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What's Really Behind Obama's New Push for Gun Control?

Despite the Libyan crisis and ongoing problems with America's massive deficit, last week President Obama decided it was time to focus on gun control. He wrote an op-ed, challenged the NRA to negotiate new gun control regulations, and met with gun control groups. 

Of course, Obama's op-ed says he supports gun rights. Yet, he also emphasizes that he doesn't want people to "shout at one another" and supports "reasonable laws." Alas, this is simply positioning for the 2012 presidential election and does not accurately describe his true agenda on gun control. 

Obama claimed in his op-ed: “My administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners, it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.” But he conveniently forgot to mention that he never initiated or supported this legislation. Instead, it was forced upon Obama by a large majority of Congress passing an amendment to a bill that he wanted passed, the “Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009.” Just because Obama wasn’t willing to veto a bill he wanted hardly shows support for the right to self-defense. 

Indeed, Obama has been a consistent opponent of gun ownership. He enacted a ban on the importation of semiautomatic guns because, “The U.S. insisted that imports of the aging rifles could cause problems such as firearm accidents.” He has proposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns. Obama’s nomination of anti-gun Andrew Traver to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives threatens imposing many new regulations. Still further, the Obama administration has actively pushed for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty and continues to make inaccurate statements about the source of Mexico’s crime guns. 

And look at the judges President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court. Both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have proven themselves to be adamantly against any protection for individual ownership of guns. The stark reality is if Justices Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, or Kennedy were to die or retire, the two precedents set in both the Washington, D.C. and Chicago gun bans would be threatened as these were narrow 5 to 4 decisions. 

The president's op-ed did not exactly present compelling logic for new gun laws. Everyone is concerned about potential future mass shootings like the incident in Tucson  in early January, which left six dead and 13 wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

But we go from his concern that "A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun" to a call for more background checks as the solution. Yet, Mr. Obama neither advocates eliminating the military's privacy guarantee nor does he even discuss the objections to making such a change (such as it preventing recruits from talking openly). Instead, he makes vague promises for legislation that would correct “porous background checks.” 

Everyone wants a perfect, almost magical solution that will stop criminals from getting their hands on guns. But, unfortunately, background checks do not stop bad guys from getting their hands on guns. Not a single academic study by economists or criminologists has found that the Brady Act or any state background checks has reduced violent crime. 

Instead, the Brady Act background checks for gun purchases, in place since 1994, are a problem for law-abiding citizens. Hardly ever do background checks deny guns to criminals. Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were “false positives” – law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals. 

Take the numbers for 2008, the latest year with data available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors. Of those 147 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to prosecute only 105, and they won convictions in just 43. But few of these 43 cases involved career criminals or those who posed real threats. The typical case was someone who had a misdemeanor conviction for an offense he didn't realize prevented him from buying a gun. 

Even those who aren't prevented from buying a gun face delays in getting approved. Eight percent of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks are "not resolved immediately." Two-thirds of those checks take up to 3 business days, and the rest take even longer, though these further delays can't stop one from obtaining a gun at that point. 

Others would greatly add to these errors by banning more people from buying guns. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposes that those who have been arrested, but neither charged nor convicted, for illegal drug violations should be denied buying guns. If prosecutors don’t believe that enough evidence exists to charge someone with a marijuana possession, isn’t there a reasonable chance that they are innocent? 

The president isn’t alone in pushing for more gun-control. But at least these other politicians, such as Schumer and Mayor Bloomberg, are a lot more forthright about their intentions than Obama. Perhaps that should be so so surprising since Obama will soon face re-election in all parts of the country, including in those areas that he famously labeled as being populated by “bitter” Americans who “cling to their guns, cling to their  religion,” not just a smaller Democratic-leaning constituency. 

John R. Lott, Jr is a FoxNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of More Guns, Less Crime” (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.