I’m sure most of you know Tim Ferriss. His first book, The Four Hour Work Week, sold more than 1.3 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages. He has written other books including The Four Hour Body, The Four Hour Chef, and Tribe of Mentors. His is a good story, not just because of what he has accomplished in writing and business, but to me, his appeal is direct and personal (he once shared his own, close brush with suicide). When you think about the people you’d most want to have a drink with, put Tim toward — if not at the top — of your list. If Tim isn’t the pioneer of the long-form interview, he is certainly its champion, so consider subscribing to his 350+ podcasts! You won’t believe not just what you’ll learn, but your perspective on life will change.
So it’s disappointing to hear someone like Tim, who is otherwise careful in thought and deed on heavy topics, kneejerk his way into politics:
In his “5-Bullet Friday” emails, Tim had this to say about universal background checks:
Cause I’m supporting —
TOMS’ attempt to help end gun violence. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie grew up hunting in Texas. He and I both own guns. He is pro Second Amendment, pro hunting, etc. At the same time, prompted by seemingly endless tragedies in the US, he wanted to try and curb needless gun-related danger and risks. How? By putting pressure on politicians to push forward with universal background checks, something ~90% of Americans — including conservatives — agree is a good idea. If you head to this page on TOMS and spend 10 seconds filling out a few fields, they will print and mail a postcard to Congress, demanding that they take action now. This campaign has received support from church pastors, country musicians, hip-hop artists (e.g., Snoop Dogg), and millions more from every walk of life. It’s not about banning guns (and I say this as a gun owner); it’s about reducing unnecessary risk and saving lives with low-hanging fruit.
Tim didn’t cite the source of the “~90% of Americans – including conservatives” statistic so even if we take this at face value, that doesn’t mean we should move forward with bad policy. That the public wants something doesn’t make it right or legal. If the constitution doesn’t allow it, and it specifically says you can’t infringe on a right, you can’t do it.
Another point: We need to put a stake in the heart of the phrase, “If we could save one life…” On that notion, we should lock down the southern border and halt all immigration. After all, if there are no illegal aliens to hurt or kill people, isn’t that just saving one life? There’s always a chance that when we commute to work in our cars, we’ll get killed. Wouldn’t forcing everyone to walk to solve this problem? We have to ask ourselves what our tolerance for risk is.
Now to the point of universal background checks. First, let’s get our terms correct. When you hear someone say “gun show loophole,” almost inevitably she won’t know what she’s talking about. If you try to purchase a firearm at a gun show, you will undergo a background check. If you don’t believe me, try it. The vast majority of FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealers take their licenses seriously – you know, because the prospect of fines and jail time is unattractive.
What people who call for “universal background checks” are hoping to accomplish is to make illegal all private firearm transfers – between relatives, friends, or acquaintances. For many reasons, like a father could not bequeath any firearm to his son upon death, universal background checks are wrong.
The background check measures before Congress aim to improve enforcement of existing law and increase such reporting by imposing financial penalties on government officials whose agencies fail to provide required information. That’s a good goal, but any proposal should also fix another major problem with the background check system: false positives that stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families.
The background check system confuses the names of law-abiding individuals with those of criminals, resulting in thousands of “false positives” every year. Relying on phonetically similar names along with birth dates just doesn’t allow for much accuracy.
So what should be done when the background check system fails to stop mass killers from attacking? One answer is to have more civilians carry permitted concealed handguns. Those law-abiding gun owners can help protect places where there are no police. In 2013, PoliceOne, a news and resource site for active and retired law enforcement officers, released a survey finding that over 91 percent of the more than 15,000 “verified law enforcement professionals” who responded supported concealed carry.
We do need to fix the background check system. But let’s really fix it. Let’s make sure that rare cases like Devin Kelley can’t slip through the cracks, but let’s also make sure that the government stops preventing millions of law-abiding citizens from buying guns for protection. Adding more names without fixing these problems will only disarm law-abiding Americans.
Tim, and the rest of you, please do your research before you take a position on such a hot-button issue.