The Waiting Period Acid Test

NICS Should Preclude Need For Delay
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Back when there was a battle over what would become gun control under then-President Bill Clinton, the “instant background check” was proposed as an alternative to a federal waiting period. One of the primary arguments was if credit card companies could verify someone’s credit in a matter of minutes, it should be a simple matter to create a National Instant Check System (NICS) to clear gun purchases.

After all, we’re talking about the vast difference between exercising a right, and buying a television on credit at Costco.

So It Began

Thus was begat the FBI NICS system, something of a slap in the face of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which even then had a reputation among Second Amendment activists as a rogue agency.

Today, some 30 years later, anti-gunners in various states are insisting upon waiting periods for gun purchases — especially handguns and so-called “assault weapons” (if they are not outright banned) — on the grounds there is still a need for a “cooling off period,” a proposition the history of mass shooters has thoroughly debunked. Pick a name, whether it be Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock, San Jose killer Samuel James Cassidy, Isla Vista gunman/slasher Elliot Rodger or Maine mass shooter Robert Card, they all took plenty of time to plan their bloody rampages. Translation: Waiting periods did not cool them off, deter them or prevent them from carrying out their mayhem.

So, what good do waiting periods actually do? For the anti-gunner, they symbolize — however falsely — the effort to curb gun-related violence. For the law-abiding citizen, they’re a bureaucratic pain in the butt and nothing more. The waiting period is a government-imposed impairment on the exercise of a constitutionally enumerated and protected fundamental right, and in honest terms, it accomplishes little.

Criminals don’t bother with waiting periods. Crazy people evidently see them as minor inconvenience to delay a monstrous, well-thought-out explosion of savagery; revenge for things real or (usually) imagined committed by people they target.


Why Wait?

Why should law-abiding, peaceful American citizens be required to wait, three, seven or even 10 days to complete the purchase of a constitutionally protected implement? Really, it’s all a firearm really is, as perhaps most accurately defined by Alan Ladd in the classic western Shane. A gun, he told Jean Arthur, is “a tool, no better or worse than any other tool…. A gun is only as good or as bad as the man using it.”

And people have used other tools, from claw hammers to hatchets — for which there are no background checks — to murder fellow humans. Even the Isla Vista killer, the aforementioned Elliot Rodger, fatally stabbed/slashed his first three victims before hopping in his car to fatally shoot three other victims, using handguns he purchased legally in California. The mandatory waiting period and state-limited 10-round magazines didn’t stop him, a fact often and deliberately omitted in the gun control narrative.

Why should anyone be forced to wait around for more than a week to exercise a right? No journalist waits a week to write and publish a story. No community activist or politician waits a week to make a speech, or lead a march, or do whatever else they can to get the media’s attention.
Which brings us around to a dilemma that just might separate the good guys from the not-so-good guys when it comes voting in this year’s elections. C’mon, you knew this was coming — a reminder of your responsibility to vote.

Support for waiting periods — we’ve heard outlandish proposals for as much as a 30-day wait — should be considered an acid test, as they provide a good signal someone considers owning a gun to be a government-regulated privilege rather than a right.

When the NICS system was established, there was a 72-hour allowable delay included to allow for errors or missing information. But nowadays, with far better electronics and communications available, there should be absolutely no reason to expand the delay. Stretching the delay out to seven or 10 days appears designed primarily to inconvenience and discourage a would-be gun owner from fulfilling his/her right to keep and bear arms.

How important is this? Recent history suggests it is critically important to people living in cities hit by riots and rising crime, while the ranks of local police departments are shrinking. I’ve covered this phenomenon as a journalist, chatting with gun retailers from one corner of the country to the other, and all have similar stories to tell. From the violent outbreaks following the death of George Floyd to now, people are suddenly realizing all those gun controls they supported in the past are now preventing them from walking into a gun store and walking out with a legally purchased firearm. “Wait,” they demand to know. “Why should I have to WAIT?!”

Because you wanted this and so did the people you helped elect.


Delayed = Denied

The late Dr. Martin Luther King — himself a gun owner, by the way — puts it bluntly: “A right delayed is a right denied.”

This is a good year to be reminding politicians of this statement. The waiting period sets the Second Amendment apart from all other constitutional rights. Why is that? Why is the Second Amendment treated differently from other rights?

Those are questions best asked of politicians holding “Townhall” gatherings and should actually be asked of presidential candidates during televised debates. Do you support waiting periods? Why? What evidence do you have that they have prevented a single mass shooting?

We have the capability of accurately determining whether someone is a good guy or a bad guy. The technology exists to send humans into space, to check one’s credit, to communicate half a world away, so instead of supporting a waiting period, Mr. Candidate, how about you support a budget allocation of, say, $5 billion to improve and make this NICS system work like a snap, correctly every time, all the time?

If a candidate replies in support of a waiting period in addition to the background check, that individual isn’t interested in public safety or even your safety. He or she is on the gun control bandwagon, even if they’re just momentarily hitching a ride to sound and appear “reasonable.”

For the past three-plus years, especially, we’ve seen what the current administration says is “reasonable.” If the current state of gun control doesn’t appear reasonable to you, maybe it’s time to change things, eh? All you have to do is vote.

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