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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) recently told The New York Times that background checks wouldn't really do much to stop criminals. That doesn't change the fact that she still wants to push through stricter gun control legislation.

She said, "I think trafficking can be the base of the bill, the rock on which everything else. I also think it's complementary to background checks because, let's be honest, criminals aren't going to buy a gun and go through a background check. So if you really want to go after criminals, you have to have to do both."

This is essentially the argument that gun rights advocates have been making all along - that background checks won't make an impact because criminals won't sit through background checks in order to get firearms. Stricter gun control laws would only make it harder for law-abiding citizens to get their firearms, they argue.

Then why go through all the trouble of making gun control legislation? According to Jacob Sullum of Reason, it's to maintain the "appearance of doing something."

As it stands, it's already a felony for a person to transfer a gun to a buyer whom the seller believes is a felon. The problem with this system is that it protects crooked distributors from prosecution. Even if a seller does know that the buyer was a felon, it's extremely difficult for prosecutors to prove that the seller held that knowledge.

Background checks would clear up any confusion about the matter - sellers would know beyond any shadow of a doubt whether or not a person is a felon, and it would be nearly impossible for distributors to falsely claim ignorance. It's hard to tell whether or not universal background checks would have much of an impact on criminals, but it is undeniable that the system would make it much more difficult for crooked distributors to sell firearms to criminals.

Did Gillibrand slip and reveal that the Democrats' gun control legislation is just a bunch of political posturing to appeal to progressive voters, or are gun control advocates genuinely trying to make an impact on gun violence by forcing gun sellers to stay on the up-and-up?

Sources: United Liberty, Reason