How Easy Is It To Buy A Gun? Not As Easy As The Boston Globe Thinks.

As I am sure everyone knows, Gun-nut Nation has been celebrating what they claim is a tremendous surge in gun sales which started when Obama moved into the White House and allegedly hasn’t let up.  The result for a publicly-owned company like Smith & Wesson is an increase in share price from $5 in 2009 to nearly $26 last week; for the gun industry in general a conviction that guns are becoming so mainstream that sooner or later there will be one in every American home.

dealers           Actually, surveys about gun ownership keep pointing to a different reality; namely, that fewer and fewer people own more and more guns.  The gun researchers at Harvard and Northeastern have done the latest study on gun owners and found that only 22% of adults own guns, of whom 3% re considered ‘super’ owners because their gun stash is between 8 and upwards of 100 guns.

But surveys conducted by phone or computer are one thing; hard data is something else. And here is where the problem gets sticky, because the data that is usually used to figure out how many are being sold is probably less exact and reliable than the surveys of gun owners like the Harvard-Northeastern survey that’s currently making the rounds.

I am referring, of course, to the monthly totals of FBI-NICS background checks published by the ATF, which shows a nearly 80% increase in annual checks between 2009 and he current year. The problem with this number, is that it hides more than it explains, because NICS is utilized for any over-the-counter transaction which means that used guns, which for many shops count for 30-40% of their inventory, are not being sold for the first time but are being resold.  NICS is also used for checking the issuance and status of gun licenses, this type of check has recently been responsible for 25% of all NICS calls, and then there is the requirement in a growing number of states that all gun transactions take place at the countertop whether the dealer sold the gun or not. I’m not saying that gun sales haven’t increased under Obama – of course they have.  But I’m not about to drink the gun industry Kool Aid which, if true, would make it appear that just about everyone out there is grabbing a gun.

On the other hand, it’s not only Gun-nut Nation mixing up a pitcher of Kool-Aid for everyone to drink; Gun-sense Nation also has a tendency from time to time to offer up their own flavor of Kool-Aid when it comes to discussions about how many people buy or own guns. I am talking in this instance to a story that just appeared in The Boston Globe in which the reporter, Matt Rocheleau, looked at the ATF listing of gun dealers for Massachusetts and discovered, much to his concern, that the Bay State has more people holding federal firearms licenses (FFL) than it has cities and towns. According to Rocheleau, there are 389 license-holders in Massachusetts and only 351 municipalities, with some locations having as many as six or more – oh my God!  If you live in Massachusetts, it sure must be easy to buy a gun.

There’s only one little problem with this article – it bears no relationship to reality at all.  You can have as many FFLs as you want, but if you don’t have a state dealer’s license you can’t sell a gun to anyone except yourself.  And you can’t even sell a gun to yourself unless it is approved for civilian ownership in Massachusetts both by the Executive Office of Public Safety and the AG; which means you can’t own a new Glock, Springfield or Taurus handgun, as well as any gun that looks like an AR-15.

I’m not surprised when writers for Gun-nut Nation take liberties with the truth because, after all, their job is to promote guns. But when The Boston Globe promotes their version of gun sense, at least they should get it right.

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Georgia Either Becomes A Dumb State Because Campus Carry Becomes Legal Or It Stays Smart.

               One of my good friends is a retired high school assistant principal, and he once told me that the dumbest idea in the entire history of American education was the notion of middle school.  I would agree with him except for the fact that the stupidity of middle school, as far as I am concerned, has been eclipsed by the stupidity of campus carry, which is so dumb that it can only be regarded as the penultimate proof that the lunatics have taken over the asylum, at least in the eight states where carrying guns on college campuses is now law.

            The latest state which has passed such a measure is Georgia, which if the Governor signs the bill, would allow anyone 21 years or older to walk around Georgia Tech, University of Georgia or any other college campus in the peach state with a concealed gun. Last year the same effort failed because Governor Deal had the good sense to forego singing a similar measure and news reports indicate that he has expressed concerns about the new bill as well.  And the fact that Deal is a Republican doesn’t mean he’s going to roll over and play dead in front of the NRA and their conservative allies because the Governor just vetoed a ‘religious freedom’ measure that was supported by the same gaggle of jerks and dopes that want all Georgia college students to be able to walk around armed.

            Why do I say that campus CCW is the dumbest educational idea since the invention of middle school?  First of all, despite hysterical propaganda from a bunch of libertarian students known as Students for Concealed Carry (libertarians tend to be hysterical about everything) there is simply no truth to the idea that college campuses are places with high or even modest levels of crime.  And despite the fact that colleges tend to underreport minor offenses, other than vandalism which often accompanies too much drinking, a lot more students have defaulted on their loans than commit any kind of serious or violent crime.  In fact, even when it comes to sexual assaults, it turns out that the rate of these crimes is higher among women who are not enrolled in college as opposed to women who are students at the time the rape occurs.

            I would be opposed to CCW on campuses no matter what the crime rate for the simple fact that qualifying for Georgia concealed-carry does not require any training at all.  Go to a probate court, pay a fee, pass a NICS-background check and you’re good to go. The idea that college students who, like all younger people, tend to be impulsive, should be walking around with a lethal weapon without first demonstrating judgement and competence at least equal to or exceeded by what is required from every cop is simply too dumb to be accepted or even considered as a legal norm.

            And it’s not just the students who might lack experience and common sense.  Our friends at Everytown who have been fighting campus-carry laws with their usual combination of grass-roots organizing, advertisements, petitions and social media plugs, sent out a press release today which carried the story of an accidental shooting at a college campus at Idaho State University. Except the shooter in this case was a member of the faculty whose gun went off while he was lecturing in class, which resulted in this dope shooting himself in the foot.

            Now I always thought that the role of college faculty, in addition to being experts in a particularly discipline or field, was to behave as role models for students simply because they have had experiences in the world that college kids are just beginning to comprehend. So what’s this idiot who shot himself going to do the next time the class meets?  Show up in a wheelchair displaying his bandaged foot? No doubt he’ll still be carrying his gun.  After all, it’s his 2nd-Amendment right, right?   

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?