Why Is A Credit Check to Buy a TV More Acceptable Than A Background Check To Buy A Gun?

I don’t have the answer to that question. That’s why I asked it. So bear with me as I do a little wondering about it.

In this country, most citizens are perfectly willing to let just about anyone do a credit check on us, whether it’s a bank sizing us up to see we’re fit for a car loan, or if it’s the cable company attempting to decide if we’ll pay our bills on time.  Those three digits that comprise our credit score determine whether we’re responsible enough to buy a house, rent a washer, or even whether we’re trustworthy enough to have electricity pumped into our homes.

The companies that calculate these numbers are scary efficient when it comes to record collection. If you’ve mucked up at all when it comes to making payments, they’ll sniff it out faster than a cat tracking the worlds most-potent catnip.

But when it comes to background checks for purchasing weapons, responsible dealers and law enforcement find themselves hamstrung by records laws that are better suited for the 1800s than our modern age of instant access.

What gives?

I understand that there’s a dramatic difference between the types of information found on a credit check versus a background check, and much of that information is extremely sensitive–especially information pertaining to mental illness and criminal history. People should be allowed to have second chances, and an isolated bout of depression or a non-violent conviction shouldn’t prevent anyone from purchasing a weapon.

I also realize that I’m comparing an operation conducted by privately owned businesses with one that’s mostly run by the government. Many businesses will eagerly fork over money to gain access to credit reports because they provide them with business leads and protect them from fraud. Background checks are valuable to employers, but they serve more to protect companies from liability instead of growing the bottom line.

That may explain why businesses are not all that enthusiastic about background checks, but that still doesn’t explain why the average citizen finds credit checks to be more acceptable. If you want credit, you have to agree to let someone poke around your entire financial history. TransUnion could probably chart what brand of floss you’ve purchased with your credit or debit card for the past decade if they were so motivated.

But when it comes to evaluating a potential firearm owner, people are more uncomfortable with the idea of trading information about their personal history for that weapon. Perhaps they fear bias or discrimination from the dealer, who might also, if they lack scruples entirely, spread personal details around town like sour jam. Yet isn’t that a risk someone should be willing to take if they wish to own and operate a potentially lethal tool?

I suppose if that line of logic were to be followed, you would have to get a background check to purchase a belt sander.

I think what I’m trying to get at is that there are strategies the credit-card companies use that could be transferred to background checks for aspiring weapons owners. Strategies that could make these checks more efficient, effective, and less of a pain-in-the-ass for everyone involved. If these companies can make lightning-fast decisions about who should be eligible to purchase the complete run of Law and Order on credit, then we should be able to create a system that can measure whether or not an individual should be eligible to buy a gun.

That’s the half-conclusion that my mind has wandered too. What do you think?

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