Bob Levy, the Chairman of Cato’s Board, comes out in favor of background checks in the New York Times: A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks.

Extending background checks to unlicensed sellers shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Background checks are already required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, whether at stores or gun shows, over the Internet or by mail. Moreover, gun buyers would be exempt from background checks if they had a carry permit issued within the last five years.

That’s all the argument that he gives on that point, which shows a remarkable lack of concern for the well-grounded fears that background checks lead to registration, bans on sales, and then confiscation. On the other hand, we have this compelling argument:

Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure, with a few modest changes. If they don’t, they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation.


Granted, many Objectivist intellectuals have been lukewarm on gun rights, and they’ve said far worse. Still, I think that libertarians like Bob Levy know better — and that’s what makes this kind of aggressive compromise-peddling so worrisome to me. Based on my interview with John McCaskey on libertarianism’s moral shift, I have to think that we’ll see even more such calls for compromise in future.

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