Gun Safety Now
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” - 2nd Amendment, Bill of Rights.
Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People
We do… lots of killing of lots of people. Happens all the time. Unfortunately, in this country;
- 10,000 gun-related homicides annually
- 30,000 gun-related deaths annually
- 100,000 people shot annually
- 85-87 gun-related deaths per day
- 40% of firearms purchased sans background check
- 87% of gun-related child deaths in the developed world
- 88 firearms for every 100 people in this country, more than double the next country (Yemen)
- 45% of households own firearms
- 47% of men own firearms
- 1.3 million gun-related deaths since 1968, more than died in all US wars
- 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings worldwide in the past 50 years (Finland had two)
- 6 of the 12 worst mass shootings of the past 50 years have occurred since 2007
- 20 mass shootings annually for the past 30 years
- 68% of homicides involve guns
- A gun in the home is 22 times to 43 times more likely to kill friends or family than an intruder
- Domestic violence is 12 times more likely to result in death with a gun in the home
- By 2015, gun-related deaths are expected to outnumber traffic fatalities
- 14DEC12, Connecticut elementary, 27 deceased
- 11DEC12, Oregon mall, two deceased
- 27SEP12, Minneapolis workplace, five deceased, three wounded
- 5AUG12, Wisconsin Sikh temple, six deceased, four wounded
- 20JUL12, Aurora, CO movie theater, 12 deceased, 58 wounded
- 29MAY12, Seattle coffee shop, five deceased
- 2APR12, Oakland university, seven deceased
- 14OCT11, California salon, eight deceased
- 6SEP11, Nevada IHOP, five deceased, seven wounded
- 8JAN11, Tuscon, six deceased, Rep. Gabby Giffords among 13 wounded
- 3AUG10, Connecticut brewery, nine deceased, two wounded
- 5NOV09, Fort Hood, 13 deceased, 29 wounded
- 3APR09, NY immigration center, 13 deceased, four wounded
- 16APR07, Virginia Tech, 32 deceased, 24 wounded
- 20APR99 Columbine, 13 deceased, 21 wounded
Here’s the juicy part - the ammunition, as it were (bad pun, I know) for the critics…
We can and should pass gun control legislation. Call them gun violence laws, or gun safety laws, or assault weapons laws... call it what you will, but it needs to happen now. Most gun owners are perfectly sensible people who want safe streets for their kids, too. Our children cannot afford to wait any longer.
So what would that look like?
1. Eliminate the gun-show loophole and require back-ground checks for all gun purchases. 88% agree this should happen. Forty percent of firearms are sold sans background check via FBI/National Instant Background Check System. Psychopaths shouldn't be legally purchasing firearms; so states need funds to report those with mental red-flags, and doctors need permission to share information with law enforcement and schools. Additionally, people on the terrorist watch list should not be able to buy a firearm without a waiver. Together, these measures will help to eliminate guns in the hands of felons, terrorists, psychopaths, convicted stalkers, and straw-purchasers.
2. Fund a national database and require registration to track gun sales. 67% agree with this policy.
3. Federal Assault Weapons Ban. 58% agree this should happen.
What is an assault weapon? Well the 1994 FAWB had 800 exemptions, so that is a difficult question to answer. Is it like porn, where you "know it when you see it", or are we talking about arbitrary mechanical characteristics inside the weapon? I don't know, but...
Scalia wrote in the majority Heller opinion that the 2nd Amendment protects our rights to handguns in the home. The rest is up for debate. So let's have that debate. Have at it at the gun range, but we don't need military-style combat-weapons on our streets.
Sportsmen don't need them; you can't shoot a duck with one.
And why can we buy NFA firearms - including fully automatic machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and Destructive Devices like grenades and RPGs - simply by paying a $200 transfer fee?
4. We should require a gun-safety training course as prerequisite to initial purchase of firearms.
5. We should limit an individual's firearms purchases to one per month. Unless you are a licensed dealer, you don't need more than twelve new firearms in a given year.
6. Then, we should raise the Firearms & Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET) substantially.
Chris Rock once suggested in a comic routine that $5k bullets would make you think twice about pulling that trigger, especially in poor neighborhoods. While that $5k number would be extremely excessive, the man has a point.
The FAET is currently set at up to 29%, we could raise that number quite a bit.
7. Those monies could then be used to put micro-stamp signatures on the munitions so we could more easily trace bullets to guns and owners.
8. And again, limit the number of bullets a magazine can hold to 15 as per the Assault Weapons Ban, or better yet 10. Clips can be changed out. If you want more bullets, bring more clips. I promise the deer won’t launch a counter-attack and kill you while you are reloading your weapon. You’ll be okay. Besides, muskets took 15 seconds to load a single shot in 1791.
9. Federal gun-trafficking penalties (no mandatory minimums) to curb straw-purchasers.
Once news broke of Sandy Hook Elementary School and for days following, the news of a shooter slaughtering dozens of first graders and educators, of twenty murdered six and seven year old, innocent little angels... I was both on the verge of tears, and also extremely upset.
The insanity of this reoccurring theme of mass shootings, every few weeks, has got me in a very foul mood. This has to stop.
While it’s still early and the details are emerging and remain fuzzy, what we can say for sure is that this nothing short of a tragedy. Disgusting and unnecessary.
What’s really telling though, is that the teachers had been trained in the event of a shooting. How sick is that fact… that our schools actually expect there to be gun violence?!
This is quite upsetting.
Why is this acceptable? Why aren't more people outraged? How did we get here? What are we going to do about it?
I can’t imagine that I am alone in saying this; mass shootings are senseless and abhorrent. I think we can all agree on that at least.
Cold, Dead Hands
Unfortunately though, most politicians - outside of Bloomberg, Cuomo, and Feinstein - have forgotten the “well-regulated” portion of the 2nd Amendment for nearly 20 years -since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 expired quietly on September 13, 2004.
The NRA scores Congressional votes on nearly everything, whether it seems to deal with guns or not. Judicial and cabinet appointments, anything. They use these scorecards to pressure politicians in rural districts into pushing the agenda of the NRA or else face a primary challenge from the right.
NRA response to the Sandy Hook massacre was to blame everything from video games and movies to hurricanes and terrorists; basically everything except for the tools of violence that were actually used to carry out these atrocities. This while the NRA promotes their "Hollywood Guns" museum and their new "Practice Range" app for 4 year-olds to shoot coffin targets with assault rifles.
While 55% may think arming our schools is a good idea, I hope we don't go any further than having actual police officers on school grounds. I don't think turning our schools into prisons of knowledge is a positive thing. Are we going to put armed guards in all of the movie theaters and all the churches and all the malls and all the parking lots? This is not a police state.
The NRA has 36% approval rating with 44% disapproval thanks to their intransigent behavior.
NRA leadership has been hijacked by extremists for the last 30 years. Previously, they were an honorable organization for sportsmen and promoted gun safety. Now they are simply a lobby for gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers give money to the NRA, who in turn line the pockets of politicians, who push the pro-gun agenda. The NRA has over 4 million members, but they don't matter. The NRA just wants to keep them paranoid that the federal government - and Obama specifically - is coming for their guns.
And what would this paranoid fantasy look like exactly? Warrants on every home and business? Military units sweeping door to door? Digging through closets and flipping over mattresses? Cracking all of our safes and safe deposit boxes? Scouring the every inch of the country with metal detectors? Patting down babies and Grandmas?
Okay tough guy, you're wet dream is dying in a blaze of glory beating back the United States military? Good luck fighting off drone attacks, JSOC, and federal agents.
If law-abiding citizens are getting their doors knocked down? We would be living in tyranny, and the Second Amendment would be the last of our concerns.
We need to treat these tin-hat wearing survivalists like drunk drivers & domestic violence offenders - they should be shamed. We need to look down at these survivalists and stigmatize them for their vile extremism. People like David Keene & Wayne LaPierre & Alex Jones & James Yeager are good for our cause, they shed a light on how insane these people really are. We need mothers & NRA members & law enforcement & teachers & politicians all working together on this.
We need to love our children more than they love their guns.
The politics of gun safety is rough business. Getting anything through the House is going to be difficult, as primary challenges and NRA scorecards continue to reward extremism. Even low-hanging fruit like a universal background check requirement is not likely to pass at this point. Executive orders for things like funding the state reporting of mentally ill, and prosecution for lying on forms for a background check can be done in the meantime.
The 2nd Amendment is not going anywhere. Nor should it be. While gun violence is abhorrent, law abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves and their homes - as flawed as that logic may be. There are people living in Montana who do not have law enforcement close enough by to be of much help in and emergency. While guns in the home only escalate the violence in a break-in, people at least deserve the option. Homeowners with a handgun safely stored in the home are not the problem.
Hunting is sacred. Good hunters teach their kids respect for life, nature, and firearms. Hunting develops patience, perseverance and discipline. Hunters are not the problem.
Our mental health system is a disgrace. We need more health insurance, better access to care, and less stigmatization. But crazy people are everywhere in the world, and we are the ones with such a horrible gun violence problem.
Our media is disgusting. We sell magazines full of gun porn. We sell video games depicting simulated warfare and violence. Our movies are full of senseless violence & explosions & cruelty. Our music sometimes promote violence and sexism. But violent video games, movies, and music exist the world over. Those are only part of the problem.
No law or set of laws can completely eliminate gun violence. People run stop signs, that doesn't mean that stop signs are pointless. We make laws to curb behaviors we deem harmful. While we need to enforce some laws better - such as lying on gun application paperwork - gun safety laws are not the problem.
If we ban guns, criminals will still get a hold of them. Again, that doesn't mean that we can't try to do better. The fewer of these combat-style weapons that are on the streets, the fewer mass shooting we see. If we stop selling or highly tax the ammo, and ban transporting or loading the weapon outside of a rental at a gun range, we can slow the spread.
Firearm sales swell after every tragedy; after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, & after Aurora - a record number of FBI background checks for firearms sales after Sandy Hook. Gun sales swell any time there is talk - or the fear of prospective talk - concerning gun safety. Record gun sales after each of President Obama's two election victories.
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
When the Bill of Rights was written by the Constitutional Congress and ratified in 1791; there was a lot of negotiation and haggling over the rules and the wording. States were concerned with their own well-being, and the union was not assured of the success it eventually came to realize. The federal gov't had gone broke during the war, and if the union were to fail, states would suddenly be neighboring counties. King James II had allowed confiscation of arms and land of revolutionaries only a hundred years prior.
The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 said that “the people have a right to bear arms for the defence (sic) of themselves and the state". As in the Bill of Rights, the right to arms was associated with defense of the state.
But in 2008, the SCOTUS ruled on the District of Columbia v. Heller case, that an individual’s right to arms was not to the militia. Justice Scalia also wrote in the majority decision however, that the right to arms is not absolute.
Handguns and shotguns are fine for the home. Anything else is up for debate.
Guns don’t kill people?
Well, guns don’t proactively or independently kill people since they are inanimate objects.
But saying "guns don't kill people" is like saying that printers don’t print or ovens don’t bake or toasters don’t toast or blenders don‘t blend or popcorn poppers don't pop popcorn kernels. These items each have a singular function. And the function of a gun is to fire when the trigger is pulled. The weapon’s handler simply determines the target.
If we extrapolate the “guns don’t kill” meme, then what about chemical weapons and nuclear arms? If guns don’t kill and nukes don’t kill… then why are we so upset with Iran? What about Pakistan? A person could conceivably injure numerous people with a blade, but it would require a considerable amount of time to accomplish compared to the relative ease of firing an assault weapon. I mean, baseball bats kill tons of folks.
On the same day as the senseless tragedy in Connecticut, there was an attack at an elementary school in China. In China, 22 students were attacked, but not a single one of them died. In China, they count stitches. In America, we count bodies.
So this conversation must be extensive; We need to talk about domestic violence and American violence in general. We need to talk about mental health and the difficulties in funding and privacy and stigma. We need to talk about education and poverty. We need to catch children early so they become valuable members of society and not criminals. For everyone’s sake.
These are things that must be a large part of the discussion, but in the mean time, we need to address the tools with which sick individuals steal the lives of the innocent from their families. We need reasonable gun control policy. And we need it now. We needed it yesterday.
Wyatt Earp, with his ordinance #9, banned the carrying of weapons (including knives) within Tombstone city limits. Bars at the time would commonly require patrons turn over their weapons while imbibing on the premises. So we’ve restricted weapons in the past and we can do it again.
But little islands with strict gun laws, sparsely spread here and there (such as NYC) do little to curb gun violence, since the surrounding areas are flooded with weapons. This only gives rise to skewed statistics that twist the story and give fuel to skeptics.
We need President Obama to step up. And Congress to follow his lead. I realize that Obama is a centrist moderate, but he needs to act a little more like the scary liberal that he is painted as by some, and a little less like the careful and prudent president that we’ve grown accustomed to.
Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, & Senator Feinstein.