How Come Gun Sales Haven’t Shown A Parkland ‘Spike?’

Whenever a mass shooting occurred under the Obama ‘regime,’ the President would deliver a teary speech, the usual suspects in Congress and the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would call for a new gun-control law and gun sales would go through the roof.  This was the scenario after Aurora, after the shooting of Gabby, after Sandy Hook.

march              Parkland has been different because the gun-control organizations won’t be getting their marching orders from the liberal political establishment and Draft Dodging Trump; this time the whole shebang is being led by a bunch of kids. And if you don’t think that Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg haven’t pushed the whole issue of gun control into a totally different context, just ask Laura Ingraham how she’s doing getting new sponsors for her television show.

What has also changed since Parkland is the degree to which the gun industry can no longer live off of panic buying generated by fears that guns will no longer be around. The FBI has just released its NICS numbers for March, an event which used to be greeted by Gun-nut Nation with paroxysms of joy, but the numbers for last month landed with a dull thud.

Here are the relevant numbers:  Handgun checks in March 2018 were 781,452; the number for March 2017 was 751,866, which is basically the same. Overall month-to-month NICS checks did increase from 1,274,419 in 2017 to 1,417,463 this year, a gain of 11%, but checks in February 2013, when Obama was ramping up his post-Newtown gun bill were more than 1.5 million, a number that won’t happen again.

One interesting caveat is that the number of NICS checks for the category known as ‘other’ doubled from 38,684 in 2017 to 68,192 this year.  For the most part, a background check classified as ‘other’ is used when someone buys a serialized receiver which isn’t connected to a barrel or a stock. The transaction still requires a background check but the owner has to then add various components so that he actually can fire the gun, which is increasingly how AR-15 rifles are now sold. One of the reasons the AR-15 is so popular is that the polymer frame can easily be adapted to all kinds of accessories and do-it-yourself parts; this also reduces the price of the gun by as much as half.

I truly believe that the Parkland kids have accomplished what none of the organizations which comprise the GVP community have ever done before; namely, they have shifted the argument about gun violence away from the political arena to where it really belongs, namely, as an issue which ultimately needs to be decided by the people who own guns. Because either the gun-owning community will realize that they simply don’t need to own any more of the damn things or people who don’t own guns will decide that they don’t need to own them at all. If Gun-nut Nation stops registering its fears about losing their guns by stampeding into gun shops every time a liberal politician says something about needing more gun control, passing sensible and effective gun laws will be a piece of cake.

In the interests of full disclosure, however, I must add a note about the current regulatory environment itself. I am not particularly sanguine about enhancing gun regulations if it means granting more power or authority to the ATF.  The ATF lab is probably the best forensic lab in the world, but the regulatory division contains the biggest bunch of liars, inept fools and misfits who could ever be put together in any federal agency at all. This is the bunch that violated countless laws because they thought that a repair garage in Arizona was converting semi-auto AK rifles into full-auto jobs. This is also the bunch which convinced themselves that David Koresh was making machine guns in his compound outside of Waco, a totally-mistaken belief which cost 75 lives.

I am really happy that a bunch of kids are leading the effort rather than a bunch of GVP organizations taking their cues from on high. But give the ATF more authority to regulate guns?  Please.

 

 

 

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It’s Not The ‘Gun Lobby’ That Wants To End Gun Regulations – It’s The Gun Owners Themselves.

The Chicago Tribune has just published an op-ed by Fermin DeBrabender, who wrote a provocative book (Do Guns Make Us Free?) arguing that gun ownership actually reduces freedom by restricting the degree to which citizens will engage in open, political discourse when members of the audience show up toting guns.  In his Tribune piece, Professor DeBrabender makes the argument that the gun industry is facing a “market crisis” due to the collapse of demand since the election of #45 and is responding to this crisis by promoting all kinds of laws and legalisms – open carry, campus carry, permitless carry – that will “make owning and carrying a gun more common, more normal, more ingrained in our culture and everyday life.”

dealers              This is hardly a new thesis and the gun industry’s promotion of the ‘normalization’ of toting around a gun long precedes the collapse of retail sales since the replacement of anti-gun Obama and the appearance of pro-gun Trump.  But to ascribe the easing of gun restrictions to some kind of evil hand belonging to some nefarious entity known as the ‘gun lobby’ is to obscure what I believe is a necessary understanding of what gun ownership in America is really all about.

The truth is that there isn’t a gun ‘lobby’ if what we mean is the existence and activity of some kind of organized, institutionalized effort to support or promote the aims of the gun industry wherever guns are sold. Yes, the NRA has a lobbying arm known as NRA-ILA, which promotes and coordinates pro-gun legislative initiatives both in individual states as well as with the feds. There are also independent pro-gun groups in many states whose members will show up at a public hearing whenever a gun law is being discussed. And make no mistake, these groups are well-funded, they are active and they claim to be able to sway elections with their pro-gun votes.

Except if you look carefully at the history of pro-gun legislation, particularly its spread since the late 1970’s when the first wave of laws liberalizing concealed-carry began to appear, you will note that, again and again, these laws have changed the legal landscape much more in states owned politically by the GOP; gee – what a surprise considering the fact that gun owners, in the main, tend to vote red.  There are still 9 states where the issuance of permits to carry a gun are dependent upon the discretionary judgement of law enforcement officials – every one of those states happens to contain a majority of residents who usually vote blue.

What Professor DeBrabender has overlooked (and I mean no criticism of his otherwise-excellent op-ed in this regard) is that much, if not most of the impetus for liberalizing or discarding gun regulations comes not from the top, so to speak, but from the bottom; i.e., the basic attitudes on the part of gun owners themselves. When the NRA refers to gun owners as ‘law-abiding’ citizens, this may be the one statement they make which is absolutely true.  Most gun owners are law-abiding because otherwise you can’t buy or even own a gun. And guns are the only consumer product which can only be sold to legally-qualified consumers, you don’t need to pass a background check to buy a car.

Every time I go into a gun shop I’m made instantly aware of the fact that just my presence in that shop carries with it the necessity that I must follow various laws. And every weekend when tens of thousands of people visit gun shows they are all equally cognizant of the fact that their legal status is a verifiable issue if they walk up to a dealer’s table to purchase a gun. The existence of 40 million legal gun owners is a much more potent force for doing away with gun regulations than any strategy employed by the ‘gun lobby,’ and talking with those gun owners about gun violence should go hand-in-hand with worrying about whether the gun industry will sell more guns.

An Idea For Regulating Gun Dealers That Would Really Get Results.

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.

ICHV             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.

Donald Trump May Say He Will ‘Weaken’ Gun Laws, But He Says Lots Of Things That Aren’t True.

The good news is that she didn’t cough during the debate – not once.  The better news is that he behaved like an asshole – so what else is new?  But I keep thinking that the reason the polls have narrowed is because voters who want to exercise what David Sedaris calls the ‘shit with glass bits’ option don’t really care how he behaves.  Trump’s supporters are much more forgiving of their candidate’s sins and omissions than HRC’s supporters are forgiving of hers.  And the media have followed suit.

nics           Yesterday Evan Osnos published a piece on Trump’s first 100 days, in which he imagined what Trump would do based on what he has said he would do during the campaign.  And what appears to be taking shape is the issuance of a pile of Executive Orders that would effectively erase Obama’s legacy, in particular orders to cancel Obama-care, renounce the greenhouse emissions agreement, block the arrival of more Syrian refugees, re-start the Keystone pipeline and loosen gun regulations by relaxing background checks.

I just took a look at Trump’s website and while it contains the usual nonsense about defending 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ the only mention of the NICS background-check system is that all relevant mental health and criminal records are loaded into the system and used to disqualify certain groups of people who shouldn’t be able to own guns.  But Evan Osnos wouldn’t have mentioned the possibility of ‘relaxing’ background checks if he hadn’t heard it from someone on the Trump team.  And the NRA hasn’t ponied up millions of dollars to run Trump ads if they didn’t expect to get something in return. So what might be the net effect on the background-check system if, God forbid, the shit with glass bits option is chosen by 50% plus 1 voter who cast Presidential ballots on November 8th?

In fact, where the whole issue of gun regulations – pro and con – will probably be met is in the identity of the person who would be nominated by Trump to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court.  And Trump has promised to appoint someone who will be a strong supporter of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But while the Court with a 5-4 majority opinion written by Scalia pronounced gun ownership to be a Constitutional ‘right’ in 2008, this same Court with Scalia sitting on the bench has been unwilling to weaken long-endowed gun regulations, in particular the FBI-NICS system of background checks.

In 2009 an ex-cop in Virginia named Bruce Abramski walked into a local gun shop and bought a Glock.  He claimed he was buying the gun for himself but in fact he was buying the gun for his uncle whom he then met at a Pennsylvania gun shop so that his uncle could take possession of the gun after going through a NICS-background check. Even though Abramski’s uncle passed the NICS check, Abramski lied when he bought the gun in Virginia claiming that he was buying it for himself.  Five years later after various appeals, Abramski’s conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.

There are other challenges to current gun regulations floating around federal courts, in particular a decision that came out of Texas (Mance v. Lynch) and would, if upheld, allow dealers in one state to sell guns to residents of other states.  But while such a legal revision would make it easier for gun nuts like me to buy guns here, there and everywhere, I would still have to pass the FBI-NICS background check in order to get my hands on the gun.

Trump’s penchant for saying whatever pops into his head without regard for the slightest concern about the truth is not only a staple of the stump speech he delivers at his Klan rallies, but is also what his campaign will feed to anyone and everyone who might represent a potential vote.  Gun-sense Nation may be frustrated in their efforts to expand NICS checks to secondary sales, but the NICS as it currently operates isn’t going away.