A bill before the U.S. Senate seeks to expand information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) through means such as federal incentives to the states and by searching through existing databases for individuals meeting certain “qualifications” of denial for owning firearms. This has created a rift within the firearms community with some claiming this is an acceptable measure to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons while others decry the constitutionality of even the existence of such a system. It would seem that the issue of background checks, which are quickly becoming ubiquitous in nearly every aspect of life, are the most popular answer to the question of how to assure that someone is, indeed, “OK.”
The idea behind NICS is ostensibly that a central repository will contain records of any criminal activity, mental illness issues, or other “disqualifying” issues. These records would then be referenced as part of a screening process. However, that is not how the system has worked with 95 percent of the so-called “denials” resulting as false positives. The system has been fraught with errors in entry, maintenance, and missing or incomplete information. This new bill is supposedly going to address all of these things. Once again, it is salvation by totalitarian law.
Why do I use the term, totalitarian? Because this entire system is based upon the presupposition that the state must have complete omniscience in order to ensure our safety. It can only achieve any semblance of this by gathering total data on the totality of the citizens. Merriam-Webster defines totalitarian as,
of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship and terrorism)
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7)
But omniscience is an attribute of God alone, not of man nor his institutions. A man’s true faith is manifest by his actions. This was true of Abraham (James 2:21–26) and it is true today. Men whose god is the state will seek to apply more and more attributes of God to it no matter how irrational. The state is likewise all too ready to assume those powers. This is the very essence of statism and the result of our original sin, to be as God and determining good and evil for ourselves (Gen. 3:5). Statism has its power because each individual “god” does not have the means to enforce his or her law onto others so the collective power of the state is then employed to achieve these ends. It is a statist mindset that seeks to centralize power into the hands of a few, elected or not, and this centralized database is certainly concentrated power. So, instead of the freedom of God’s law we are left with the tyranny of man’s under the guise of safety.
Inevitably this bill, even if passed, will do nothing to actually make the citizens safer but it will yield more power to the state for our control both now and in the future. It will prevent many more from exercising their covenantal duty to defend life through the use of weapons based upon the whims of a bureaucrat. Those who support such an effort are demonstrating a very active faith in the competence of the state to keep us safe. This is something that the state cannot and should not preemptively do. It is only through the consistent application of God’s justice after an action has taken place that evil is restrained from future actions. Man and his institutions cannot have total knowledge of the heart of man and, thus, can only act upon illegal actions after they are committed. This is the nature of the risks of freedom. This faith in the omniscient state also reveals a heart to accept what the state says as “good.” It is to say Amen to the state instead of God.
The solution, then, is not to increase the powers of the state but for each individual to take up his responsibility to defend life—be that his own, his family’s, or his neighbor’s. It also means we recognize that all men are born into this world totally depraved and evil, so we cannot expect total security in this life. Criminals will always find ways to get weapons because they are, by definition, lawless. It is only the law-abiding who are hindered from their covenant duty by things such as the NICS system. As long as we foster a faith that says Amen to the state’s standard of good and evil we will have to deal with the reality of tyranny in every aspect of our lives.