Instigator / Pro

Resolved: The US should require a Universal Background Check for all Gun Sales and Transfers of Ownership


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Definitions of the resolution and terms of debate:

Universal Background Check- Any system that would require a background check be performed, under threat of fine and/or imprisonment, upon purchase of, or transfer of ownership of, a gun.

For example, the NICS system for FFL sales, but expanded to include and any all sale or non-sale "transfers of ownership."

It is also pertinent to note that *require* in the resolution relates to the *under threat of fine and/or imprisonment* aspect of the definition of UBC.

Also that *The US* in the debate resolution implies adherance to the framework laid out by the founding documents and subsequent legislation/legal rulings of the United States. This isnt a debate on the validity of the framework itself, it is a debate on whether that framework and system would permit the implementation of a federally mandated universal background check for any and all transfers of ownership. As well as a debate upon the harms/benefits of any such implementation.

Gun Sales- The sale or exchange, and necessary "transfer of ownership" that entails, of a gun between one party and another.

Transfer of Ownership- The exchange of ownership between one party(individual, group, or business) and another party through sale or gift(voluntarily giving).

Non-voluntary transfers of ownership are not to be included as non voluntary transfer of ownership is theft. And the legal expectation of a person performing a background check in the midst of a theft is facially absurd. Also, that transfers of possession, such as lending, leasing, etc. As those transfers automatically imply that the possession of the object in question will be at some point, returned back to the *owners* possession.

This debate pertains to a UBC and not any other form of gun control, unless it be directly related to implementation of a UBC. Extensive policy planning should be viewed as grounds for disqualification. General advocacy plans are of course permissible, but should be kept relevant to the resolution.

Round 1
As stated pre-acceptance, as an LD debate, Affirmative recieves first construct. I as Neg, am consequentially waiving Round 1 so Virtuoso(affirmative) can begin this debate with his construct in accordance with Lincoln-Douglas Debate structure. 

Hope you all enjoy, and I look forward to reading Affs construct. 👏👏
Thank you Buddamoose for this debate! This is one topic that I'm personally passionate about.

Constitutionality of UBCs

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. - The Second Amendment

I'm gonna touch up on the constitutionality of UBCs real quick. Firstly, let's concede for a moment that such a rule would be unconstitutional, in that case I strongly believe that there's enough evidence that the United States should amend the constitution to make such a law constitutional. However, I believe such a law would stand up in court.There's a debate as to the meaning of the second amendment.

The court has ruled several times that at least some form of gun control is constitutional.

District of Columbia, et. al. v. Heller

The SCOTUS ruled affirmed that the constitution guarantees the right of an individual to possess firearms whether or not they are in a militia. The opinion held (1):

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
The purpose of universal background checks is not to limit the right of an individual person to own their guns, but to keep those who are legally forbidden from obtaining firearms. This is a good thing. Now I will go into why such a law should be implemented. 

UBCs are effective

Universal background checks is one of the most effective piece of gun control. A piece in the NYT notes (2):

Criminals want to avoid background checks and guns that can be traced to them. Surveys of offenders consistently show that a vast majority did not obtain their firearms from licensed dealers, thereby avoiding background checks.

The impact is clear. The Gifford Law Center notes: 

When background checks are required, they are extremely effective at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous, prohibited persons. Since the federal background check requirement was adopted in 1994, over 3 million people legally prohibited from possessing a gun—mainly convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill—have been denied a firearm transfer or permit.15 In 2014 alone, 147,000 prohibited people were blocked from acquiring guns by NICS, the federal background check system.16
Without those laws in place, those prohibited people would have certainly been able to legally obtain a firearms. The NPR notes (4):

researchers found that a 1995 Connecticut law requiring gun buyers to get permits (which themselves required background checks) was associated with a 40 percent decline in gun homicides and a 15 percent drop in suicides. Similarly, when researchers studied Missouri's 2007 repeal of its permit-to-purchase law, they found an associated increase in gun homicides by 23 percent, as well as a 16-percent increase in suicides.


The SCOTUS ruled many times that the second amendment is not unlimited and that here are people who should not be allowed to have access to guns. Universal background checks help to check and stop those who cannot have guns. The resolution stands affirmed.

I eagerly await your reply. 

Round 2
My case will be centered around the legality/justice/Constitutionality of a Universal Background Check. As Justice is inherently a moral value, parts of the argument will also operate as a moral argument. 

Premise 1: A UBC for all transfers, sale or non-sale, would require a universal firearm registry to effectively implement. 

This is because if we are going to set private sales as subject to a background check, it would automatically require storing information as to who owns which guns, so these private transfers can meet burden of proof requirements necessary to convict individuals who violate the law.

As it stands, in almost all states when you purchase a gun through an FFL, you go through a NICS[1] check, and within 24 hours of determination the records of purchase and the background check are destroyed by the FBI(state checks notwithstanding. Thus we have no means to track private sales. And the only feasible route would be through the creation of a registry. This of course falls under the purview of the 4th amendment as i will show in short order, as well as being in direct defiance of the Firearm Owners Protection Act

18 USC 926(a)(3)- “No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established.”[2]

The 4th Amendment

The 4th[3] Amendment is

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" 

Unreasonable[4] in legal context being defined as,

a search and seizure by a law enforcement officer without a warrant and without probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is present.

 It is important to note that, as established with the necessity of a registry to effective prosecution of violation of a UBC, a background check would both constitute as a search(for personal information) and a seizure(of information to be stored) as well. And being that if a person is legally able to own a gun, they are not committing a crime in purchasing one, the storage of any information from that purchase is de facto in violation of this as it does not meet the requirement of *probable cause*. 

The Fifth Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.[5]

As established in Hayes v US(1968)[6] a case im using in a broader context in another debate, the court held:

"that a proper claim of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register a firearm under sec.5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under sec.5851."

Though as ive stated elsewhere, I feel this applies to a broader scope than just gun registries, that it specifically applies to gun registries, is unquestionable. As established with the necessity of such a registry, as a means to establish burden of proof requirements in prosecution, to a UBC. We are further encountered by the inability to actually prosecute anyone who is violating failure to register, who otherwise is lawfully carrying a firearm. 

A UBC would independently violate further amendments and clauses

The 10th Amendment

The 10th[7] amendment is

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

This is of particular importance because a part of transfers of ownership includes sales. This falls under the purview of the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution that states:

"To regulate commerce with Foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

This clause is and has been affirmed in subsequent legal rulings such as Printz v US(1996)[7], to being a grant of power to the Federal government to regulate *interstate*(between state commerce) and not *intrastate*(within the state) commerce.

Even if we hold that this allows the Federal Government to prohibit or restrict interstate commerce of all sales, or even extend applicability of UBC therein. By necessary consequence of certain sales being private in nature, and wholly intrastate sales with zero intention of being sold "interstate", this would only fall prey to the necessity of a means to monitor whether or not a gun is traveling across state lines in a sale.

As referred in the Fourth Amendment portion of my case, this would clearly be a violation of the "unreasonable searches and seisures" as it lacks the component of probable cause. 

14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment is,

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Any attempt at a UBC will run afoul of this amendment. Why? Because such a requirement would disproportionately effect the poor, which are predominantly minorities[8]. To further this point, the cost of a background check is not free, and is usually tacked onto the purchase price of the gun if applied for the state. Let's hypothetically in a perfect world say all 50 states independently passed identical UBC laws. A state has every right to tack on that cost to citizens, and it does. So even in the unrealistic hypothetical that sans Federal UBC, all states pass uniform BC laws, the cost[9] for the purchaser would balloon and one would feasibly see upfront costs of 1,000+ just to be in compliance with laws, let alone the cost of the gun itself. 

This alone shatters "nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws." This because any such system would price the poor out of being able to excercise their 2nd amendment rights by denying them equal priviledge to purchase firearms. This is of particular distastefulness because the poor live in the most crime ridden communities in the US and are twice[10] as likely to be the victim of a non-fatal violent crime, let alone a fatal violent crime. A UBC would in effect, be creating inequal application of law that would deny access on monetary grounds to those most likely to be violently victimized. This also ties into the "necessary and proper" clause as outlined in the Constitution, as any law that infringes upon an established amendment can neither be held as necessary or proper. 

ConclusionThat a UBC would be in violation of law, unjust in accordance with the rights of the  people and government as outlined in the Constitution, and therefore immoral to enact. 

As such, any advocacy of a UBC ought be categorically denied.

I'm not sure how much space I might have left on this being on a phone. So I will spare any impartial rebuttal attempts so as to be able to fully detail and flesh them out in a single round. So as to avoid as much misunderstanding as possible.

Thank you for reading and i look forward to reading the affirmative rebuttal.


Thank you for your reply. I am running out of time and will respond as much as I can to his arguments.

Universal Firearm Registry

While I fully support universal firearm registries, I disagree with pro's notion that universal background checks will require it. I concede pro's arguments that a universal firearm registry is impractical as well as illegal under the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Such legislation will undoubtedly repeal part of that act (as it should be). 

The center-left think tank Third Way notes (1):

The very process and operation of the background check system intentionally makes it impossible for the federal government to use those records to create a registry of gun owners or the guns they purchase.

Right now, when a person buys a gun at a federally licensed dealer (where a background check is already required), the first thing the store does is to give the buyer a blank copy of ATF Form 4473. The buyer fills in his name, address, and birthday, and affirms that he is not prohibited from having a gun and is not buying it for someone else.4 The store clerk takes the form, looks at the buyer’s photo ID, and then either picks up the phone to call the National Instant Check System (NICS) or logs onto their secure website. It takes an average of 7 seconds for someone at NICS to answer the phone,5 and the gun dealer reads the name and date of birth from the form or types it into the computer. Typically, within a few minutes NICS can search its database to make sure the buyer is not prohibited from owning a gun. If no records are found, the dealer is told he can proceed with the sale.6

Here’s what happens next: The buyer leaves the store with the firearm. The NICS system destroys all records of running a check on that buyer within 24 hours.7 On the 4473 form, the dealer marks that the buyer passed the NICS check, writes down the transaction number and the serial number of the gun that was sold, and files it away, where it must be kept in a paper file by law for 20 years.8

Thus, there is only one official record of the sale, and it resides in the individual gun dealer’s files. Currently, there are approximately 59,000 gun dealers across all 50 states,9 each of which keeps individual files of the approximately 16 million 4473 forms that are filled out every year.10 There are only four ways the government can ever even see this record: during a compliance inspection of dealer records, during an ongoing criminal investigation, if your gun is found at a crime scene, or if the gun store goes out of business.
Pro's fears of a universal gun registry is unfounded.

The Fourth/Fifth Amendment

The above pretty much obliterates Buddamoose's argument about the fourth amendment. Under current law, the only way the government can use this record is during an instigation that is warranted. 

Sonja West writes [2]:

Our constitutional rights are not an all-or-nothing deal. We can uphold the Second Amendment and still pass reasonable regulations that further the public’s interest in safety. So don’t feel you need to choose between protecting our Second Amendment rights and supporting sensible gun regulations. Why should you? The Constitution doesn’t.
Guns are not just a rights issue, but it is a national security issue as well. Congress has the legal and moral duty to protect our citizens from "all threats both foreign and domestic." Far from being unreasonable, universal background checks are entirely reasonable in this regard. As I noted in the opening round, gun background checks are incredibly effective at preventing those who are prohibited from having a firearm.

14th Amendment

The argument that gun background checks are too expensive and thus violate the rights of the poor does not make much sense. The average price of a handgun is out of reach for a lot of poor people (including me). Are we to then say guns must be provided for free or cap how much a gun can cost? Secondly, a gun background check takes only seconds and is usually provided at no cost. 

I would like to ask my opponent to wait a few days before posting his next round.

Thank you.


Round 3
On The Necessity of a Background Check

The affirmative pointed to the currently existing NICS check requiring FFL's to store records of firearm transactions. This still does not address the aspect of private citizen to citizen transfers of ownership either by sale or otherwise. 

It would be wonderful if the general individual was spectacular in both remembrance of things and record keeping, but the general individual is not. The implications in the lack of ability to consistently meet burden of proof requirements with this is facially obvious.

This necessitates the creation of a centralized registry for private, individual to individual, transactions. The scope of this registry, most efficiently and due to its necessary centralization, would fall to the control of the Federal government. And despite what the affirmative may wish to think, putting such a registry in the hands of Federal Government, with limitations set to be self-imposed, is not an "unfounded fear" of potential abuse, and I need not do much else but mention the NSA to illustrate that. 
Thusly arguments on the necessitation of a registry, and the negations to that(including 4th amendment) still apply. 

To make note, the affirmative questions the second amendment, and mentions that parts of the current firearm owners protection act would otherwise be repealed upon the implementation of a UBC. But this is not a debate on the repealing of that act, or on repealing of the 2A.


The Fifth Amendment

The purpose of universal background checks is not to limit the right of an individual person to own their guns, but to keep those who are legally forbidden from obtaining firearms

I agree, and this was what my fifth amendment argument was predicated upon being true. That the purpose of these laws was to prevent illegal purchase/possession. It does so by threatening fine/imprisonment if it is not done. But per Haynes v US, prosecution by these laws is wholly protected from by the 5th amendment for those who are guilty of an illegal sale/possession already. Its means of ensuring adherence are only appplicable to.those who are otherwise making a legal sale.
I'll consider the argument dropped as it was never addressed, and extend it to debate end. 


Commerce Clause

As stated in construct the Commerce Clause makes a distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce. FFL's are reasonably held as being under interstate commerce because they often deal in such exchanges. Individual citizens however would not reasonably fall under this purview. This makes it close to, if not wholly, an area of intrastate commerce.  

Thusly Commerce Clause arguments as dropped extend and apply to debate end. 


The 14th Amendment

The average price of a handgun is out of reach for a lot of poor people (including me). Are we to then say guns must be provided for free or cap how much a gun can cost?
The issue lies not in markets naturally having a price of guns be high, it lies in the application/protection of law

Secondly, a gun background check takes only seconds and is usually provided at no cost.  

The first part of this is only partially innaccurate. It takes an average of a few minutes, unless an issue comes up, in which case it takes up to a maximum of 3 days for determination. And though the check is provided at no cost, it still costs money. FFL's themselves pay for a license which allows them to have checks performed for no cost, but take on all other indirect expenses resulting from it themselves. 

As pointed out previously, either we centralize this registry aspect to monitor straw purchases or require citizens maintain these records on their own. The latter cost would be an application of law that produces inequal protection. For example, a poor person might otherwise lose that paperwork, and be unjustly, in my humble opinion, prosecuted for failure to record keep. 

However it is also pertinent to address that usually these checks are of no cost to the one requesting the check, they still however come at a cost. That cost is $16.50 or so per check(refer to R1 citation 9.). 

The total amount of checks done would balloon, and so would the costs, in part also due to the necessity of a centralized registry to this process. Such ballooning costs would in all likelihood be shifted at this point of rising costs onto the ones performing the commerce, ergo, this would disproportionately affect the poor. 

As such 14th amendment arguments apply


On the Proposed Benefits of a UBC

I do not actually disagree facially with a UBC having beneficiary aspects. 147,000 out of 17 million in a given year isnt spectacular in regards to proportion. But 147,000 is still quite alot of people otherwise denied a sale. 

What these statistics fail to mention from what I can see, is how many of those turned around and bought one anyways. As pointed out, a vast majority of crimes committed with a firearm, are with a firearm not legally possessed/purchased. Oftentimes, I will point out, that firearm was lost or stolen. 

I will acknowledge that less guns = less death from guns and likely death overall. But as pointed out previously, these laws aren't even prosecutable for those who sell illegally, and as evidenced by a vast majority of firearm related crimes being committed with an unlawfully possessed firearm. 

It is also pertinent to point out that the NICS check, and really any BC system, universal or otherwise, falls under a fatal flaw that cant be addressed. That being in the realm of potentially dangerous mental illness. 

Currently 38 states do not share mental health records with the FBI, and beyond that, the FBI can only deny access if the person has been ruled dangerous and/or unstable by a judge. These health records would only be for those that came into contact with state or federal healthcare facilities, and only if found to be an exception to HIPAA requirements. Otherwise, an individuals medical records are otherwise only accessible by themselves and their healthcare providers. 

Thusly, any UBC will be unable to largely affect a core area of concern in dangerous mental illness

This lack of effect in my humble estimation negates much of the utility aspect of the affirmatives argument. 


As established all arguments from construct still apply. These arguments, comprise an umbrella that illustrates not just why the US should not, but could not implement a UBC if attempted in the present. Whether it be through the necessary implementation of a universal registry, the inability to prosecute per the 5th amendment, the lack of commerce clause authority, or inequal application of law, I have sufficiently constructed and defended a case in regards to the resolution that itself has at this point been negated in great detail. 

Thank you Virtuoso for another fine debate and I look forward to your final round!

Thank you for an amazing debate! Because this never turned out to be a proper LD debate, I have opted to waive this round as Budda waives the first round. This is in order to give everyone an equal round. Good luck in voting!