The Anti-Gun Billionaires
They have the money; populist gun-owners’ groups may still have more votes.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


Frank Miniter

Those on the left say they abhor big money’s corrupting influence in politics — until a leftist billionaire starts trying to sway public opinion. That’s okay with them, because, you know, old George Soros really isn’t creepy at all — he’s just a grandfatherly figure who gives like Santa Claus. And the same goes for Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg — their billions are okay, too. All Bloomberg wants is for the rest of us to give up tobacco, big gulps, and guns.

Now Bill Gates has joined on the great lefty-billionaire good-guy list. Gates is donating $1 million to push a voter initiative in Washington State that would require “universal background checks” for all would-be gun buyers. If it passes, all gun sales will have to be vetted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“Universal background checks” has a nice poll-tested ring to it, but in reality it will really just make it more expensive and burdensome for private Americans to do what they’ve always done: trade, buy, and sell guns among themselves. According to the Gates initiative, a gun owner can’t sell a Winchester Model 70 rifle to a friend without running the transfer through a licensed gun dealer and paying fees and taxes. A gun owner on a skeet range also can’t say, “Hey Bob, can I try a round with your Beretta? I’m thinking about buying a Beretta.” He can’t buy the gun because, unless he runs off to a licensed dealer and does a lot of paperwork and pays fees, it would be illegal.

The 18-page law would make illegal so much of what law-abiding gun owners do as they shoot socially and go hunting that the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs now opposes Initiative 594. But one thing it won’t do is stop criminals from getting guns. The criminals aren’t going to say, “Gee whiz, now we can’t buy stolen guns any more or get some guy with a clean record to buy us a gun, because you know that’s illegal.”

If the billionaires really want to do something to help stop the mentally disturbed (who commit most of the mass murders) from getting guns, they could help fund the FixNICS effort ( This is a lobbying campaign being spearheaded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for firearms manufacturers, to get more states to put records of those found to be insane by a court of law into the NICS system so those people can’t buy guns. Yes, the “gun lobby” is doing this to make us safer; but, no, those billionaires aren’t helping.

But the media aren’t going to say such things out loud. Or, heaven forbid, do some reporting on what will really stop criminals from getting guns and stop sociopaths from committing suicide after taking as many innocent people as they can with them. No, real solutions require real reporting, and that just isn’t done on the gun issue. The trouble for the anti-gun types is that when you dig into the gun issue, the numbers keep showing that more guns actually do equal less crime. They also show that straw purchasers — those who can pass a background check and who buy guns for those who can’t — have little to fear from prosecutors. The facts, as it turns out, are too inconvenient for those who hate the idea that a free person can actually defend his own life.

And this ties back in to the Left’s billionaires, because when you follow the money, you can see which movement is the people’s movement. 

It turns out that the NRA’s funds mostly come from a large grassroots membership base. This is also true of Gun Owners of America, the Second Amendment Foundation, and other gun-rights groups. According to, gun-rights groups “have given more than $30 million in individual, PAC, and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989.” Meanwhile, the money for gun-control advocacy comes mostly from wealthy liberals. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg started a pro-gun-control super PAC, Independence USA PAC, in 2012; it spent more than $8.3 million in several congressional races in 2012. Former representative Gabrielle Giffords started a super PAC in January 2013, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS). ARS had reportedly raised more than $18 million by January 2014 from a few well-heeled individuals. Before these anti-gun super PACs came along, the expenditures of “gun-control groups, by comparison, have been barely a blip on the radar screen,” says. “They’ve given a total of just under $2 million since 1989.”


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review