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Politics & Policy

ThinkProgress Smears Dan Crenshaw on ‘Universal Background Checks’

Dan Crenshaw at Turning Point USA’s 2018 Student Action Summit. (Gage Skidmore)

At ThinkProgress, Josh Israel miscasts Dan Crenshaw’s argument against the “universal background check” bill that the House of Representatives passed earlier this year (and which Crenshaw opposed):

“With universal background checks, I wouldn’t be able to let my friends borrow my handgun when they travel alone like this. We would make felons out of people just for defending themselves,” he tweeted.

It is unclear why Crenshaw does not believe his friends could pass background checks to get their own weapons or to borrow his. If they are convicted felons who are not allowed to possess weapons, it would seem important for Crenshaw or other friends to know that before arming them.

Israel’s reading of Crenshaw’s tweet is based upon a misunderstanding of the bill (H.R. 8) that Crenshaw opposes. Under current federal law, Crenshaw is allowed to loan, gift, or sell a gun to any adult within his home state of Texas, provided he believes that that adult is permitted to own one. If H.R. 8 were signed into law, this would change. Specifically, H.R. 8 would prevent Crenshaw from selling a gun to anybody without the buyer undergoing a background check; it would limit to recipients within his own family his ability to gift or loan a gun; and it would narrow the circumstances in which he could effect a “temporary transfer” dramatically, to those in which the temporary transferee was at a shooting range or on a hunting trip, or feared “imminent death or great bodily harm.” Because he has read H.R. 8, Crenshaw knows this, and he knows, therefore, that if H.R. 8 were to become law it would prevent him from loaning his friends guns per se not because his friends are unable to pass a background check, but because there would be no such thing as loaning a friend a gun.

Or put another way: Crenshaw’s objection is that, under H.R. 8, all transfers that do not fit the cramped “family loan” or “temporary transfer” criteria are deemed permanent. Currently, Crenshaw can lend a Texan friend a gun, and, when that friend is done with it, he can give that guns back to Crenshaw. Were H.R. 8 in force, this would not be true. On the contrary: Under H.R. 8, each exchange would involve Crenshaw first transferring ownership of a given gun to his friend, and then, when his friend was finished with that gun, he would be obliged to transfer ownership back to Crenshaw. Both transactions would be heavy on paperwork, and would involve costs — both for the mandatory background check and whatever transportation and time was necessary to get both people in front of a federally licensed firearms dealer. That — not that his friends are criminals and domestic abusers — is what Crenshaw is complaining about. And he’s justified in doing so.

I suspect that one of the core problems here is that, to many people who write about politics for a living, the idea of loaning a gun to somebody sounds inherently suspicious. “Why?” I have been asked today, “would you borrow a gun instead of buying one?” But this is a silly question, and one that would surprise the millions of Americans who loan each other firearms as a matter of course. I, for one, borrow firearms fairly regularly. I borrow firearms when I go hunting. I borrow firearms when I go skeet shooting. I borrow firearms to try them out. To ask “why borrow a gun?” is akin to asking “why borrow a car?” or “why borrow an electric drill?” Because you need to use one but don’t want, or need, to keep it. If Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL and member of Congress, wishes to loan his guns to people — and, by extension, if he objects to Congress making that practice illegal — he is within his rights to do so. Insinuating in response that he must be friends with the wrong sort of people is disgraceful.

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