The big news this week is the looming possibility that the Bomber will make good on his promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) to issue an Executive Order on gun control, and already the Gun Nation is gearing up for the fight. Trump has announced he will “veto” these orders (someone might want to give Trump the Shlump a quick lesson on Constitutional law), Christie has jumped on the Obama the Dictator bandwagon, and never to be outdone by any candidate’s attempt at gross stupidity, Rand Paul is drawing up legislation to block the President from issuing any Executive Orders about guns.
I don’t know exactly what the President is planning to do, but he appears to be getting ready to say something on this issue during his State of the Union speech next week. The President talked about gun regulations during his 2013 State of the Union speech, but these remarks were delivered less than two months after Sandy Hook. There was no mention of gun control in his 2014 remarks, nor last year. Now the issue if gun violence is back on the front burner, and it appears that he will try to do something about extending background checks by coming up with a more precise definition of what it means to be a dealer in guns.
As regards the current definition, I’m quoting from the relevant Federal code: “any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail,” which is about as precise as the Man in the Moon. The problem here is not figuring out what constitutes a firearm, but what the phrase “in the business” really means. Part of the problem is the fact that guns, unlike most consumer items, don’t for the most part wear out, so acquiring and then re-selling them is part and parcel of what most gun enthusiasts like to do. And despite the fact that private, non-NICS gun transactions are considered anathema by the GVP crowd, selling a gun to or through a dealer instead of directly to another individual means that the seller gives up a chunk of dough either because the dealer wants to make a profit in the re-sale or the buyer will have to pay the dealer to conduct the NICS background check.
The real problem is that the average gun owner, and most gun owners are, in fact, very law abiding (otherwise they really can’t own guns) and doesn’t believe there’s any connection between the way he transfers a gun and the gun violence that kills and injures more than 100,000 Americans every year. I happen to live outside of Springfield, MA, whose gun homicide rate last year was somewhere around 15 per 100,000, about five times the national rate. Less than two miles from the neighborhood where half these murders occurred is a fairground where a big gun show is held four times a year. If you walked up to anyone at this show and told him that the private sale he had just completed might result in another gun murder across town, he’d stare at you in disbelief.
I don’t think that folks who support the extension of background checks need to justify this policy by trying to prove that reducing private gun transfers will, ipso facto, bring the rate of gun violence down. I also don’t think they need to fall back on the judgement of legal scholars (not that the judgement hurts) to support the President if he decides that this is what he wants to do.
I have been saying for the last three years that when it comes to the argument about gun violence, I simply want a fair fight using evidence-based data as opposed to promoting gun ownership out of fear. It doesn’t matter whether extended background checks will reduce mass killings or gun killings overall. What matters is that we have a serious and honest discussion about gun violence and a State of the Union address is the perfect place to begin.