Owens Kicks Off Background Check Drive
by Ari Armstrong, May 4, 2000
"I ought to bash you over the head." That's what a female member of Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic told me May 3 after a press conference at which Governor Bill Owens helped the group kick off its drive to expand background registration checks to include private sales at gun shows.
What did I do to invoke such a heated reaction? Why, I dared to hand out a flyer outlining the problems with background registration checks. Such checks violate the Constitution, increase crime, and hurt the poor. The flyer quoted Yale Professor John Lott, legal scholar David Kopel, and the Colorado Constitution concerning the shortcomings of the proposed law.
Another man from SAFE said to me, "We were told to just walk away" from civil arms advocates without considering their side of the argument. I asked him, "Why -- are you not capable of thinking through the issues on your own? You have to be told what to think?" A leader of SAFE told me that the group refused to publicly debate the issue because the measure already has broad public support. In other words, he wants to make sure voters aren't confused with the facts.
Yet another man with SAFE refused to take my flyer, rebutting my claim that background registration checks increase crime with the comment, "Look at the statistics!" I told him that I have looked at the statistics, and that the statistics indicate background checks have not decreased crime but have actually increased it, as noted on page 162 of Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime. He looked at me blankly, then reiterated, "Look at the statistics!" It was like trying to argue with a parrot.
And so members of the group with the acronym of SAFE rush headlong into proposals that will make honest citizens less safe. And some members of SAFE are not merely ignorant, they're willfully ignorant, as demonstrated by the comments made to me May 3.
When the willfully ignorant butt their heads against reality, they get angry. The woman I met would rather threaten me with violence than consider rationally my point of view. God forbid she have to confront evidence and make a logical case for her positions. Her reaction was a clear sign of dogmatism and blind emotionalism.
But I'm not sure which is worse: willful ignorance or outright dishonesty. Governor Owens told the Rocky Mountain News, "Nobody should be concerned about a background check, other than the criminals and children who won't be able to get guns when we close the loophole" (May 4, page7A). Owens knows that's a lie. As the News noted on January 22, 329 people were known to have been wrongfully denied by CBI background checks since August. Of course, hundreds more cases were never challenged, and hundreds or thousands more have been wrongfully denied since January.
Background checks raise the cost of firearms and raise extra legal hurdles, thus hurting the poor particularly. If CBI wrongfully denies an honest person the right to buy a gun for self-defense, it is up to the person to prove him or herself innocent to CBI. So much for the presumption of innocence. Unfortunately, criminals won't wait around to attack while honest citizens plead with the government for their rights of self-defense. Background registration checks don't stop criminals, who resort to theft or the black market to get their guns. Thus, background registration checks actually empower criminals.
Owens also knows the SAFE proposal will not affect the legality of minors buying guns, despite his statement to the contrary.
But Owens' propensity to stretch the truth is by now no surprise. He courted civil arms votes before his election but subsequently fought for a slew of disarmament laws. Owens seems to care more about how background registration checks will affect his popularity than about how they will hurt honest citizens and diminish civil liberties.