During the National Rifle Association’s meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and the White House gun violence task force, the vice president said the Obama administration does not have the time to fully enforce existing gun laws.
Jim Baker, the NRA representative present at the meeting, recalled the vice president’s words during an interview with The Daily Caller: “And to your point, Mr. Baker, regarding the lack of prosecutions on lying on Form 4473s, we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately.”
Submitting false information on an ATF Form 4473 – required for the necessary background check to obtain a firearm – is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison, depending on prior convictions and a judge’s discretion, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Baker, the NRA’s director of federal affairs, told TheDC that he was given five minutes to present the NRA’s concerns and the approach the group saw as being the most effective to prevent another massacre like the Newtown, Conn. shooting. During those five minutes, he said, he mentioned the need to prosecute existing gun laws.
He pointed to the low number of prosecutions for information falsification and the relatively low felony prosecution rate for gun crimes.
Biden was apparently unmoved by Baker’s concern.
In 2010, prosecutors considered just 22 cases of information falsification, according to a 2012 report to the Department of Justice by the Regional Justice Information Service. Forty additional background-check cases ended up before prosecutors for reasons related to unlawful gun possession.
In all, prosecutors pursued just 44 of those 62 cases. More than 72,600 applications were denied on the basis of a background check.
“We think it is problematic when the administration takes lightly the prosecutions under existing gun laws and yet does not seem to have a problem promoting a whole host of other gun laws,” Baker told TheDC.
“If we are not going to enforce the laws that are on the books, it not only engenders disrespect for the law but it makes law-abiding gun owners wonder why we are going through this exercise we are going through now,” he added.
Gun prosecutions in 2011 were down 35 percent from the previous administration’s peak in 2004, according to Justice Department data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said he was shocked by the administration’s lack of interest in pursuing individuals who lied to obtain a firearm.
“They don’t have time to pursue people who are dangerous, who aren’t supposed to get guns, and the message they have sent is literally ‘Good luck, go get them elsewhere,’” Cox said in an interview with TheDC.
Cox reiterated that he believes the real issues the country needs to deal with are mental health and crime, and he stressed the importance of enforcing and prosecuting existing laws.
“You can talk all you want,” Cox said, “but until there is a will to follow through, then it is literally just going to paper over the problem and guarantee that bad people continue to have access to firearms and good people will be blamed for it.”
Vice President Biden’s press office did not respond to requests for comment.