I grew up in a small house on a dirt road along the San Juan River, with a father who hunted to put food on our table and taught me firearm safety.
But today, fewer Americans than ever are privileged to grow up with those same opportunities to hunt and shoot recreationally. Aggressive gun control laws threaten to eliminate those opportunities altogether.
Congress is considering House Resolution 8, a so-called universal background check bill that would make it even harder for rural Americans to pass on the hunting and sporting traditions from our past.
Before my family moved to Southwest Colorado, my great-grandfather used to visit for annual hunting trips. He taught my father how to hunt, who in turn taught me.
Now, I teach others how to hunt.
As a certified instructor, I also teach firearms safety and help with youth competitive shooting leagues. Children from families who don’t own firearms borrow guns for local and statewide events.
It’s a joy to see a young boy or girl win a competition with my break-action shotgun. It’s also rewarding to see a disabled veteran borrow my gun to shoot a wild turkey.
Under HR 8, sharing our firearms with family members or during competitions or hunts would be confusing, even criminal. The measure would force gun owners to conduct a background check on their own cousins and pay an undisclosed government fee if they wanted to give, loan or sell a shotgun to them. If cousins were out on a family hunting trip, a patchwork of confusing exemptions would apply.
The specifics of the bill are hard for a private citizen who is not in the gun business to navigate. Still, a person would not need to know they are violating the law to be prosecuted. Additionally, the law-abiding gun owner could be charged even if the person they share or sell their gun to is legally eligible to possess the firearm and obtained it for a lawful purpose.
Colorado is one of a handful of states that already has so-called universal background checks. Evidence shows these laws don’t reduce crime. A 2017 study by gun control researchers looked at these background check laws in Colorado, Delaware and Washington state and found that in Colorado and Washington, the laws had “little measurable effect” – there wasn’t much difference in the number of background checks that were done after the laws went into effect as compared with the estimated number expected without the law. In addition, Washington state did not even have its first charge brought for a violation of that state’s law until after it had been in effect for almost two years.
More generally, a study released in 2018 on California’s expanded background check law, which mandates a background check for nearly all firearm sales, determined that the law had no impact on gun homicide or suicide rates. The study examined the rates of firearm homicides and firearm suicides in the decade following the imposition of the background check requirement. It compared the actual rates with expected rates based on data from 32 control states that did not have these laws and did not implement other major firearm policies during the same time. The study found no change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms following the enactment of the expanded background check law.
So-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law.
I would like to see Rep. Scott Tipton focus on effective solutions that will deal with the root cause of violent crime and save lives. We don’t need another anti-gun politician seeking to score political points and push intrusive, ineffective and unnecessary legislation.
Mia Anstine of MAC Outdoors is an outdoor writer, speaker, commentator and instructor from Southwest Colorado. She’s also a hunting guide and certified instructor in archery, firearms, hunter education and other outdoor-related skills.