We Don’t Need A National Gun Registry Because The ATF Already Knows Who Owns The Guns.

              Last week three ‘experts’ on gun violence – Morall, Stewart, Webster – unanimously condemned the idea of creating a national gun registry to help control guns. In fact, these same three individuals have also supported comprehensive background checks (CBC), which would eventually create a national gun registry whether these experts know it or not.

              Here’s how. Every firearm in a gun shop is listed in the shop’s Acquisition & Disposition book, known as the A&D. When a gun comes into a shop, the gun dealer makes an entry in the Acquisition side of the A&D book which shows where the gun came from, along with the make, caliber and serial number of the gun. When that gun leaves the shop because it’s been sold, the dealer then fills in the Disposition side of the book, identifying the new owner of that gun. Before the Disposition information is entered, a 4473 FBI-NICS background check form is also filled out, and is linked numerically to the relevant entry in the A&D.

              Why will they know it? The ATF owns every, single collection of 4473 forms and every, single A&D book located in every gun shop in the United States. If H.R. 8 becomes law, then over time the whereabouts of every gun that has been transferred to anyone after the law goes into effect will be known by the ATF

              In the ‘olden’ days, a.k.a. pre-internet days, gun dealers kept their A&D book by hand. Now virtually every dealer maintains his inventory on disc, and the agency encourages dealers to digitalize their data because it makes it easier for the ATF agents to conduct an inspection without having to stand there and read through every page of the A&D. Incidentally, the idea that the ATF has been ‘handcuffed’ since 1998 because they can only do a trace of the initial sale of a gun happens to be a big, fat lie. If someone walks out of a gun shop with a piece and gives or sells it to someone else, obviously the movement of that gun from one pair of hands to another won’t be known. But walk into any gun shop and you’ll discover that upwards of 40% of the inventory consists of used guns.

A gun that was originally sold by that shop may end up being re-sold multiple times by that shop or other gun shops nearby. Every single one of those sales can be traced by the ATF. Why don’t they do it? Because they’re lazy and dumb. The ATF still sends out trace requests to dealers through manual fax. They haven’t heard of emails or online fax?  Oh no, not those guys who are now complaining that taking away regulating tobacco is nothing more than a bunch of bureaucrats trying to protect their turf.

I’m not saying that by creating a virtual network of all gun shops that we would then have a national registry of guns in the strict sense of the word. What we would have is the ability to do a much greater and more effective tracing process which would only become even more effective if CBC at some point became law. Given the average age of the gun-owning population and the continued weakness of sales, every year more gun owners are being subtracted for natural reasons from the gun-owning population than the number of new owners who appear. Which means that all the guns that are in the hands of Gun-nut Nation would also end up requiring a CBC transfer and thus would become data that could be easily accessed by the ATF.

Everyone, including those three experts on last week’s Congressional panel who disavowed a national gun registry know full well that the reason we have much higher levels of gun violence than any other country in the OECD is because the government doesn’t know who owns the guns. I’m suggesting there’s a very simple way to make a huge dent in this knowledge gap, which would only take a modest degree of initiative that the ATF evidently lacks.

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Why Did Bill O’Reilly Call For Comprehensive Background Checks?

Did I really hear what I thought I heard Bill O’Reilly say after Obama announced his agenda for additional controls on guns? So I waited until Fox posted O’Reilly’s remarks from his Wednesday night show and here is exactly what he said: “The NRA and the gun owners should be reasonable. The FBI should background check anyone buying a firearm in America. That just makes sense. If you are paranoid and believe the government is stockpiling information so they can come to your house and take your guns — that’s your problem, your problem.”

oreilly               Is this the Bill O’Reilly whose nightly talk show always leads the ratings for Fox News?  Is this the same Bill O’Reilly who has either excused or justified virtually every racist attack on Obama over the last seven years? Is this the selfsame Bill O’Reilly who, following the shooting at Umpqua CC, told Obama that he could “never change” the 2nd Amendment?  Yup, it’s the same, old Billy-boy, and while I wish I had been the first one to pick up on this remarkable statement, I have to admit that you can also see the clip on Salon and Media Matters, along with a quickie from Trump (on the Salon website) commenting on Obama’s speech by saying, “Don’t worry folks, they’re not going to take away your guns.”

So all of a sudden, after months of the most outrageous and pandering lies, the Republicans turn an about-face and decide it’s time to be reasonable as regards guns.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking for one second that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News in general can be counted on to get out in front and take a positon on any political issue that runs against the Republican grain.  If all of a sudden someone as influential as Bill O’Reilly dismisses the idea that background checks will lead to gun confiscation, if this dismissal is then repeated explicitly by Donald Trump, then what has happened is that the single, most important idea used by the NRA to block any kind of sensible gun regulation – regulation leads to confiscation – has just disappeared.

The NRA and other pro-gun organizations have been promoting this slippery-slope crap since the 1990s, if not before.  The NRA usually trots this bromide out in their fundraising pitch, but there are some quasi-serious scholars out there like the NRA counsel Stephen Halbrook whose book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, also argues that gun registration in Germany then led to gun confiscation with the utmost, tragic results. I knew that Ben Carson didn’t have the wherewithal to be a serious Presidential candidate when he stated and then defended the idea that millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust because they didn’t own guns.  But he didn’t say anything different than what has been floating around gun circles for years.

So what’s going on?  How come people who until a week ago were promoting the sine qua non of gun stupidity by warning us about how the gun-grabbers are hard at work trying to take away our guns, are now lining up on the side of reasonableness, on the side of common sense?  Should the GVP community take O’Reilly seriously?  Should Mike Bloomberg offer to appear with Trump if The Donald is willing to repeat his promise that nobody’s going to lose their guns?

What’s going on is what I have been saying is going on in the period since Sandy Hook; namely, for the very first time since guns became a public issue, the terms of the debate are no longer being set by the NRA.  I’m not saying that the playing field is exactly level.  I’m saying that the GVP movement is finally forcing the other side to consider whether what it says will continue to sell.  Because you don’t change a thirty-year public stance because all of a sudden you see the light.  You change it because otherwise your own bulb might just burn out.

 

 

 

He’s Ba-ack. Dick Heller And the NRA Come Up Short In Court.

Were it not for the fact that the 68 square miles that covers Washington, D.C. wasn’t owned lock, stock and barrel by the Federal Government, most of the decisions reached by the D.C. District Court wouldn’t attract much attention, even when the decisions go up to the United States Court of Appeals.  But the gun cases brought by Dick Heller and the NRA aren’t your local, garden-variety of court cases and the D.C. District Court isn’t some town magistrate dealing with whether the town has the right to prohibit overnight parking on all local streets.  Nope, the D.C. District Court has been the scene of three separate 2nd Amendment cases whose rulings have become Law of the Land.

The first case brought by Heller – Heller I – went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2008 and resulted in the decision which basically said that the Constitution gave American citizens the right to keep a handgun in their homes for self-defense.  The second case – Heller II – was a challenge to the gun registration scheme put into place by the D.C. cops following  Heller I, which allowed D.C. residents to purchase and own handguns under conditions that were so onerous and difficult that handgun ownership remained a barely-realizable fact.

           Dick Heller

Dick Heller

As a result of Heller II, the District of Columbia revised its licensing rules, changing certain procedures, eliminating others and adding a few new ones, all of which provoked Heller and his NRA-backed legal team to initiate the action now known as Heller III.  This case was decided by the Court of Appeals on September 18, and while the NRA lauded the decision as “bringing gun ownership within reach to more of D.C.’s upstanding residents,” the Appeals Court reaffirmed what I believe are the most fundamental gun-control tenets of all; namely, the right of the government to engage in the practice and policy of regulating guns.

The truth is that the ultimate policy objective of the gun lobby is to completely de-regulate the ownership and use of guns.  The NRA can mouth all the pious platitudes in the world about how only ‘law-abiding’ citizens should own guns, but in the name of Constitutional freedom they have attempted to stymie even the most minimal government efforts to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  If there even is a gun problem, the response of the gun lobby is to ‘fix’ the mental-health system, a non-sequitur if I ever heard one, or increase penalties for gun crimes, despite the fact that every, single gun used illegally or inappropriately first entered the market through a legal sale.  What’s the NRA’s plan for preventing the massive and continuous flow of guns from the good guys to the bad guys?  Let every good guy walk around with a gun.

From a pro-gun perspective, the Heller III decision voided some of the DC registration rules which, as far as I’m concerned, weren’t of great value at all.  This included dropping the ‘one gun a month’ rule, the re-registration of guns and a requirement that every gun owner pass a test on current DC gun laws.  Most importantly, what the decision upheld was the constitutionality of gun registration per se, and perhaps even more important the use of ‘intermediate scrutiny’ for deciding the constitutionality of gun-control laws.  Had the Court agreed with the NRA’s argument that the government’s attempt to regulate gun ownership could only be decided on the basis of ‘strict scrutiny,’ i.e.,  a law is only valid if it fits the exact  issue for which it has been designed, you could basically throw out every gun-control statute that has ever been passed.

The Court also upheld the requirement that D.C. gun owners must take an online course in gun safety which I took while I ate breakfast, paid some bills and watched Morning Joe.  If the gun-control community thinks they won a partial victory because the Court upheld this part of the D.C. law they should think again. Affirming the government’s right to control firearms is one thing; affirming a silly and useless gun regulation is something else.