The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

there should be universal background checks on gun sales

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/25/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 367 times Debate No: 78114
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (0)
Votes (1)




about forty percent of gun sales currently do not involve background checks. that means there's plenty of head way to be made here.

true, some will just get guns illegally. but not ALL of them will. this is common sense. to say otherwise is like saying we shouldn't have crime laws cause some crime will occur. not everyone who is denied is a black hoodie who will stop at nothing to get a gun.


Thanks for the debate! Pro believes we should have universal background checks on gun sales. I assume that Pro is referring to the U.S. National Instant Background Check system (NICS) mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Law) of 1993.

I take the word Universal here to mean that any gun sold to a U.S. citizen should include a background check through the current NICS system.

I will be arguing that we should not have Universal background checks on gun sales through NICS.

Debate Round No. 1


sure thing. that was my opening argument. we should have seen yours from the get go too.


First I would like to make clear that this debate is not about removing guns from the population in general. It concerns itself with attempting to disallow further entry of guns into the population of those who we believe may commit crimes. I'm assuming my opponent agrees that gun ownership is a legitimate exercise of 2nd amendment rights. I would also assume that my opponents ultimate goal is not background checks, per se, but to reduce gun violence. If these statements are not true, then my opponent may clarify them in round 3.

My argument in this round will be based on three premises:

One, gun control is not politically palatable in the United States.
Two, feasible expansions of the scope of NICS will have negligible affect on getting guns out the hands of criminals.
Three, because of premise one, any proposed legislation will contain compromises that are unfavorable to gun control advocates.

These premises, taken together, have the result that any attempt to expand the scope of NICS will result in legislation that may undermine my opponents underlying goal, which is to reduce gun violence. The reason for this should be evident after thinking through how this would play out. Pro gun advocates will understand these premises, so they will take advantage of this by "giving in" to the NICS expansion in order relax gun control in other areas that ARE meaningful. The result of all this political juggling will simply be that politicians are provided with their election cycle "talking points" while little will change with gun violence. In fact, we may see an overall relaxing of gun control policy.

If this seems like fantasy to you, it should not if you follow politics. In fact, I will provide a real world example. In 2013 Senator Joe Manchin III worked on a bill to expand NICS checks (1), which I will refer to later.

Now I will address my three premises one at a time.

First, gun control is not politically palatable.
For example, President Obama's attempts at gun control failed completely in the Senate in 2013:

"It was a stunning collapse for gun-control advocates just four months after the deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown led the president and many others to believe that the political climate on guns had been altered in their favor." (2)

In addition, politicians are fully aware of the impact that gun control can have to the power their party holds in Washington:

"After the 1994 AWB, the NRA successfully mobilized pro-gun Americans to help give Republicans control of the US Congress for the first time in 50 years. There is no doubt that members of Congress understand the electoral implications of their actions." (3)

Second, expanding NICS will have negligible affects on getting guns out the hands of criminals.
Keep in mind the Manchin-Toomey bill does not even address my opponents resolution, which advocates *Universal* background checks. Manchin-Toomey would only address sales from unlicensed sellers at gun shows and online gun sellers. And, to understand the impact that this would have on gun sales, we should consider how criminals obtain guns. In the book "Reducing Gun Violence in America", a survey of prisons shows the following (4)

Licensed gun dealer: 11 percent
Friends or family: 39.5 percent
The street: 37.5 percent
Stolen: 9.9 percent
Gun show/Flea market: 1.7 percent

Therefore the Manchin-Toomey bill, which was defeated, would only add 1.7% of criminal gun purchases to the picture. I realize my opponent's resolution uses the word "universal", however this goal must be achieved within the context of reality. Even if a bill was proposed to address 100% of gun purchases, and somehow this politically impossible bill was passed, how would this be enforced when 77% of criminal gun sales occur between friends & family or on the street? The bill would need to include draconian enforcement proposals that surely would not even be attempted by politicians.

Third, any proposed legislation will contain vast compromises that are unfavorable to gun control advocates.
In fact, this is what happened with the Manchin-Toomey bill. The Cato institute, far from a left-wing think tank that would support gun control, actually did support this bill (5). However, the reason for this should be evident in the list of compromises:
  • It would allow Americans to buy handguns from out-of-state sellers
  • It would explicitly prohibit the creation of a national gun registry
  • It would affirm that unloaded guns with a lock mechanism in place can be transported across state lines
  • It would immunize private gun sellers from lawsuits if a gun they have sold is used unlawfully

Members of Cato aren't ignorant. They know an opportunity when they see it.

So taking all this information into consideration, although seemingly "common sense", Universal background checks are a pipe dream.

Debate Round No. 2


con mostly focuses on the politically unrealistic nature of universal checks. but this doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. that is the whole point of the resolution, that it should be done, not that i can be realistically done. to add checks to the measures, sales from family friends or the street should be done with a check, or the sale is illegal.

even con admits some checks could feasibly be accomplished that aren't already done. given those, and given the checks that should be done even if they can't feasibly be, checks would accomplish SoME people to not buy guns. it might not deter everyone, but some is enough. not everyone is a black hoodie who will stop at nothing to get a gun. and thus, some increased checks will result in some reduced gun violence.


Pro appears to be conceding that universal background checks are not possible politically, however wishes to ignore that. I would suggest that because we are debating a real-world issue where human lives are on the line, the arguments should stick to realistic solutions. In round 1, I defined parameters of the debate that Pro, the instigator, did not. This included the definition of "background check" as the U.S. National Instant Background Check system (NICS) mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Law) of 1993. I think that makes it clear that we are grounding the debate in the reality of politics since this is a federally mandated and implemented system, especially given Pro did not provide any precise counter-definitions. However, voters will certainly decide that matter. If said voters do not side with Pro on this, I would suggest that a vote for Con is evident.

But lets assume you accept Pro's initial resolution at face value, despite it's ambiguity. In that case, I will put forth further arguments in order to show that universal background checks are still undesirable even if politics are no obstacle.

Pro seems to be taking two different positions in round 3:

1) add background checks to gun shows for private individuals which Pro admits will have a small affect (1.7% of guns acquired by criminals).

2) checks should be done for all gun sales including private, family & friends, the street, etc.

For position #1, Pro will essentially "take what she can get" in the way of additional background checks. However, since the debate at this point assumes the lack of political obstacles, this position is irrelevant because it only addresses a small percentage of the problem that Pro desires. If Pro wanted to take this position, she would have to concede political obstacles, otherwise why argue for just increasing background checks by 1.7%! But Pro has already conceded those arguments. Because of this, the only viable policy position is option #2. The remainder of my arguments will counter the feasibility of such a policy.

First, as a reminder, I gave the following (uncontested) statistics in round 2 regarding where criminals acquire guns:

Licensed gun dealer: 11 percent
Friends or family: 39.5 percent
The street: 37.5 percent
Stolen: 9.9 percent
Gun show/Flea market: 1.7 percent

Second, for this portion of the debate, I am ignoring the political obstacles toward passing a universal background check policy. However, this does not mean that other governmental and bureaucratic obstacles do not remain, such as cost of implementation, difficulty in enforcement, negative impact on law-abiding citizens, etc.

I would also like to add that the NICS background checks are meant to affect gun sales. While the percentage may be small, it is possible for a criminal to acquire a gun without a sale, such as:

1) found on the street, which may seem remote, but in areas with high crime, it is reasonable to assume this will occur
2) gifts & bartering, which may also seem remote, until you consider that, in high crime areas, there are often cash shortages, resulting in such bartering
3) DIY home made guns, which are certainly part of crime culture. In fact, the term "zip gun" is well known even outside of crime areas
4) Borrowing which is certainly common among hunters (we certainly can't assume that the set of individuals who are hunters is completely distinct from the set of individuals who are criminals)
5) Building from parts. This comes into play more and more as 3D printers become feasible and cheaper. This would mean that background checks would also need to be run on any and all gun parts, along with those purchasing designs at online 3D print shops.

In addition, we simply can't ignore the obvious impact that universal background checks will have. It isn't as if criminals are clueless as to how the NICS system works and with the implementation of a Universal system, they will certainly learn very quickly. The result of this will be that criminals will completely ignore standard avenues of gun acquisition. The economic law of supply and demand will drive gun acquisition underground. This increased demand will be met by the market as it always is. Bartering for guns via trade for drugs or as payment will occur. There are already DIY zip gun videos on youtube but these will increase and improve in quality and scope. Just as with the war on drugs, which even police chiefs admit has not slowed drug use, background checks will not slow the acquisition of guns. However, just as the war on drugs increases crime, banning a portion of the population from owning guns will increase crime related to gun acquisition. In order to make a solid case, Pro can't simply assume that additional background checks will reduce violence. Instead a case must be made that the small percentage of criminals who are actually denied position of a gun will reduce violence more than it increases it based on the enforcement of the policy itself.

The only possible way this could be implemented is if the federal government outlaws all these means of gun acquisition and asks those who desire to buy and sell to do so completely through licensed dealers. Of course outlawing gun acquisition via "the street" is laughable. While I did concede political obstacles to implementing a policy for universal NICS background checks, I certainly did not concede political obstacles to such draconian measures as described here.

So despite giving in to the passing of such a law, I still contend that it's implementation is not only not feasible, but would be ineffective and would very likely even increase gun violence.

Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Discipulus_Didicit 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro didn't really make an argument, even conceded that universal checks may be unrealistic.