For It Before We Were Against It

by Stu Chisholm

Background Check
Background Checks
Stu Chisholm author of Knowing Guns: The Ins & Outs of Firearms & Firearms Politics for the Uninitiated
Stu Chisholm author of Knowing Guns: The Ins & Outs of Firearms & Firearms Politics for the Uninitiated

Detroit, Michigan –-(  It’s hard to believe that a full decade has passed since the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign.

It seems like yesterday when presidential hopeful, John Kerry, turbocharged the term, “flip-flopping” with his statement to an assembled crowd at Marshall University that “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it,” referring to his vote for funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

That one still gets laughs at parties.  Yet very recently, during the debacle over so-called “universal background checks,” the same “flip-flop” charge was leveled at the NRA.  Why?

Back in 1999, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre testified before a panel of the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the NRA that background checks were appropriate and should be done.  This stands in sharp contrast to their position in 2013, when the NRA’s Chris Cox called the expanded background check proposal “misguided,” and said that it would not reduce violent crime, “or keep our kids safe in their schools.”  The left-wing media is still crowing, “flip-flop!”

In 1998, the NICS system (National Instant Check System) went online, replacing the mandatory 5-day federal waiting period for gun purchases.  The NRA supported the idea overall, sometimes working with legislators to iron out some of the details.  NICS would replace the much hated (by gun buyers) waiting period.  Contrary to popular opinion and/or revisionist history, gun control supporters of the day opposed the idea, not only preferring the waiting period, but wanting to lengthen it.  In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, when it became apparent that records of prohibited persons were missing from the NICS database due to funding issues, the NRA once again worked with legislators to craft the “NICS Improvement Act of 2007.”  According to their website, “The National Rifle Association (NRA) worked closely with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to address his concerns regarding H.R. 2640, the National Instant Check System (NICS) Improvement Act.  These changes make a good bill even better.  The end product is a win for American gun owners.”  Again, the anti-gun advocates took this as defeat.

To say, then, that the NRA opposes background checks defies historical fact.  Indeed, you might recall the many Sunday morning news pundits during the 2013 hearings and debates on expanding the checks thought that the NRA would eventually acquiesce and support the bill.  They did not.  Again, we must ask, why?

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Obama administration has taken a decidedly anti-gun position, purportedly fueled by emotion in the wake of Sandy Hook and pressure from various anti-gun groups.  The NRA, therefore, rightfully views any changes to current gun law with suspicion.  This was especially true with the 2013 bill.

Crafted by senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), it contained many things that gun owners and the NRA found objectionable.  The first was backdoor gun registrations, which is illegal under current federal law.  The senators went to work on an amendment that blocked any such registry, and again you might recall how gun control groups howled in protest, a registry being a long sought after item on their agenda.  Another provision, however, was not removed: a de-facto tax on every private sale.

The bill would’ve forced all private sales to go through FFL dealers.  This places an undue burden on these businessmen, who would essentially be running transactions for their “competition,” not to mention the man-hours and paperwork involved, so they would naturally charge a fee which could add anywhere from $25 on up.  When another proposal to bypass FFLs and simply allow private sellers access to NICS free of charge was proposed, gun control activists held the line: the fees must not be eliminated!

The obvious reason is to price out buyers of more modest means – often the very people who need armed self-protection the most!

In the end, it came down to a choice between a true life saving measure being implemented or cutting off a small segment of gun buyers, and gun control zealots chose the latter.  As we all know, the bill went down in defeat, to the shock of anti-gun liberals.

Indeed, not only the NRA, but other groups were concerned about the potential of letting private sellers have access to NICS, citing privacy concerns.  It turns out that this isn’t an issue, since NICS only gives three results to every background check: proceed, denied or delay/hold.  It divulges no personal information to the seller at all.

Yet the attempts of the Obama administration to infringe on 2nd Amendment rights combined with the efforts of two new gun control groups, Gabby Gifford’s “Americans for Responsible Solutions” and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” (and their newly purchased astroturf group, “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America”) has solidified opposition by the NRA and other gun rights groups against any changes to the background check provision.

It has been characterized as “asking government permission” to buy a gun, targeting “you, the innocent gun buyer” rather than criminals.  But is this fair?

An unrelated hot-button issue is “voter ID,” the conservative push to combat voter fraud by requiring voters to prove they are who they say they are.  This seems like a reasonable way to combat such fraud with only a minimal inconvenience to innocent, law-abiding voters.  One might characterize such a measure as a “criminal control” law.  So what I find hard to fathom is why we don’t apply the same logic to background checks?

And that’s the answer: no, those characterizations above are not fair.  The goal is to stop convicted felons and prohibited mental patients from buying guns from legal sources, something we might also call “due diligence.”  Indeed, a determined criminal won’t let this minor roadblock stop him/her, but more apathetic (and less intelligent) criminals may well be stopped.  Additionally, I have to think that most gun sellers would like to know if the person they’re selling to is one of the “good guys.”  Pro-gun groups and responsible gun owners/sellers must, then, change their perspective – that background checks are not “gun control,” but “criminal control” – and demand a viable way to implement a truly universal plan that won’t infringe on access to firearms by honest Americans.

The best, most simple plan I heard during the debate reminded me of my local Sex Offender Registry.  I can go online and see the names and locations of all the convicted sex offenders in my neighborhood.  If NICS could also be put online and made accessible to any and all gun sellers, no matter where they were, it would make a true “universal” check system possible.  They could be done anywhere that phone, internet or cellular service is available.  Best of all, FFL dealers would be bypassed in all private sale transactions, so there would be no fees.  As long as the prohibition against a registry remains intact, there is every reason for we People of the Gun to lend our support to the idea.  I think that everyone who wants to see less crime would prefer efficacy over political theater.

For the more staunch among us, I’ll just say this: NICS is a fact of life and is not going away anytime soon.  While the figures might be debated, it’s also been successful in denying sales to criminals, so why shouldn’t we double-down on what actually works?  Hard-core opposition simply makes us look exactly like the inflexible, unreasonable types the media portrays us as being.  I say that effective solutions can ONLY happen when those who know guns best add their expertise and voices to the debate and their focus to the problem of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  Otherwise, we’ll just end up with bad legislation written by the ignorant.  If you agree that we cannot let the Bloombergs and Giffords call the shots, then write your Congressman and put our plan in front of them.  Write a letter to the editor of your local or national newspaper, magazine or news website and be the voice of reason.  Let us take our place as the true champions of a safer, less violent America.

Until next time, share the knowledge!

Editors Note: See related article “Death To NICS, Up With BIDS” :

About the author:
Mobile DJ, business owner/entrepreneur and author Stu Chisholm was born in Detroit, Michigan. A columnist for the DJ industry trade magazine, Mobile Beat, Stu’s series on “DJ Security” contained a controversial segment on concealed carry and the use of guns. It was later included in, and expanded upon, in his book, “The Complete Disc Jockey,” published in 2008. Running a business and pursuing what he considers logical security measures, Stu obtained his CCW permit in the state of Michigan in the late ’90s and later became active in the gun rights movement. He joined the grass roots group MCRGO, the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners, helping to reform Michigan’s concealed carry law in 2001. Stu remains an active DJ, writer and activist, and is currently collaborating on an upcoming science-fiction book set in Detroit’s near future. He is married to cable television producer, Janette Chisholm and lives in Roseville, Michigan.
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“I will never compromise the second amendment”. That is exactly what your proposal would do, it would further compromise the second amendment. YOU are just to ignorant to understand that.”As far as anyone can tell, ALL gun legislation is effectively dead for the foreseeable future.” LOL. Ignorance squared.

Stu Chisholm

Dave: those who reflexively blurt “shall not be infringed” to every suggestion offered to fight crime display their closed-minded ignorance. I will never compromise the 2nd Amendment, and certainly agree that the “eternal vigilance” our founders spoke of applies here as well as anywhere in law: that expansion that DOES infringe should never be allowed nor tolerated. This proposal just doesn’t meet the definition. Where you see compromising with those who portray us wrongly, I see negating their silly portrayals through our own actions. A great example: anti-gunners say that the “gun lobby” doesn’t care about children and does nothing… Read more »


Chisholm people like you amaze me. What is so hard to understand: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”. I wont compromise my constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and I don’t care how that looks to the antigun crowd or anyone else for that matter. “Hard-core opposition simply makes us look exactly like the inflexible, unreasonable types the media portrays us as being.” Only a spineless, weak person would make that cowardly statement. Lets compromise with the same people who are deliberately portraying us wrongly. Nope. Here is the correct course… Read more »

Stu Chisholm

Honestly, I’m doubtful that they’d replace NICS with BIDS; I was voicing my approval of the idea. I’d do what I could if it ever was put up for consideration. I think there’s a difference between “grabber forces” and those who are simply concerned about violent crime. Certainly the former have played off of the ignorance of the latter (as they have with “green ammo”), but that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and say “nothing can be done” as to felons. That’s the surrender/quitter mentality. Reform is exactly what I’m talking about. If we complain about it’s lack… Read more »


I know its unlikely that NICS will go away any time soon, but this being so what the hey makes you think the powers that be would then be open to ‘replacing’ it with BIDS? NICS ultimately originates from grabber forces or plays into their interests. If checks had actually worked sellers would have pursued their merits through a system independent of the outright force of the federal government. The existence/persistence of the present system is no reason to effectively condone it as a ‘fact of life’, nor to think its aims are merely ‘well intentioned’ but misguided and therefore… Read more »

Stu Chisholm

Bill: what you say is true for the professional criminal, but not so much for the run-of-the-mill variety. We can quibble about the actual numbers, but reports show that felons are being denied. A registry is illegal and should remain so. (I’d like to see a federal law making state registries illegal as well.) Patrick: I’d be opposed to any “independent” entity that is not a part of law enforcement. Remember that, as Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg tried to use trace records for his rogue “sting” operations. I thus far have no problem with the FBI/law enforcement running… Read more »


^ I agree with bill above. I was saying that a system independent of the government which sellers could use at their convenience to suit THEIR concerns and not those of the government would be far better. My IRK is with Mr. Chisholm’s assertions that ‘background checks are not gun control’ and that it is no different from ideas behind VoterID programs. But even supposing checks were not technically gun control, do you really want the Feds with their finger(s) in the pie, much less sinking them deeper in? Sorry but You are naïve if you trust them to just… Read more »


The whole problem with *ANY* background check system is this: they don’t work. Criminals do not care about a background check; they just buy whatever guns they can afford. Or they steal them. Either way, no background check can stop that. Those who recommend any background check system are working for the gun grabbers. Do we really think there’s no Federal gun registry? There’s not supposed to be one, but given the government’s penchant for keeping records, do we really believe that the person on the other end of the phone query when I buy a gun is going to… Read more »

Stu Chisholm

Patrick – This idea gives the government no more power than it already has. Instead, it places more power in the hands of The People. Right now, if you want to sell a gun, you are barred by law from running your own NICS check. Unless you’ve got an FFL buddy or want to spend money doing a commercial background check, you can’t know if your buyer is a felon or not! Putting NICS online does away with that prohibition. If checks can be run without fees, it would undo Gov. Hickenlooper’s law in Colorado and any other state that… Read more »


Another comment of mine not posted…What’s going on with this site…Am I being censored?


Homicides are up in Colorado since Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Universal or Expanded Criminal Background Check system into law last year…Charging an extra $10. for anyone purchasing a firearm…Hickenloopers new anti-gun laws didn’t stop an Arapahoe HS student from purchasing a shotgun, taking it to school and shooting up the place killing one female student…Proving that Gov. Hickenloopers new anti-gun laws regulating commercial and private gun sales are a myth when it comes to eliminating criminal intent with a firearm… Hickenloopers new laws were designed to harass law abiding and responsible gun owners… Nothing more…Leaving criminals laughing at the… Read more »


BIDS does sound like a superior system but just because we have NICS does not mean that we should trust the federal government with even more power regulate our guns. Also, comparing NICS to VoterID is comparing apples to oranges, since the latter is properly justified on the exclusion principle (i.e. a closer parallel to VoterID would be if one were applying to influence the financial/marketing decisions at Smith & Wesson or some other large gun manufacturing concern – the company would want only those who were truly qualified on their terms to be applicable). VoterID is a system meant… Read more »

Stu Chisholm

LOVE Korwin’s BIDS idea! Support 100%.