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01/03/17: Obama’s Outrageous Expansion of Gun-Buyer Background Checks

January 3, 2017, at National Review

By John R. Lott, Jr.


Have you ever thought of letting someone else manage your finances? Under finalized new rules released just before Christmas by President Obama, Social Security recipients will be banned from buying a gun if they are deemed “financially incompetent.” Some 4.2 million Social Security recipients — about 10 percent of all people 65 and older — could lose the right to own a gun as a result.

Just because someone can’t manage his finances doesn’t mean that he’s a danger to others. What is next? Keeping guns away from people who can’t drive or do math? What about other rights? Should “financially incompetent” people be forbidden from voting or making other decisions? President Obama and most other Democrats would be understandably upset if any voters were required to pass a literacy or intelligence test at the polls, but they have no problem denying millions of seniors their ability to defend themselves.

Make no mistake, either: That is what they are doing. Having a gun is by far the most effective way of protecting yourself from criminals. And because of disparities in physical strength, women and the elderly stand to benefit the most from owning a gun. Only with a gun can an elderly woman realistically defend herself against a young man.

This is personal for me. My elderly mother, who is computer illiterate and doesn’t know how to pay her bills online, has given my sister power of attorney to handle her finances. But my mother’s lack of computer know-how shouldn’t stop her from being able to defend herself.

Every day, there are news stories of elderly people defending themselves with guns. The same week Obama released the new regulations, a 79-year-old widower fatally shot a man who had broken into his home and was stabbing his 18-year-old granddaughter, and an 81-year-old woman fatally shot a man who had broken into her home and attacked her husband with a knife.

Though Americans 65 and over make up over 14 percent of the U.S. population, they seldom go out and kill people: They account for only 3 percent of murders where the age of the murderer is known. But Obama thinks we need to keep an eye on the elderly, including veterans. The federal background-check system now keeps a record of those who require help with administering their VA benefits. In 2012, the Congressional Research Service found that the Veterans Administration (VA) provided 99.3 percent of all names reported to the NICS “mentally defective” list. So veterans are massively overrepresented among those losing their right to own a gun. They who have fought for our country deserve better.

Before throwing more names into the background-check system, it might be time to correct some massive problems with the system. Some 3 million people have been stopped from buying guns because of background checks, almost all of whom were false positives — those who had a name similar to that of a prohibited individual or who were mistakenly flagged in the system for other reasons. Adding even more names to the list will only make such cases more common.

Although such mistakes are merely an inconvenience for many law-abiding gun owners, they cause dangerous delays for people with a pressing need for protection, such as those being threatened, stalked, or living in a neighborhood that is facing a sudden rash of break-ins. If they are initially denied the right to buy a gun under the background-check system, they can appeal, but the process is long and complicated, with most having to hire lawyers costing thousands of dollars. The poor and many middle-income people simply can’t afford to stand up for themselves when their rights to self-defense are taken away due to government incompetence.

We need to face the reality that seemingly “reasonable” gun-control measures such as the background-check system overwhelmingly disarm law-abiding people rather than criminals, which leads to higher crime rates. Neither the elderly nor other law-abiding vulnerable people are done any favors when we disarm them.

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