April 12, 2024

FILE--In this July 20, 2014, file photo, with guns displayed for sale behind her, a gun store employee helps a customer at Dragonman's, east of Colorado Springs, Colo. Recent mass shootings spurred Congress to try to improve the background check system used during gun purchases, but experts say the system is so fractured that federal legislation being considered in Washington D.C. will do little to help keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

Progressives have been good at winning the language battle in recent years — particularly by manipulating language to evoke certain images and to lead to their desired conclusions. A prime example is their use of the word “loophole,” defined as “a means of escape, especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.” When someone accuses another of exploiting a loophole, he implies that the other is escaping some legal obligation, exploiting a technicality to violate the “spirit” of the law. …

Oregon’s Measure 114 has recently captured public attention as it claims to seek to “end a loophole in federal law.” This particular “loophole” refers to the federal law that allows a firearm retailer to transfer a firearm to a buyer if the federal government fails to expediently process the legally required federal background check.

When you buy a firearm from a licensed retailer in the United States, you are required to undergo a background check. That check is administered by the federal government through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The check, as the name implies, is supposed to be instant. And, under the same federal law that created the system, if that check languishes for more than three days, the purchase and transfer can go ahead. This isn’t a loophole that retailers or buyers are exploiting. It is an important check on the system that was intentionally included in the law to accomplish a legislative purpose.

The three-day limit does two things. First, it incentivizes the federal government to maintain an expedient system to ensure that peaceable people can purchase constitutionally protected firearms within what Congress determined to be a reasonable amount of time. Second, the time limit prevents the government from weaponizing the background-check system. Without the limit, the government could simply delay background checks indefinitely as a means of preventing firearm sales.

By labeling the three-day limit a “loophole,” gun-control advocates and politicians are hijacking the negative connotation that people naturally associate with that term. “Loophole” evokes a sense of unfairness and exploitation, when, in reality, this particular provision is a deliberate check on the system. It is not an omission by the law — it is a feature of it. …

The real problem is that gun-control advocates don’t like the law. Labeling everything the gun-control movement doesn’t like as a “loophole” is a tactic — a tactic to take advantage of people’s presuppositions and to advocate for broader and vaguer laws across the nation. People should be free to buy and own the tools that they see fit to defend their lives, loved ones, and communities. We shouldn’t fall victim to this ploy of bending language in pursuit of policy goals.

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