Perhaps the single most cherished myth floating around
Gun-nut Nation is the idea that gun registration has always led to gun
confiscation which then leaves citizens defenseless, allowing dictators like
Hitler and Stalin to impose tyrannical rule. It’s a myth usually referred to as
the ‘slippery slope,’ and it briefly appeared in last week’s Congressional hearing when Andy Harris (R-MD) asked the
panel whether they supported national gun registration, and all three
gun-control ‘experts’ said or mumbled ‘no.’ Had any of them – Morral, Stewart,
Webster – been honest enough to respond to Harris’ question without first
measuring their answers against what they believe is the politically-correct
point of view, a national audience might have learned that the ‘slippery-slope’
argument has no basis in history or truth at all. So much for how we can rely
on the practitioners of evidence-based gun research to align their advocacy
with the facts.
The slippery-slope fantasy was most recently in full
display when Alaska’s long-time Congressman, Don Young, told an audience last
year that the Holocaust happened because Hitler had disarmed the
Jews. You can’t really blame Young for saying something that dumb; after all,
the Republican Party briefly flirted with the idea in 2016 of running a Presidential candidate named Ben
Carson who said exactly the same thing.
If you think, by the way, that the murder of six
million ‘defenseless’ Jews was originally the handiwork of some nut-job,
far-Right conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones, think again. In fact, the
argument can be found in a detailed, scholarly work by Stephen Halbrook, an attorney who argues many 2nd-Amendment
cases for the NRA. In this book, Halbrook argues that the Nazi Regime used the gun-control laws
previously passed by the Weimar Government to identify and disarm domestic
‘enemies’ like Jews and Communists, thus making it easier to consolidate
fascism which led to both the Holocaust and World War II.
Granted, the Nazis made full use of gun-control lists
compiled by the Weimar Government after they took power in 1933. But what
prompted the Weimar Government to institute a gun-control system in the first
place were threats against the government’s authority posed by widespread
political agitation from the Left, largely the handiwork of Germany’s Communist
Party, which happened to enroll substantial numbers of Jews.
Where Holbrook’s argument falls apart and the myth of
an ‘armed citizenry’ as representing the first bulwark of protection against
tyranny collapses as well, lies in the fact that the Weimar Government made no
effort to disarm the Nazi Party’s street militia, known as the SA, which Hitler formed in 1921. Over
the next 12 years, the SA became
increasingly violent in its attacks on opponents. By 1931, its 400,000 members,
mostly otherwise unemployed street thugs, were engaged in armed battles with
government authorities, as well as committing physical assaults on political
opponents and Jews.
The point is that the SA armed itself not as a defense against tyranny, but as part of
the Nazi strategy designed to create widespread distrust and anger against a
democratic state. The disarming of the Left after 1933 wasn’t a slippery-slope
at all. The Nazis imposed a military dictatorship with the support of the army
and the help of a trained, armed and organized citizen’s militia known as the SA.
Funny, but the only time the NRA and its apologists like Holbrook get concerned about protecting
America from government tyranny is when the government happens to be in the
hands of the gun-grabbing, tree-hugging liberals who most recently staged a coup d’état and took over what had previously
been a bastion of freedom, a.k.a. the House of Representatives, on November 6,
2018. And worse, now they are trying to extend their coup by running a ‘legally-elected’ President out of town.
The only thing which will stop this mad power-grab are
the patriots who stand fast with their God-given AR-15s to protect us from the
tyrannical, liberal elite. They did it at Lexington and Concord, they can do it
To paraphrase Jonathan Swift who was paraphrasing
either a Greek or Persian proverb, so the mountain shook and out came a mouse.
Which is the only way I can describe the Congressional hearing in DC yesterday
covering gun-research funding for the CDC. The House Appropriations Committee
(actually its subcommittee) heard testimony from four witnesses – Andrew Morral
from RAND; Ronald Stewart from the Trauma Committee of the American College of
Surgeons; Daniel Webster, who runs the gun research program at Johns Hopkins;
and the hated John Lott who, on occasion, is allowed to show up at
public-policy meetings to represent the ‘other side.’
rather long-winded remarks by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) who chaired the hearing and
some less-winded remarks by the Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) each of the
panelists were given 5 minutes to make an initial statement. I listened very
closely to these comments, but by end of the 15 minutes taken by Morral,
Stewart and Webster, I found myself having difficulty staying awake. It wasn’t
only that they didn’t really explain the connection between the lack of CDC
funding and the persistence of gun violence over the past twenty years
(although to Webster’s credit, I think he was about to offer such an
explanation when his time expired and he was cut off) but they delivered their
remarks in a manner which made them all sound somewhat bored and almost reluctant
to have shown up.
On the other hand, when John Lott delivered his opening
remarks, whether or not you would agree with anything he said, at least he was
animated and sounded excited about the issues that were going to be discussed.
You would think that the panelists who were testifying in favor of resuming the
CDC funding would have gone out of their way to make the Committee feel that
this hearing marked a very important day. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t see
Webster, Morral or Stewart stifling yawns.
Near the end of the hearing, the mouse truly emerged
from the mountain when the panelists were asked to list priorities for gun-violence
research. Morral wanted more research to determine who was right and who was
wrong about such hot-button issues as open carry, gun-free zones and stand your
ground. That’s a biggie. Stewart knew that gun violence was caused by
‘hopelessness’ and wanted more research on how to change hopelessness into hope.
A very clear agenda, I must say. Webster believed that more work needed to be
done to identify ‘bad’ gun dealers although he failed to mention that most
felons get their guns from sources other than retail stores.
Lott then actually stated a fact. It was the only fact
mentioned by any of the ‘experts’ on the panel. He said that 50% of all
homicides occurred in 2% of American counties and were connected to the drug-selling
gangs which operate in those high-violence zones. He suggested that more
research was needed on ways to de-incentivize people who commit gun crimes
while selling drugs – the one, specific strategy for reducing gun violence that
was mentioned during the entire event.
At one point, things actually got interesting when Andy
Harris (R-MD) asked the three proponents of more research dollars whether or
not they supported a national registry of
guns. Morral shlumped around in his chair and tried to beg off entirely, stating
that he was just a ‘social scientist;’ Stewart said he was against it even
though he heads a medical organization which has come out explicitly for just
such an idea; Webster dithered a bit and then decided that he also should
respond with a ‘no,’ although he has been gung-ho for comprehensive background
checks which would eventually create a national list of everyone who owns a gun.
Why do gun-control researchers and advocates like
Morral, Stewart and Webster kid themselves into believing that anyone on the
pro-gun side would ever think they have any interest in protecting gun ‘rights?’
If those guys are really interested in finding ‘non-partisan’ solutions to gun violence,
it’s time to man up and admit that they don’t like guns.
Prior to 1968, most adults in the United States could purchase a firearm without state interference. Guns were available in local retail stores, as well as mail-order catalogs, and as long as you hadn’t been convicted of a felony and you had the funds, there weren’t any questions asked.
Although many people hold a strong opinion for and against gun background checks, they’ve proven to be an integral part of the state’s gun control apparatus – and they don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon.
Since background checks are such a requirement for today’s gun enthusiasts, it’s important for gun owners (and those who may someday be gun owners) to understand everything they can, including how the current system works and how it came to be.
The History of Gun Background Checks in the U.S.
The history of background checks for gun purchases reaches back to the first restrictions placed on individuals trying to purchase firearms. Here in the U.S., this occured after the Civil War, when several southern states adopted “Black Codes,” which replaced the prior slave codes and worked to suppress the freedoms of black Americans. Among other restrictions, the Black Codes forbade African-Americans from owning firearms.
The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 began restricting the sales of firearms, requiring those in the business of selling firearms to purchase a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and maintain a list of persons who purchased firearms, including their name and address. The Firearms Act of 1938 also listed convicted felons as the first prohibited persons – who are not allowed, by law, to own, purchase, or possess firearms.
And then something happened that would forever change American history. Six days before Thanksgiving, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle purchased from a mail-order catalog. The Kennedy assassination led to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was specifically intended to keep “firearms out of the hands of those not legally entitled to possess them because of age, criminal background, or incompetence.”
Through the Gun Control Act of 1968, the federal government placed restrictions on the sale of firearms across state lines and expanded the prohibited persons who were not allowed to purchase or possess firearms. Under the new law, gun purchases became illegal for those who were:
Convicted of a non-business-related felony
Found to be mentally incompetent
Users of illegal substances
To determine this information, those who wished to purchase a firearm from an FFL had to complete a questionnaire of yes/no questions such as “Are you a convicted felon?” and “Are you a fugitive from justice?” Although these questions needed to be answered, they did not require verification from the gun seller.
In 1972, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was formed as a way to help control the illegal sales and use of firearms.
In March of 1981, the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan led to further gun legislation with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to now require background checks for the purchase of firearms from a retailer. The Brady Act, as it’s known today, also led to the development of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which launched in 1998, and is the current law on background checks for gun purchases in the U.S.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and was launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998. The NICS is used by FFLs to check the eligibility of those who wish to purchase firearms.
Located at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, the NICS is currently used by 30 states and five districts, as well as the District of Columbia, to check the backgrounds of those who wish to purchase firearms. Those states that opt not to use the NICS have their own point of contact (POC) to complete background checks.
The NICS applies a person’s identifying characteristics, including name and date of birth, to its own index, as well as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and the Interstate Identification Index. These systems compare the intended purchaser’s demographic information against the national databases to see if they match someone deemed a prohibited person. Prohibited persons include those who are or were:
Convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a year or more
Fugitives from justice
A user of or addicted to a controlled substance
Adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental health institution
Aliens admitted to the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa
Discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
Renounced their citizenship to the U.S.
Subject to a court order that restrains their interactions with an intimate partner or child
Convicted of domestic violence
Since its conception, NICS has completed over 300 million background checks and has issued more than 1.3 million denials. The NICS is available 17 hours a day, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.
How Do Background Checks Work?
When you visit a gun store and attempt to purchase a firearm, you must complete a Firearm Transaction Record, or ATF Form 4473 – which requires the intended purchaser’s name, address, and birthdate. The form also requires a government-issued photo ID and asks questions regarding the individual’s appearance, including height and weight.
Once the form’s completed, the gun seller can either call the 1-800 number for NICS or use the online system to run the background check. In over 90 percent of the cases, the results are almost immediate, with the system either approving, delaying, or denying the purchase within minutes.
With an approval, the sale can immediately proceed as planned with you purchasing the firearm. If there is a delay, the NICS and FBI investigate the inquiry over the next three days. If the FFL does not hear anything within that time period or if a determination cannot be made, then the retailer can, but does not have to, continue with the firearm transfer. When this occurs, it’s often referred to as a “default proceed” sale.
When a denial is made, which occurs in only about 2 percent of background checks, the retailer is unable to sell or transfer the firearm to the individual in question. You must submit a request to the NICS to receive the reason for your denial, the most common of which is a history of a felony conviction.
If you believe you were given an erroneous denial, you can appeal the decision by completing a Voluntary Appeal File (VAF), which can be done online or by mailing your request to the FBI. Along with the VAF application, you will also need to be fingerprinted to move forward with the appeal process.
When is a Background Check Needed to Purchase a Gun?
A background check is necessary any time you purchase a gun from a retail provider, which is defined as someone conducting business in the sale of firearms. These sellers must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and are legally mandated to complete a background check for every firearm sold to a non-licensed individual.
It doesn’t matter if you purchase the firearm in a brick-and-mortar store, a gun show, online, or through a magazine – if the seller is a retailer provider (i.e. has an FFL), then the background check must occur.
When is a Background Check Not Needed to Purchase a Gun?
Under federal law, any adult can sell a personally owned firearm to another adult in the same state as long as you know, to the best of your ability, that they’re allowed to own a firearm.
Private sellers aren’t required to ask for identification, they don’t have to complete any forms, nor keep any records of the transaction. What’s more, federal law does not mandate a background check to purchase a firearm from a private seller. This includes buying a gun from a relative, a neighbor, or a friend.
Although federal law does not demand a background check for the private sale of firearms, some states do require a background check.
If you inherit or are gifted a firearm, you don’t need a background check.
Do Gun Background Checks Differ By State?
Thirty states, five districts, and D.C. all rely solely on the NICS for gun background checks. The following 13 states use their own full point of contact (POC) data system for gun background checks and do not use the FBI’s system:
Some states, namely Maryland, New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin, use NICS for long guns, but a state program for background checks on handguns. Iowa, Nebraska, and North Carolina use NICS, but have a partial POC for background checks in relation to handgun permits.
Many of these states have added their own provisions to their background checks, on top of what federal law mandates. In most cases, they also include looking at state and local records to determine if the person in question should or should not be allowed to own a firearm.
Some states have implemented universal background checks via an FFL, even during a private gun sale. While Maryland and Pennsylvania require background checks for all handgun transfers, regardless of retail or private sale, the following states require a background check for all firearm transfers:
District of Columbia
In addition, some states require permits to purchase firearms. Hawaii, Illinois, and Massachusetts require a permit for all gun purchases, while Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and North Carolina require a permit for purchasing a handgun. These permits often require their own background check as well.
It should be noted that although these laws exist in Nebraska, they’re not currently being enforced, but are expected to be by January of 2020.
But Isn’t There a Gun Show Loophole?
There is no gun show loophole when it comes to background checks for gun purchases. The law clearly states that if you purchase a firearm from a person with an FFL, a background check must occur. If you purchase a gun from a private seller, you don’t need a background check. These same two principles apply whether you’re at a gun show or not.
So if you purchase a firearm from a gun seller with an FFL at a gun show, you will need to complete Form 4473 and have a background check. Under federal law, if you purchase a gun from a private seller at a gun show, you don’t need to have a background check. Your state laws may differ.
Of the average 4,000 gun shows in the U.S. each year, it’s estimated that 50 to 75 percent of vendors have an FFL, and therefore require purchasers of firearms to complete background checks. But that doesn’t mean that 25 to 50 percent of vendors are private sellers of firearms – many of these are vendors that sell gun paraphernalia. Gun shows are filled with vendors who sell everything from t-shirts and ball caps to holsters and concealed carry gear, and it’s these sellers that make up the majority of the remaining non-licensed vendors.
Are there private gun sellers at gun shows? Absolutely. But the idea that criminals are flocking to gun shows to illegally purchase firearms is untrue. In a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 0.7 percent of convicted criminals purchased their firearms at gun shows.
Have Background Checks Stopped Gun Violence and Crimes?
The research on the effectiveness of background checks to stop gun violence shows conflicting evidence. In an October 2018 published studycompleted by U.S. Davis and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in the 10 years following California’s comprehensive background checks, the number of gun homicides and suicides were not impacted. In a similar study published in July of the same year, gun violence did not increase with the repeal of comprehensive background checks.
Yet other studies show that background checks do reduce violence. A 2015 study found that requiring Connecticut handgun owners to go through a background check led to a 40-percent decline in gun homicides and suicides over a 10-year period.
This contradicting research shows that the problem of criminals getting their hands on guns can’t be stopped by mere background checks. According to the Department of Justice Special Report on Firearm Violence, 77 percent of state prisoners associated with firearm crimes received their firearm through:
On the street
Family or friends
Not one of these criminals would have been affected by background checks, universal or otherwise. After all, most criminals don’t feel obligated to use legal means to obtain their firearms since they’ve either broken laws previously or plan to do so.
Beyond theft and the black market, criminals also use straw purchases, which are illegal, to get their hands on firearms. Straw purchasers are people who can pass a background check and intentionally purchase firearms for criminals. The San Bernardino terrorists used a straw purchaser to get the firearms they used to kill 14 people in the 2015 mass shooting.
Background checks for gun purchases often become a talking point after these types of events, but those who partake in this terroristic activity often don’t have criminal histories that would flag a background check. For instance, the Virginia Tech madman legally purchased a gun at a Virginia-based FFL and passed his background check before using it to shoot fellow students.
And then there’s the fact that sometimes the background check system fails. NICS is not a 100-percent absolute system, and time has shown that gun background checks can only be as reliable as the records they contain. Devin Kelley, the Texas Church madman, was prohibited by law to own or purchase a firearm because of a domestic violence conviction while in the Air Force. Yet Kelley purchased four firearms between 2014 and 2017, completing Form 4473 and being approved each time by NICS.
In this case, the Air Force failed to report the court marshall to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, which the NICS relies on for information. So, again, the system is only as good as the information it contains.
(It’s also worth pointing out that Kelley’s murderous rampage was stopped by a private citizen, a plumber named Stephen Willeford, who legally owned an AR-15. Kelley was shot in the leg and torso by Willeford, stopping him from murdering more people inside that church before the police could arrive.)
And whereas sometimes the system which gun background checks rely upon is incomplete, in other instances it produces false positives. In other words law-abiding citizens get incorrectly matched by NICS or their respective state-level POC data system with criminals who have similar names. And if that happens to you, then you could be denied your right to own a gun because of a bureaucratic error. Estimates from the Crime Prevention Research Center pointed to 93 percent of initial NICS denials turning out as false positives in 2009 with similar estimates in 2010. (The Obama administration quit reporting these statistics after 2010.) Yes, individuals can appeal this denial and restore their gun rights, but dealing with bureacracy can be an expensive hassle.
The myriad of issues with NICS is why the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association representing the firearms industry, launched FixNICS.org in 2013. It is also why the NSSF publishes a yearly ranking of the states based on the number of mental health records they provide relative to their population – to encourage the states to comply with existing federal law, and submit any and all records establishing an individual as a prohibited person to the FBI’s databases. Their goal is to improve the existing system for everyone so that gun background checks are more accurate and complete.
Whether you like them or not, background checks are here to stay for gun owners and gun purchasers – but they are not the saving grace that some make them out to be. Background checks for gun purchases can only do so much and are not the permanent solution to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and keeping Americans safe from gun violence. More concerning is that they give the state an ever-growing list of private citizens who own guns, and such a list has historically been used for subsequent gun confiscation attempts.
happened? New York City was supposed to be a very safe place. But yesterday the Mayor and his Chief of
that homicides in the city during January and February had jumped by almost 30
percent over the same months in 2017, and if this murder activity continues at
the current pace, the Big Apple will once again be known as a city where the
streets aren’t so safe.
What caught my eye about this situation, however, was
the geography of where those murders took place. Most of them were in neighborhoods that have
always been centers of poverty an violence, places like Upper Manhattan, Bed-Stuy
(Do or Die) and Brownsville in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens. But one other
neighborhood jumped out at me, which was a neighborhood known as Parkchester
which is in the northeast corner of The Bronx.
I attended high school in Manhattan from 1958 to 1962,
and I was a student at one of those specialized schools – High School of Music
and Art – which drew kids from throughout the city. Several of my friends lived
in Parkchester and I often visited them in their homes. I thought that
Parkchester was a public housing project (it certainly looked like one) but in
fact it was a private apartment development built in 1939-40 by Metropolitan
Life. It was also racially segregated when it first opened its doors, which I
guess is the reason why I never recall seeing a person of color when I walked
to the apartment of one of my high school chums.
According to the 2010 census, Parkchester’s population is now
at least 75% Hispanic and Black. And given the spike in murders, I suspect that
the demographics of the community have steadily gone downhill. What this means is that possibly the
geography of what we refer to as ‘underserved’ urban neighborhoods is changing
in New York or in some areas getting worse.
What’s DeBlasio’s plans for keeping violence under
control? The 43rd precinct in
Parkchester will get some more men, there will be a greater presence of the
CeaseFire street monitors to intervene in gang disputes and here’s the one I really
like, increased efforts to get guns out of the hands of domestic
abusers. – that’s a direct quote.
Maybe these efforts
will make a difference, maybe they won’t. But if the Parkchester complex is beginning
to attract the kinds of folks who put a dent into someone’s head with a baseball bat or a hole
in their head with a gun, we may be looking at a more general problem, namely,
the degree to which violent crime seems to go up as socio-economic conditions
in a neighborhood go down.
Next week I’m going to review a new book, An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz,
which is a series of first-person narratives from residents of Chicago’s most violent
neighborhoods, in which these folks talk in graphic and chilling terms about
the violence they see all around them which is often violence caused by guns.
This book is a clear departure from most of the social science that explores
urban violence because it doesn’t attempt to present a solution to the problem,
it simply gives the reader feeling of what
life inn these brutal streets is all about.
Over the last several years, there have been any number
of projects mounted by organizations trying to reduce gun violence in which the
survivors of shootings tell what happened to a family member who was a victim.
You can listen to a collection of these stories collected by
our friends at The Trace here.
The news out of Parkchester, however, is a reminder that you just can’t reduce something as complicated as violence, particularly gun violence, to the usual data on income, housing, economic opportunity, all the issues which are always thrown up to explain why some people feel the need to grab a gun and let it rip. We really have no idea why the streets around Parkchester have become unsafe, and I’m not sure we even know how to figure it out.
Last week I received an email from an outfit called
Outdoor Survivor offering a free book, The
Firearms Survival Guide. The book is
all about how to ‘protect’ my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’. It’s free. Why
not grab one, right?
The moment I clicked the ‘buy’ button, I was then taken
to another screen where I was given an amazing opportunity to grab the best
tactical knife ever made, complete with a spring-assisted opening latch and
German stainless steel. This beauty
normally retails for $99.99 but just today, just for a few hours more, I could
scoff it up for $19.95. I did.
Which took me immediately to another screen and here I
was given a fantastic, remarkable chance to buy a tactical, self-defense pen
and LED flashlight which can be used to break open a window if I need a quick
escape from my home. This amazing product also comes with a multi-tool for
everyday use and for close-quarters combat work. And all of these features for
the incredibly low price of $29.95 which I grabbed with the click of my mouse
because I’ll be visiting stepson next week and should bring a gift.
And now I found myself looking at another screen with a
picture of the four-in-one tactical backpack which holds – ready? – a hydration
kit for those desert treks, a compass which is guaranteed to be water-resistant
up to 100 yards deep, a digging tool for making sure I can fit into my foxhole
when that enemy ordnance whizzes overhead and an emergency rescue blanket for
covering me up after I’m wounded by the enemy assault. I’m not sure about the
need for the blanket but hey, there’s always room for it in the car when we
need something to sit on at the beach.
The tactical backpack retails for a hundred bucks or
so, but if I buy it today there’s a one-shot offer of $59.95 and putting it
together with the gun survival guide, the tactical knife, and the flashlight with
the LED gets me free shipping, unless I want everything rushed overnight. In
that case, I just need to add $24.95 to the order which means that once they
charge my credit card $134.80, I’ll have this entire pile of crap sitting on my
front porch tomorrow – oh…my… God, I can’t wait.
Now what do you think the odds are that I will ever
even remotely need any of this stuff I just bought because I’ll find myself in
a tactical situation where having this gear will make any difference at
all? The odds are about as great as the
odds that I will lose the 20 pounds that my internist has been telling me to
lose for the last – uhhhh – twenty years.
Yea, that’s about right.
Note that this entire sales promotion kicked off with a
book whose title contained the two magic words – ‘firearms’ and ‘survival.’
Note that I will ever need any of these items like I’ll need a hole in my head.
But the reason I’m on the email list rented by this marketing company is because
at some point or another the internet found out that I both like and therefore
own guns. Maybe they got my name from the NRA
or maybe from some other marketing group which sold me some other piece of
gun-related junk that I never used.
The truth is that there’s no necessary reason to buy or
own any gun-related products at all, just as there’s no necessary reason to buy
or own a gun. I just happen, God knows
why, to like guns. And what I don’t think my many friends in Gun-control Nation
understand is, that all the heated rhetoric about ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ and ‘self-defense’
to the contrary, most people who own guns just happen to like owning guns.
If I didn’t like to eat, I could easily shed those twenty pounds. If I didn’t like guns, I wouldn’t give one rat’s damn about my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Get it?
Not only did the new House majority pass one gun-control law, they passed two! And while there’s certainly no guarantee that the Senate will take up consideration off either measure, the momentum is clearly building for some kind of legislative response to the continued gun-violence blood-bath that Americans seem to enjoy. These two measures mark the first time that any gun legislation has been voted up by either House of Congress since 1994.
The first bill, which I wrote
about last week, mandated background checks for just about all kinds of gun
transfers. The second
bill, H. R. 1112, addresses what has been referred to as the Charleston ‘loophole’
in the background check process, because had it been closed prior to 2015,
perhaps Dylann Roof might not have been able to buy the gun which he used to
kill 9 parishoners in the Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal
The so-called loophole basically allows a gun dealer to complete a sale and transfer the weapon if the FBI doesn’t finalize the background check within three business days. In fact, there are now 18 states which give law-enforcement additional time to complete a background check, but since the NICS system went live, a total of almost 63,000 guns have ended up in the hands of individuals who ultimately failed the check and shouldn’t have gotten their guns.
What the new law does is extends the review period from 3 to 10 days, and if no response has been received by the latter date, the gun can be released. But, and this is an interesting but which somehow escaped most of the summaries about the bill, in order for the release of the gun to occur, the buyer must notify the FBI that he or she has the right to own a gun and is petitioning that the weapon in question be released. This follow-up by the dealer only occur after 10 days have passed since the initial background check request was made and the transaction put on hold.
In other words, if I want to buy a gun and the initial background check provokes a three-day delay, I am not getting that gun until at least 10 days have passed from the date of the first background check and I now may have to wait another 10 days before the dealer gives me my gun. Obviously, the point of the law is to give the FBI more time to investigate the background of someone whose name registers a red flag in one of the databases the FBI utilizes to conduct NICS checks.
The law also contains the usual blah, blah, blah and blah about how the FBI has to issue an annual report detailing how many petitions they receive for delayed transfers and the disposition of same. Of course there’s no penalty if the FBI just happens to forget to issue this report which means it may get issued, it may not.
I recall several instances in my shop when I released a gun after not hearing from the FBI within the three business days following a delayed NICS check and then the FBI notified me that the transfer should not have gone through. I was told to immediately notify the ATF so that they could send an agent out to pick up the gun.
Know what the ATF did? Nothing. And the reason I know they didn’t do anything was because if the transaction was legally void, the gun should have been returned to me and the customer’s money would have been returned to him. Whenever I hear the ATF or the FBI crowing about how their vaunted background check system keeps the ‘bad guys’ from getting guns, I think about the guns which shouldn’t have left my shop and are still floating somewhere around.
Think the ATF would ever publish a report on how many guns they have picked up that shouldn’t have been allowed into the street? Don’t hold your breath.
Before everyone goes nuts and crazy about the amendment
that the sore-loser Republicans inserted into the background-check bill (H.R.
8) which yesterday cleared the House, I’m going to explain what the language
means and doesn’t mean. The problem is that what Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said
about the background-check process (“Well, first of all, if he fails a
background check because he’s illegally in the country, that means the system
knows he’s illegally in the country. It means they already know that — so
what’s the point of reporting him?”) isn’t really true. But what the GOP said about this stupid amendment
also isn’t true.
The amendment says that when
someone fails a background check because he/she is an undocumented immigrant,
that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, our new Gestapo known as the ICE, has to be notified so that the
individual can be found, prosecuted and
charged with all sorts of things. I don’t believe, incidentally, that
the amendment contains a specific method for making all of that happen. In other words, after the FBI-NICS people fail to approve a
transaction, who picks up the phone and calls the ICE?
Here’s what happens when the
(hated or beloved – take your pick) background check occurs. The buyer of the gun fills out fields 1
through 10 on the form and gives name, address, date of birth, all the usual
identifiers. The buyer then gives a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to 9 questions
covering the various ‘prohibited’ categories (i.e., felon, fugitive, mental
‘defective,’ – I love that one – and so forth.) If the buyer says ‘yes’ to any
of those questions, the FBI denies
the sale. If the buyer says ‘no’ to any of those questions but the person’s
name turns up in one of the databases used by the FBI, the sale is also either prohibited or delayed (the notorious
3-day delay) until more information can be found.
You should know, by the way, that
neither the dealer nor the customer is told why a specific sale was denied or
delayed. The customer will be told if he decides to appeal the decision, the
dealer is left in the dark. And here comes the tricky part. The customer must
also affirm or deny that he/she is a citizen and produce some kind of
government ID to validate his/her current address. But there are currently 42
states which will issue a driver’s license to an
undocumented immigrant either because they want everyone who drives to have a
license, or because they have agreed to issue a license to anyone covered by
the DACA program, which enrolls ‘illegals’ up to age thirty-one.
So the guy who walks into a gun
shop, produces a driver’s license and says he’s a citizen is going to fly
through the background check process unless the FBI finds that he’s committed some kind of serious crime or is
listed in their database for some other disqualifying event. In other words,
the authors of that stupid amendment are simply grandstanding by inserting some
language about reporting ‘illegals’ to the
ICE when said individuals try to legally purchase a gun.
Pace Jerry Nadler, the only way that someone could fail a
background check because they are here illegally is if the individual actually admitted
their illegal status at the time they were filling out the background-check
form. And anyone doing that should be denied a gun simply because he’s beyond
If I were someone in the country illegally and wanted to get
my hands on a gun, I’m not going to get anywhere near the FBI when it comes to buying a gun or when it comes to anything
else. The FBI-NICS system has been
operating for more than 20 years and everyone who hasn’t been brain-dead since
1998 knows what the phrase ‘law-abiding’ means when it comes to buying or
owning a gun.
When it comes to gun violence, there are more important things to worry about than whether some GOP members of Congress want to score a few points with the anti-immigration gang.
Last month I nominated
Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to receive this year’s award for being the dumbest elected
official when he told the parents of children gunned down at Parkland that they
had more to fear from terrorists crossing the Mexican border than from someone
charging into a school carrying an AR-15. But when it comes to gross stupidity,
Gaetz has competition from a bunch of members in the West Virginia House of Delegates
who just voted
for a law that would allow people with concealed-carry permit to bring their
guns onto any public college campus in the Mountain State.
The law, which still needs to go through the State
Senate before it can hit the Governor’s desk, is called ‘The Campus
Self-Defense Act,’ and I would ask everyone who has even the slightest concern about
the issue of gun violence to read carefully the specific text of the law
beginning on Page 41 (line 358) which you can
Before I get into the craziness of this statute, you should
know that West Virginia is one of several states which allows for what is
called ‘constitutional carry, which means that if you are over the age of 21
and can pass a background check, you can walk around with a concealed gun. You
can also carry a concealed weapon between the ages of 18 and 21 but you have to
take a course which requires
that you fire a gun at least once.
From the title of this bill, you might imagine that
college campuses in West Virginia are as dangerous as the OK Corral, but
nothing could be further from the truth.
According to our friend Stephen Boss, there has been exactly one fatal
at any West Virginia campus since 2001, a shooting
of two brothers who were students at Shepherd University and were killed by
their father, who then turned the gun on himself in 2006.
As usual, supporters of this measure used the standard
script of Gun-nut Nation, citing the ‘right’ to bear arms and defend
themselves, along with the idea that shooters are attracted to gun-free zones. How
many of the 85,000 fatal and non-fatal gun assaults which occur every year take
place in a gun-free zones, God only knows. But since when did the debate about
campus carry or any kind of gun carry rely on facts?
Getting back to the text of the bill, there are certain
on-campus locations where college administrations can still prohibit persons
from wandering around with their guns. This includes arenas with seating capacity
of 1,000 or more; campus daycare centers; campus police stations and any site
being used for a disciplinary hearing during the time when the hearing is
actually being held. You mean that maybe, just maybe the idiot delegates who voted
for this measure could actually imagine that someone being charged with improper
behavior might represent a threat to public safety if he showed up with his gun? Wow! One moment of rational thought actually
entered the brains of the dopes who wrote this bill.
But for those of us who feel that even these minimal restrictions
on our God-given right to self-defense are a violation of everything we hold
dear, the college or university must also provide a ‘secure location’ for
storing guns, as well as an ‘appropriate safe’ that can be installed in a dorm
room. Not only are gun-carrying students entitled to free storage space, but a policy
must be developed to guarantee these gun-owning students that they will have
access to their guns at ‘all’ times.
Want to know what college students really need to
protect themselves from as they walk around their campus, sit in their
classrooms or relax in their dorms? They need to protect themselves from the
stupidity and senselessness of the campus-carry movement which has become yet
another vehicle for the assault on gun-free zones. Unfortunately, the members
of the House of Delegates who voted for this measure are beyond any help at
In 1927 a Belgian medievalist, Henri Pirenne, created
an academic firestorm with the publication of an article which argued that the
shift of Western Civilization away from the Mediterranean (Greece – Rome) to
its modern locus in Northern Europe was due to the 7th-Century
invasion by Islam into North Africa and Spain. His study provoked the
publication of endless responses, revisions and refutations that probably
accounted for an unknown number of academic promotions, tenures and teaching
careers. When the whole controversy finally died down fifty years after it
began, the center of Western Civilization was still located alongside the Île de France.
I am reminded of Pirenne’s thesis whenever yet another pronouncement
is issued calling for more research into the violence caused by guns, even
though the formativeresearch
by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara linking higher rates of suicide and homicide
to guns in the home was published more than twenty-five years ago.
The demand for more research has grown exponentially
since Sandy Hook, just as the whole gun-control movement has spread outward following
that terrible event. In April, 2015 eight national medical organizations published
a ‘Call for Action,’ which demanded more “research to support strategies for
reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths.” You can download this paper
Pursuant to that manifesto, three of the organizational
signatories have produced their own calls for more research, agendas which
allegedly reflect the various specialties which they bring to the issue of
guns. I refer to pronouncements made by the American College of Emergency
Physicians (ACEP) in 2016, the
American College of Physicians (ACP)
in 2018 and the American College of Surgeons (ACS), also in 2018. You can
download all three papers right here: ACEP
– ACP– ACS. Feel free to download the Kellerman-Rivara
According to the ACEP, “high-quality firearm injury prevention research is needed.” Says the ACP, “More research is needed on firearm violence and on intervention and prevention strategies to reduce injuries caused by firearms.” Announces the ACS, “We recommend that research for firearm injury and firearm injury prevention must be federally funded at a level commensurate with the burden of the disease without restriction.”
So there appears to be a consensus emerging within the
medical community that a behavior which results in injuries to more than
125,000 Americans each year is a serious problem and that more research will
help develop effective interventions to bring that number down.
With all due respect to the 39 signatories of these
pronouncements who hold MD degrees,
what they have published are road maps to help them design and produce more
studies to enhance their research careers. Thank you very much.
The behavior which creates gun injuries is well known –
pick up a loaded gun, aim it at yourself or someone else, pull the trigger and an
injury occurs. It’s guaranteed to work every, single time. If any one of the 39
medical researchers believes this research to be inadequate, come to my gun
shop, we’ll go downstairs to my range, I’ll give you a loaded gun, then you
pull the trigger and let’s test the result. Sorry folks, this outcome is
validated at least 350 times in America every, single day.
Incidentally, these three medical groups – ACEP, ACS,ACP – donated nearly
$250,000 to the 2016-2018 Congressional campaigns of the worst, most aggressive
members of the House GOP caucus whose votes have been primarily responsible for
the lack of gun-research funding which these organizations all claim to be
their most worrisome concern. Have any of these researchers who are so
committed to saving lives said one word about this egregious state of affairs?
Not one peep. And these researchers want their concerns about gun violence to
be taken seriously by anyone other than themselves? Are they serious? You can
download this wall of shame right
here. You can also
read a new JAMA article
which goes in greater detail about medical support for the NRA.
The research on
gun violence is clear: get rid of the guns. I say this as a bone-fide gun nut,
not just as some doctor who happens to own or not own a few guns.
Now that a gun-control bill appears to be rolling
through the House, probably to be sidelined by the Senate, the two sides in the
gun debate are beginning to sharpen their spears for what they assume will be
the real-deal confrontation leading up to the 2020 Presidential campaign. It
was kicked off by a broadside
in The American Rifleman magazine, the NRA’s flagship publication, which has
Nancy and Gabby flanked by a headline that reads: “TARGET PRACTICE – Congressional
Democrats Target Gun Owners for Persecution with Extreme Firearms Ban,”
obviously referring to the background-check bill (H.R. 8) that was introduced
almost immediately after the 116th Congress took its seats.
If the blue team can’t get enough votes to push this
bill forward, they really should go home and declare their new House majority
to be as good as dead. But if anyone thinks that the passage of this law is just
so much strum und drang without any
real significance behind it, just remember that the federal gun law passed in
1968 was first introduced in 1963. I
guarantee you that the guy or gal who ends up running against Trump next year
will pledge to make H.R. 8 the next gun law.
Actually, the American
Rifleman blast that has Gun-control Nation so upset is a
reminder that America’s first civil rights organization’ isn’t quite ready to
throw in the towel. To be sure, the Russian stuff, the insurance mess and a
loss of a number of commercial partners (car rentals, hotel discounts, etc.)
made 2018 a pretty tough year. But nothing gets Gun-nut Nation angrier and more
motivated than the idea that a bunch of tree-hugging, big-government types led
by Nancy Pelosi want to take away their guns.
And for all the talk coming out of the liberal noise machine about how
H.R. 8 is a ‘bi-partisan’ bill, so far there are 227 Democrats listed
as co-sponsors, and a whole, big 5 (read: five) co-sponsors from the GOP. That’s some bi-partisan bill.
Take a look at the 5 members of the GOP caucus
who signed on to H.R. 8. Four of them –
King, Fitzpatrick, Smith and Mast come from districts where being against guns
is an asset, not a liability. Peter King, the initial co-sponsor of the bill,
is rated ‘F’ by the NRA. Brian
Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County, PA earned a ‘B’ rating and you have
to work really hard to get less than an ‘A’ rating from the boys in Fairfax.
Chris Smith from Joisey, got an ‘F.’ Get
it? By the way, all five of those
turncoats signed on to H.R. 8 the very first day that it was introduced, which
was January 8th. Nearly half of the Democratic co-sponsors committed
to the measure after it had been floating around for at least two weeks. As for
the remaining 191 GOP members? Zilch.
The real reason why the NRA had trouble staying in the
driver’s seat in 2017 and 2018 was not because they broke their piggy-bank by
giving Trump so much dough in 2016. It was because when the Republicans
control both Houses of Congress plus the Oval Office, it’s pretty hard to make
the case that gun ‘rights’ are under assault. In a funny kind of way, the
resurgence of the blue team last November is exactly what the gun-rights gang
needed to get its mojo working again.
By the same
token, my friends in Gun-control Nation need to stop kidding themselves about
the degree to which gun laws could ever be sold to gun owners as just a ‘reasonable’
response to the fact that, on average, eight different people somewhere in the
United States pick up a gun every hour and shoot someone else.
By any stretch of the imagination, this kind of behavior isn’t ‘reasonable,’ and sugar-coating it by calling for a ‘reasonable’ response will get you a bunch of blue votes, but won’t move the needle in places where lots of people own lots of guns. And in 2020, those votes will count too.