehouse without the hookers.

  • thom||

    Obviously Nancy Lanza should have done a background check on her son before letting him steal her weapons.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Nobody here in this great Capitol of ours with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again. I think that's what we're doing.

    We need to know whether Lanza liked cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast.

    For reasons which should be obvious .

  • geekster||

    you might reasonably surmise that Lanza bought the rifle he used in the attack from a private seller at a gun show or after seeing it advertised online. But you would be wrong, since the rifle belonged to Lanza's mother, who purchased it legally from a federally licensed gun dealer after passing a background check. And if Lanza had tried to buy a gun on his own, it looks like he also would have passed a background check, since it seems he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record, which is typically the case for mass shooters.

    According to The Hill the bill would also "...exempt gun sales and transfers between friends and acquaintances without the help of an online intermediary." So Lanza's mother could have willingly transferred the gun to her son legally without breaking this proposed law.

    This bill goes beyond ineffective and meaningless, right straight to full retard. It wouldn't impact an exact repeat of the crime that supposedly inspired it even slightly.

  • PapayaSF||

    Proponents might be hoping to turn it into a registration system, or perhaps prohibit transfers without proof that the seller owns the weapon.

  • LarryA||

    You think? That's the holy grail of gun control.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    it seems he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record, which is typically the case for mass shooters.

    But this does not take into account the inevitable parade of reliable sources who swarm out of the woodwork after the fact, saying, "I always knew there was something weird about that guy."

  • Bobarian||

    If " there [is] something weird about that guy" became a prerequisite, we'd all be on the list.

  • db||

    Toomey, you suck worse than most. You are a Republican senator from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, which is up there with Arizona, Kentucky, and Texas in terms of shooting culture. Pennsylvania, which will probably never send you to an elected office ever again. You are an utter moron, and you deserve the electoral drubbing you will likely receive at your next opportunity.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    I can tell you Joe Manchin won't be re-elected to anything in WV either. And he knows that, which is why he has the left's collective dick so far down his throat.

  • Paul.||

    What everyone here is failing to recognize, is that if these laws save even one life, your constitutional rights are worth giving up.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Better to let 10 innocent men hang than one guilty man go free.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If " there [is] something weird about that guy" became a prerequisite, we'd all be on the list.

    I think you've got it.

  • Dweebston||

    You mean to say you're not in favor of protecting innocent lives? That's peculiar, wouldn't you say?

  • WomSom||

    lol silly laws are for honest folk anyways lol.

    www.AnonNow.tk

  • Blogimi Dei||

    It is all about perceived safety and not about actual safety: see TSA.

  • Cowboy||

    So according to CNN this bill is a compromise. Funny, I always thought that in a compromise, you give a little and they give a little. What are we getting in return for this? Nothing, I guess. Unless you consider "well you're lucky it's only this bad, instead of far far worse" as a compromise.

    But the thing that really really gets my goat about all of the registration bullshit, is that it treats us like children. It's my goddamn property, and if I want to sell it to a consenting adult, or if I want to buy property from a consenting adult, it's nobody's goddamned business but my own. I shouldn't have to report my sale to anyone. Because it's not. your. damn. business. I don't have to register and report every time I sell a phone, or buy a hotdog, or even a damn hunting knife. Why are guns different?

    (And yes, I do realize the real answer is CONTROL, doesn't make it any easier or less rage inducing)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement