Another Well-MeaningPublic Servant Tries To End Gun Violence And Gets It Wrong.

Every time there’s a particularly-nasty shooting, one that makes the national as opposed to just the local news, you can count on our elected officials, or at least a couple of our elected officials, to respond by filing yet another new bill that will do this or do that in response to the simple problem that there are people out there who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns.

      Cong. Don Beyer

Cong. Don Beyer

A case in point?  A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday by Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) called the Keeping Guns From Criminals Act, which would make it a felony for anyone to sell a gun to a buyer who could not pass a NICS check.  Under current Federal law, someone who buys a gun knowing he will then give it or re-sell it to someone else can be charged with lying on the 4473 form that is used to conduct the NICS check, but conducting a private transaction without NICS is legal in most states.  And if the person who buys the gun turns out to be a felon, or a nut, or someone else who shouldn’t have a gun, as long as the transaction occurred in a state that doesn’t require NICS checks for private sales, the seller hasn’t done anything wrong at all.

So Beyer’s bill would de facto extend NICS checks to private transactions, even though a seller could still decide that he wasn’t interested in conducting a NICS check with the particular purchaser of his gun.  The press release accompanying Beyer’s bill makes the point of noting that most FFL-dealers will perform a NICS check for a “nominal fee” of $30, and that there are “nearly 130,000 FFLs nationwide” so there’s little cost or inconvenience in running a background check before selling a gun.

I only wish there were 130,000 FFL-holders who could conduct a NICS check.  Because if there were, I could have a lot more fun driving around this weekend and going into all those gun shops looking for that one gun which I just have to have.  In fact, although Congressman Beyer claims to have gotten his FFL information from the ATF, which regulates all federal firearms licenses, not surprisingly what the ATF told him isn’t true. After all, why should the federal agency that regulates firearms transactions know what it’s talking about?

4473new3In fact, as of May 10, 2015, there were 140,313 active federal firearms licenses, but only 55,873 are 01 dealer licenses, which happen to be the only FFL-holders who can run NICS checks.  Ooops, I forgot;  there are also 8,153 federally-licensed pawnbrokers, and they can also run NICS checks.  In the interest of full disclosure, it should also be noted that many of those 01 license-holders don’t actually engage in any kind of retail sales – they use the FFL to purchase guns for themselves and they’re not interested in running NICS background checks for anyone else.

You would think that a Member of Congress intent on curbing gun violence by asking gun owners to conduct NICS checks on private transactions would at least get his facts straight about what a gun owner would be facing in order to comply with this law.  You would also think that the ATF, which would love to see an increase in NICS activity because it would give the agency more work and hence, more of a reason to justify its own existence, would give a Member of Congress valid information in order to help him craft a realistic bill.  The result of Beyer’s honest and heartfelt response to Charleston will be one thing and one thing only; namely, that the NRA will send something out to its membership warning them of another knee-jerk, insidious effort to grab all their guns.  And in this case are they wrong?

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Just Because People Are Upset About Charleston, It Doesn’t Mean That They’ll Give Up Their Guns.

It’s now 5 days since the Charleston shooting at Emanuel AME, and the NRA still hasn’t uttered a single, public peep.  It’s  a tough one for them, in some ways tougher than Sandy Hook, because the debate about how and why Dylann Roof drove down to Charleston from Columbia has now morphed into a discussion about racism and hate, with the issue of public displays of the Confederate flag not far behind.  Which means that America’s “oldest civil rights movement,” as the NRA likes to call itself, has an interesting balancing-act to figure out.  The bottom line is that the NRA isn’t going to say something that might make it difficult for any of the Republican presidential hopefuls to experience any difficulties appealing to the pro-gun vote.  At the same time, the not-surprising calls for more concealed-carry from John Lott and other armed-citizen fantasists have not grabbed much media space from what has been an overwhelming outpouring of concern in response to this tragic event.

The problem, of course, is that the moment an event like the Charleston shooting occurs and gun-control activists start beating the drums for more laws that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ gun owners begin to feel that they are being attacked.  Why should the average, law-abiding citizen who happens to like or own guns have to jump through yet more legal hoops just because some crazy kid with a white-supremacist fixation got his hands on a Glock 21? And it turns out that he bought the gun legally, even passed a background check, which only goes to show that passing more gun-control laws won’t prevent the next crazy person from shooting up a church, right?

             Glock 21

Glock 21

Sometimes I think that the whole pro-gun, anti-gun argument is misplaced, particularly when an emotion-driven event like the shooting in Charleston takes place.  Unfortunately, the only time we do think about the place of guns in American society is when someone uses a gun in a terribly-destructive way.  But for many people who own guns, events like the Charleston shooting have nothing to do with them.  In fact, such events, as terrible as they are, only serve to provoke more interest in buying and using guns, not the other way around.

The day after the shooting, the Charleston Post & Courier newspaper ran a headline which read: “Church attack kills 9.”  The Courier happens to be the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and this year won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of domestic violence, so we’re not here talking about a weekly shopper or some other kind of journalistic rag.  But the same day that the paper’s headline was all about the church attack, the headline was actually somewhat obscured by a stick ‘em ad announcing a thirty- dollar “Ladies Night” at a local gun shop and range, the cost covering gun rental, a free t-shirt, 50 rounds of ammo and let’s not forget the requisite safety gear to protect eyes and ears.

When someone finally caught up with the Courier’s editor, he issued the usual half-assed disclaimer about how the paper “regretted” the coincidence and blah, blah, blah.  But it turns out that another newspaper, the Florida Times Union, ran exactly the same kind of ad on the front page along with a headline about the previous day’s shooting on a Jacksonville school bus which left two kids only wounded, at least nobody was dead.  Of course the Times Union immediately issued a statement about the “incredibly regrettable coincidence.”  They issued a statement.

The day after Gabby Giffords was shot in a Tucson mall parking lot, sales of Glock 19 pistols, the gun used by her assailant Jared Loughner, went sky high.  Over the next week or so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Glock 21 sales go the same way. It’s Marketing 101 to take advantage of what’s uppermost in the public’s mind, and I’m not being cynical or sarcastic by making the connection between advertising that promotes gun sales and headlines that proclaim yet another horrific shooting event.