I received an interesting email today from the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence (ICHV) with a link to a new website which compares regulations and laws governing the manufacture of teddy bears with the regulations and laws covering the manufacture of guns. To sell a new teddy bear at a retail store or anywhere else, for that matter, the toy must meet more than 20 separate laws and regulations, including whether the teddy has sharp points, contains lead or could result in choking or some other health hazard from too-small parts. As for guns, all you need is a federal firearms license which basically says that you’ve never been in jail, and with this license you’re good to go.
The point of the website, of course, is to draw attention to the fact that guns are the most unregulated consumer product around, largely because the gun lobby succeeded in getting guns exempted from regulation when the Consumer Product Safety Commission was created back in the 1970’s, and the exemption has remained in force up through today. There are a handful of states which set safety standards for new handguns and require that any new gun sold in those states must first be tested to meet certain design standards such as trigger pull, drop test and multiple safeties for pistols; there are no safety design requirements for long guns imposed by any state.
What drew my attention to the ICHV website, however, was not just the eye-catching graphic comparing consumer regulations of teddy bears versus guns; what I also read with interest was the notice of a new law that was initially introduced in 2015 but has not yet seen the light of day. The law, known as the Gun Dealer and Ammunition Seller Act, would for the first time create a state gun dealer licensing procedure which currently only exists in 16 states. Every gun dealer of course has to obtain a federal license from the ATF, but on average the ATF gets around to inspect less than 10% of all dealers, and less than half the licensed dealers have been inspected within the last five years.
Even in gun shops which have been identified as sources of large numbers of crime guns it’s really not clear whether guns were purchased for immediate (and illegal) resale or whether the guns were simply stolen and then at some later date ended up in the street. The average time-to-crime for all traced firearms, according to the ATF, is over 11 years, and while there are shops where lots of crime guns show up in the wrong hands within two years or less after they are first purchased, this is the extreme exception and hardly the rule.
The bottom line, however, is that if gun dealers had to abide not just by federal law but also local regulations, there’s no doubt that gun retailers would be less of a factor in being the source of crime guns, if only because the bad guys would know that using a local store for getting their hands on guns would have the local cops chasing them, not just the faraway feds.
In this regard, I found a part of the Illinois law very interesting because it mandates as part of the licensing requirement that every dealer install a functioning video system that would capture the identity of every person who actually purchases a gun. This law also requires that dealers post a sign which warns that a video system is in use – you would be amazed at the extent to which active video serves as a real deterrent to criminal behavior in a public place.
I think the new ICVH website is a really good job; I’m sending them a donation to support their Teddy Bear campaign and I hope their effort to get a state dealer licensing law bears fruit. Asking dealers to protect themselves and their law-abiding customers is no violation of anyone’s 2nd-Amendment rights.