Letter To The Editor: Proposal For Workable Firearms Transfer Background Check Law

Los Alamos

A couple of us have thought of a background check proposal that might accomplish most or all of what we really want but with far less acrimony. So here is an idea if this is to be revisited again and assuming for the moment that the present bills are not resurrected. I’ve stolen some ideas from a colleague (with thanks) but modified them with my own additions, so any rotten fruit should be thrown at me alone. Here would be the basis of the law.

1. It is of material and social benefit to society to verify that a person unknown to you is not a prohibited person before selling or transferring to them a firearm. (the estimated cost to society of a homicide and resulting legal, health care, and incarceration issues are estimated to be over a million dollars https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835847/).

2. The best way to verify that a stranger is not a prohibited person is through a background check via a law enforcement agency that collects all the relevant records, i.e., the NICS or equivalent. Because it is virtually impossible to enforce mandatory background checks between private parties short of a continuous sting operation or universal registration (for which the political will is simply not present), the best way to do this is via encouragement rather than punitive means.

3. Therefore, the State of New Mexico should create the mechanism whereby any private party selling or transferring a gun can voluntarily obtain a free, instant background check through the State (perhaps the Dept. of Public Safety, DPS) or a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). Details to be worked out and could entail:

a. A full tax credit or refund from the State of New Mexico for fees incurred if this is done at an FFL.

b. New Mexico can become a “point of contact state” like Nevada under its old rules that were repealed when its present unworkable, Everytown for Gun Safety law was adopted. The DPS and Attorney General could research how Nevada did this and initiate a similar system run out of DPS. This could even be researched to see if it could be done online.

4. If money is an issue, some sort of cost share out of general funds and a 1 percent excise tax on ammunition could be considered.

5. If gun control advocates need a pound of flesh, the bill could indicate that the background check provides full immunity to the seller if the person getting the gun turns out to have prohibited person status whereas in the case of a sale without a free background check, the seller would entail legal responsibility for an illegal sale, especially if the gun is used in a crime.

The bottom line is this should be cooperative. The Everytown battle has been combative. If the public wants a solution, we need to think outside the box. I really think if we did this with local folks rather than bare knuckle out of state lobbyists, we might get somewhere.


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