How Can We Stop Guns From Getting Into The Wrong Hands? Simple: Just Stop The Guns.

There’s an elephant sitting largely undisturbed in the GVP living room, and it consists of the 75,000 times each year when someone picks up a gun and uses it to hurt someone else.  In medicine this is referred to as ‘intentional injury/firearm.’  The cops call it an aggravated assault but if the bullet hits a vital spot, then a homicide has occurred.  Either way, these events account for more than two-thirds of all gun injuries, and the number appears to be going up.  For sure it’s going up in places like Chicago and Detroit, where rates have always exceeded national averages for violence caused with guns.

With all due respect to the energy and commitment if GVP activists, I still don’t believe this problem is being addressed at its core.  It’s all well and good to ask the government to expand background checks on private gun sales, or crack down on straw sales, or pass stronger laws against gun trafficking, and I’m not arguing against the utility of such plans; I’m simply saying that none of those strategies attack the root of the problem, and the root is not supply but demand.  Because what all those programs have in common is the belief that if the supply of guns that might end up in the wrong hands is choked off at the point where those guns enter or re-enter the market, this will lead to a smaller number of illegal guns, which will lead to fewer guns getting into the wrong hands, which will lead to less guns being used to inflict injuries on others.

Unfortunately, while we know a lot about the supply side of the argument, we know next to nothing about the demand for guns.  Why do a small percentage of individuals who commit violent acts against others commit these acts by using guns? According to the CDC, there were 2.3 million intentional, violence-related injuries in 2013, of which 78,000, or 3%, were caused by guns. So while we focus our thoughts and concerns on the 3%, the fact is that 97% of people who commit violent acts choose not to use a gun.  And I simply don’t believe that the motives which explain that choice can be assumed to reflect difficulties in getting hold of a gun.  Particularly because in neighborhoods where most gun violence occurs, even the younger kids will tell you that a gun can easily be acquired in 24 hours or less.

The problem with choking off guns at the point of supply is that most such policies would require some change in behavior of law-abiding sellers or buyers of guns.  The movie, Making A Killing, includes a segment about Chuck’s Gun Shop, out of whose inventory comes many guns that end up being used in Chicago crimes.  Know what happened after Chuck’s promised to be more vigilant in checking who was buying their guns?  Gun violence in Chicago went up.  I know, I know.  There are plenty of other gun shops located close enough to the Windy City where the bad guys can get guns.  That’s exactly my point.  As long as guns are legal commerce, don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, the market will find some way to satisfy demand.

Back in the 16th Century, the French monarchy imposed a very strict tariff on salt, the gabelle, in order to raise funds for the always-depleted royal treasury. Know what happened?  Salt smuggling became the #1 non-farming occupation in Southern France. It’s a mistake which we make all the time to differentiate between the ‘legal’ market and the ‘illegal’ or ‘black’ market, because in fact they operate exactly the same way.  A market, legal or illegal, is created whenever there is an exchange of products for money and regulating the former may have little or no impact on the latter.

Of course there’s one infallible way to regulate both markets when it comes to guns.  And we all know what that way is.

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6 thoughts on “How Can We Stop Guns From Getting Into The Wrong Hands? Simple: Just Stop The Guns.

  1. A good question Mike. How to curb the demand side of the gun problem. We all know prohibition does not work. Prohibiting alcohol, drugs, and abortion, only lead to rum running, drug gangs, and back alley abortions. Using guns to solve conflicts and violence is taught from a young age. We have the example of the governments way of resolving conflicts as a prime example. We are taught that we have to defeat and crush our opponent in sports such as football, hockey, and boxing. We live in a violent society and are taught that violence is a way to solve conflicts. I went to Jr. High school in a poorer neighborhood and there were in school and after school fights almost every day. If you looked the wrong way at someone the result was “fight after school”. Yes guns are used in only 3% of assaults but the ones the lead to serious injuries or death are probably the result of the gun assaults.
    My aunt was a victim of a lover’s triangle, murder suicide with a gun. If he did not have access to a gun would she be alive today? It is more likely that if he had attacked her with a baseball bat that she would have had some injuries but she might have been able to defend herself when attacked at close range. A gun is nearly impossible to defend against at a distance, especially if the victim is off guard and not expecting the attack, even if they have a gun nearby.
    I love the salt tax reference. I have read about this since I discovered that I had a great great great great grandfather that was a French salt tax collector!

  2. I don’t think for a minute that confiscation is the answer to the gun violence problem, but I have three ideas that might help, if used together.

    First, make a Federal law that prohibits using a gun of any kind to commit a felony, with a very severe penalty: five years minimum for a first offense, sentences doubling with repeat offenses. This would also apply to state felonies (Picking up a gun should be the last thing to enter a criminal’s mind).

    Second, require a Federal firearms dealer license for all firearms sales (Keep your guns, we don’t want them. Seriously, keep your guns, we don’t want you to sell them). This also applies to selling a gun to your Uncle Bob.

    Third, and I suspect the most effective: Present “Proof of financial responsibility” (firearms liability insurance policy, or proof of having a $25,000 firearms liability bond) at point-of-sale when purchasing ammunition or ammunition-making supplies FROM ANYONE, with severe penalties for the SELLER. (100% of firearms injuries and homicides involve the use of ammunition). This also applies to selling ammunition to your Uncle Bob.

    Ammosexuals hate this, so it must be effective.

    • Interesting comment William, and besides the “Ammosexual” comment, and the implication that 2nd Amendment supporters won’t agree with your far-fetched plans because they would be effective.

      I suspect you’re out more to inflame, rather than because you legitimately are concerned about the issue.

      Still for any 3rd party reading I’ll respond to each of your points.

      #1: I actually agree with this. The big problem with it, is that current federal laws are not being enforced, and even local violent crime (not just “Gun Crime”) are frequently handled with plea bargains to lesser sentences because the court system is over taxed with criminal cases. The powers that be would rather pass more laws while the current crop cannot be enforced because of lack of resources in the Judicial system, rather than actually giving resources where they are desperately needed.

      And of course the NRA is very famous for arguing we need to enforce the laws already on the books rather than passing new laws.

      #2. Did you even give an ounce of research to this? First up 01 and 02 Federal Firearms licenses (AKA FFL, and 01 and 02 are the two licenses that cover retail firearms sales) are REQUIRED to be conducting business as a dealer, so a simple collector, hunter, or shooter who occasionally buys or sells firearms, and may go years between transactions would simply get their license revoked by the ATF for not conducting business. Further, decades ago a single avid collector, or a group of friends would split the fee of an 01 FFL so they could more easily, and cheaply buy guns, as well as legally sell them without concern (buying and selling large quantities of firearms without an FFL can result in criminal charges), and buy tables at the local gun show and undercut the local shops that have more overhead due to rent and employees when selling firearms.

      These dealers were called “Kitchen Table Dealers”, and they had to follow all laws more traditional shops do, ie keep accurate records, submit to inspections, secure their stock, and conduct background checks on all points of sale, they just didn’t have a storefront or posted business hours.

      They really don’t exist anymore because President Bill Clinton signed an executive order declaring any FFL operating from an address not zoned for a commercial business would not be approved, and from my readings the number of businesses who could conduct background checks at points of sale decreased by half overnight.

      #3. This last bit is just onerous and completely impossible. First to note the New York SAFE act (which is a misnomer, as violent crime is UP in the Empire State) had a provision for background checks for all ammunition sale….this hasn’t been implemented because now, 3 years later, they have not come up with any means to actually perform this.

      Still the idea that the average Joe hunter/ or shooter is any cost to the system is laughable.

      60 some percent of firearms death are suicide, and your ill-conceived tax masquerading as insurance does nothing there.

      When it comes to actual violent crime, it’s inner city gangs who already can’t legally own guns or ammunition, not only is demanding insurance from them laughable, but it’s also a violation of the 5th Amendment.

      So your little boilerplate “solutions” aren’t opposed because they are “effective”, but quite the opposite.

      • Just want to respond to one of the three comments by Weer’d Beard. In 2014, the last year for which we have good data, there were 11,000 gun homicides and 65,000 gun assaults. The NRA would like you to believe that this is all the work of ‘gang bangers,’ ‘criminals,’ etc. According to the FBI, roughly 20% of all gun crimes took place during the omission of other felonies: robbery, assault, drugs, etc. The rest? Continuous arguments/disputes between individuals which spiral out of control and someone pulls out a gun. This is true, by the way, for all homicides and gun assaults where the victim is a woman; which is 15-20% of all gun assaults and all grow out of domestic disputes. So to say that ‘all” we have to do is “enforce” existing laws simply isn’t true. We don’t know why 3% of all the perpetrators of violence escalate the violence to gun violence, but these 3% make a conscious decision to express violence by using a gun. That’s not going to be dealt with by “enforcing” laws.
        “Enforcing” the law is a simple answer to everything. But it’s no answer. Right now we have 2.5 million incarcerated felons, most for drug offenses. The size of the prison population continues to increase because sentences continue to be longer. Has this done anything to curb the drug problem? Not at all.

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