The Wrong Kind of Background Check

Sellers seem more interested in ideology than safety.

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Customers line up at the gun counter at Duke's Sport Shop on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in New Castle, Pa.
Customers line up at the gun counter at Duke's Sport Shop in January in New Castle, Pa.

Background checks for gun purchases—an idea overwhelmingly supported by the American public—are meant to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The screening is not meant to keep guns out of the hands of people who have no intention of shooting someone with them.

This elementary concept has not been fully absorbed by one Doug MacKinlay, the owner of the Diamondback Police Supply store in Arizona. MacKinlay doesn't like the fact that Mark Kelly, the husband of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, intended to purchase an AR-15 assault weapon and then not actually use it. Kelly, whose wife was shot in the head while she was meeting constituents outside a shopping center in her district, moved to buy the gun to show how easy it was to do so. He then intended to hand the weapon over to police.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

This, MacKinlay said on his Facebook page, is an irresponsible use of a powerful weapon:

While I support and respect Mark Kelly's 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other than for his personal use. In light of this fact, I determined that it was in my company's best interest to terminate this transaction prior to his returning to my store to complete the Federal Form 4473 and NICS background check required of Mr. Kelly before he could take possession [of] this firearm.

MacKinlay said he would raffle off the gun, and will donate the cost of the weapon to the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, an operation of the National Rifle Association to teach gun safety to children.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Should There Be Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases?]

One child who can't attend such a session is Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who was murdered during the Arizona rampage. Nor will the elementary school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School who were gunned down with a Bushmaster AR-15.

Kelly wanted to display an important truth: That it's pretty easy to buy an assault weapon such as the one that killed the children at Sandy Hook. It is beyond perverse to deny a gun sale to someone simply because he has made it clear that he has no intention of actually using the weapon.

Yes, Kelly was trying to make a political point. And given the response of the Tuscon gun shop owner, the obvious point is still in need of repeating.

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