Why Does ‘Compromise’ Always Mean Gun Control Wins?

Why Does ‘Compromise’ Always Mean Gun Control Wins?

Gun rights defenders are willing to genuinely compromise. But gun control advocates do not negotiate in good faith, creating bad policy with no logical end.
Max McGuire
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People often ask me why I am so unwilling to “compromise” on gun control. In reality, I’m not. A compromise is supposed to mean both sides of an argument get something out of the deal. Neither side gets everything they want, but they both at least get something.

When people ask me what I would be willing to compromise on, I give them a simple answer: I would trade tougher background checks in exchange for nationwide concealed-carry reciprocity. If we are going to create a system where every gun purchaser is fully vetted through the FBI’s background check system, then we should give those vetted and trusted gun owners the right to carry their guns nationwide.

Gun control advocates usually gasp when I make this recommendation, as if the thought of actually having to agree to pro-gun reforms has never crossed their minds. The answer I get is almost always a hard “no,” and that tells me everything I need to know about the gun control movement’s intentions. Every gun control bill that passes is just one step toward an ultimate goal.

If you get lucky and catch a gun control activist in a particularly honest mood, they’ll admit they think the Second Amendment itself should be repealed. More often than not, though, they will feign defensiveness when you accuse them of this. Never forget that when the issue was before the Supreme Court in 2008, gun control organizations openly argued in amicus briefs that there is no such thing as an individual right to own a gun.

Negotiating in Good Faith Has Led to Compromise

Gun rights supporters are so unwilling to compromise because we know we are getting nothing in return. The left’s idea of a “compromise” is that gun owners get to keep some of their guns instead of having to give up all of them. But even if that were palatable — and it’s not — we know any deal we agree to now will not be honored in the future.

Here’s an example: When Congress started debating a background check bill in the early 1990s, Democrats wanted to give the FBI unlimited time to vet gun purchasers. From the very beginning, even when the FBI was using paper records, the background check system was designed to be “instantaneous.” Gun control advocates, however, wanted to give the FBI as much time as necessary to complete a background check. This was hard for them to sell. A background check isn’t instant if the FBI needs weeks or even months to process it.

This is where Republicans drew a red line. If Democrats wanted to pass a background check bill, they had to agree to cap how long the process could take. This makes complete sense. If the government is going to force purchasers to ask for permission before taking a gun home with them, the government should have to give them a timely response. Otherwise, nothing could stop the federal government from blocking gun sales altogether by simply ignoring the background checks that come in.

The compromise was for 72 hours. That is how long the FBI has to process an “instant” check. If they can’t come back with a yes or no in three calendar days, then the purchaser is allowed to take the gun home anyway. The only reason we have a background check system today is because Republicans and Democrats negotiated in good faith and came to this agreement.

Without Good Faith, One Side Is Forced to Lose Everything

But gun control advocates don’t refer to this as a “compromise” anymore. Today, this provision is known as the “Charleston loophole” because the FBI failed to process the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shooter’s background check before the 72-hour clock expired.

Right now, Democrats are demanding that the Republican-controlled Senate go into emergency session to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R.1112). This bill would undo the 72-hour compromise and extend it to give the FBI 10 business days to perform an “instant” background check. If someone wants to appeal a rejection, the FBI would have another 10 business days to process the appeal. This would allow the government to take 20-21 business days before giving a final determination on a background check that is supposed to be instantaneous.

When you fill out a Form 4473 to start a background check, that application is only valid for 30 calendar days. If you haven’t taken a gun home within 30 days of filling it out, you must go through the process again so the FBI can make sure you haven’t committed a crime in the meantime. In any given year, somewhere between seven and nine months have 21 or fewer business days. This means that if the FBI has 20-21 business days to give a final answer, the government would suddenly have the power to run out the clock on millions of gun purchases every year.

Twenty-five years ago, Republicans told us we had no choice but to give up our rights, but the “compromise” was that in the worst-case scenario, we would only have to wait three days to buy a gun. Today, we are being ordered to “compromise” again and allow the government to take up to a month to give us permission to buy a gun. This is what a slippery slope looks like.

A ‘Compromise’ Is Never Enough For Democrats

We see it on other gun issues as well. In 1968, Republicans and Democrats “compromised” and raised the handgun purchase age to 21. They agreed to leave the minimum age for long guns untouched so that 18-to-20-year-olds would still have the right to own a gun. Democrats today are trying to raise the long gun purchase age to 21 as well, arguing that if you need to be 21 to buy a handgun, the same should apply to long guns. 

In 1934, when Congress debated the National Firearms Act, Democrats wanted to treat semi-automatic weapons the same as fully-automatic weapons. Lawmakers reached a “compromise” when the left agreed not to go after semi-automatic guns. Yet here we are, 85 years later, and Democrats are deliberately trying to trick the public into thinking AR-15s are essentially machine guns and the government should regulate them even more than fully automatic weapons.

Democrats have not honored a single gun control “compromise.” The minute they secure one change to the gun laws, they immediately begin arguing lawmakers need to do more.

Ronald Reagan famously said our rights and freedoms are never more than a generation away from extinction. Democrats didn’t have the votes to push through their complete agenda back in the 1990s. They had to “compromise” with Republicans to get some of what they wanted. But now, a generation later, new Democratic legislators are promising to finish the job. Of course, these gun control advocates want gun owners to “compromise” again.

Anyone who actually wants to compromise and pass real pro-gun reforms, such as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act alongside a tougher background check process, you’ll find gun owners are more than willing to negotiate in good faith. But if your idea of a “compromise” is that I surrender some of my rights in order to avoid losing all of them, and you refuse even to honor the “compromises” of the past, don’t act surprised when we gun owners say “no.”

Max McGuire is a fellow in Firearms Policy at the Millennial Policy Center. He received his Master’s Degree in Political Science from Villanova University.

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