Civil Liberties

Schumer's 'Background Check' Bill Criminalizes Most Gun Loans and Registers Firearms


Senator Charles Schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer

When I go shooting with friends, we head out into the desert and inevitably we admire each other's firearms and swap 'em for a try to compare their accuracy, feel and overall abilities. That makes us criminals under the "background check" bill currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Charles Schumer, who proposed the measure, has packed his legislation full of legal snares virtually guaranteed to turn gun owners into lawbreakers. That's an impressive little sleight of hand for legislation considered to be the only sort of gun control with a chance to make it through Congress.

Ed Stone at the Examiner actually read the "Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013," for which he deserves credit, and warns that, "[i]n short, the bill is designed to land you in federal prison." Unfortunately, that's really not an exaggeration in a bill that most of the press, like CNN, is simply billing as "legislation … that would expand background checks covering all U.S. firearms sales." But Schumer's S. 374 does so much more. It requires background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) via a federally licensed dealer, with some exceptions, for any transfer that "shall include a sale, gift, loan, return from pawn or consignment, or other disposition." Exempted are gifts within a family, such as by grandparents to grandchildren, and other very specifically defined circumstances in which somebody else is allowed to touch your firearm. Pretty much anything else flirts with prison time.

I cited my practice of shooting with friends on public land because that's very common in much of the country, and it doesn't win Sen. Schumer's favor. If you want to try a buddy's gun, it has to be:

at a shooting range located in or on premises owned or occupied by a duly incorporated organization organized for conservation purposes or to foster proficiency in firearms and the firearm is, at all times, kept within the premises of the shooting range


at a target firearm shooting competition under the auspices of or approved by a State agency or nonprofit organization and the firearm is, at all times, kept within the premises of the shooting competition

No for-profit events, please! You also get a pass if you're legally hunting.

The bill does include a provision saying that a transfer "shall not include temporary possession of the firearm for purposes of examination or evaluation by a prospective transferee while in the presence of the prospective transferee," but that comes after all of the specific verbiage exempting loans at shooting ranges in the section on "sporting purposes." It seems crafted to allow a buyer to inspect a gun before making a purchase. In short, I wouldn't rely on it to keep me out of legal hot water out there in the desert.

By the way … Are you planning a vacation in the future? It's a two-week trip to Europe? Uh oh. Better not leave your guns with your roommate. Schumer's bill criminalizes such a loan if it lasts longer than seven days because … I guess your roommate goes psycho on the eighth?

Oh, and if a gun is lost or stolen you're required to report that to the feds and local authorities within 24 hours. Or else.

By the way, the point has been made that background checks make sense only if they include registration of firearms and owners, otherwise the provision is unenforceable. Ah, yes. The legislation specifies:

Regulations promulgated under this paragraph—

shall include a provision requiring a record of transaction of any transfer that occurred between an unlicensed transferor and unlicensed transferee accordance with paragraph (1)

Hmmm …

Of course, the restrictions in this legislation are so intrusive and petty, requiring people to change private behavior regarding the use and exchange of guns that are not yet (and probably never will be) known to the government, that I would expect casual and often unwitting defiance of its provisions to be more common than compliance (I know that I have no intention of obeying the damned thing). Which will turn the law, should it pass, into one more legal booby trap to be used at the discretion of the authorities.

Follow the progress of the "Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013" here.