Forget background checks for a moment.
Maybe, in reaction to Saturday's mass shooting in Tucson, a whole new take on the problem is needed when it comes to potentially dangerous, mentally ill people buying guns. Maybe a complete mental health evaluation should be conducted on people who want to buy guns or ammo, just to make sure they're deemed mentally sound by society. The evaluation wouldn't just include a review of the would-be gun-buyer's medical history. You'd want to catch all the people who may be dangerous nuts, not just those who've sought help.
Honestly, no. And at least five reasons why quickly come to mind:
1. There's no one to perform such a check. Unless you want teenage retail workers playing psychiatrist, a new government agency would likely be required to perform this function. Who's gonna fund that? And would it be done in person, by video conference, or ... e-mail?
2. Americans have a right to own guns, and Arizonans have further legal protection: Our constitution's declaration of rights, in Section 26, gives residents a right to own firearms for our own defense. Driving may be a privilege. Becoming certified to cut hair is a choice. But owning a firearm is a right, and that's powerful stuff.
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3. An evaluation process would be more than just registration. In New York, and state with serious restrictions, it takes weeks to buy a handgun. And the licensing process adds a lot to the cost of the gun. That $600 Glock nows costs more than $1,000 in New York because of a $340 license fee and $94.24 fingerprinting fee. A process that includes a mental-health screening might cost even more. Lower-income folks wouldn't be the only losers, of course: Arizona has a robust gun industry that would be decimated under major restrictions.
4. Drug screening might be a spin-off requirement, since that would be a simple way to evaluate someone's mental health. Then guy buyers would have to pee in a cup to claim their civil rights. No thanks.
5. Loopholes would need to be closed, such as private gun sales and gun shows that wouldn't perform the evaluation. This opens up a new can of worms, raising questions about - for example - the ability of Americans to sell their guns privately.
Pre-purchase evaluations are an interesting idea, but such a system would forever change - and restrict - how people buy guns in this country. That would tip the balance of power even further away from "the people" and toward the government. The U.S. wasn't designed for such a power imbalance.