Here we go again.
You know with a title like this, the only “sense” will be “non.”
By Dan K. Thomasson
Well, here we are again, in the throes of another election-year battle over how to keep guns out of the hands of all the modern Jesse Jameses while not trampling on the rights of the intrepid Elmer Fudds. Don’t expect Congress to do anything exceptionally courageous.
Well, they tried to pass the lawsuit exemption, but wussed out and allowed the bill to be contaminated, so I’ll give Mr. Thomasson a pass on that comment, but being one of the Elmer Fudds he refers to (those are my rights he’s talking about, after all) I’m offended by his belittling. He obviously doesn’t care about my feelings. I should sue for pain and suffering.
The vast majority of gun owners in the United States are law-abiding citizens who use their weapons in pursuit of honest activities like hunting or skeet shooting or as an inducement for sleeping easier knowing their trusty six-shooter is nearby. They are no threat to anyone except perhaps themselves, especially during hunting season, when the nation’s forests resound with the reports of thousands of rifles all seemingly firing at the same deer.
Largely true, but off by a couple orders of magnitude. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are an estimated 19 million active hunters in the U.S. The state of Washington alone issued 13,139 deer permits in 2002, 7,107 elk permits. In West Virginia, over 250,000 deer were taken in 2002. Just deer.
Not thousands of rifles, Mr. Thomasson. Not tens of thousands. Millions. Deer, elk, bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, prarie dog, wild pig, and more. Trying to belittle us “Elmer Fudds” as being just a few thousand isn’t going to fly here.
Many of these citizens spend hours each weekend at one of the hundreds of gun shows staged for their benefits across the nation. They have every right to do so without being hassled by anti-gun forces, including law-enforcement officers at all levels, who increasingly see these events as a main source of the murder and mayhem that plagues our urban society.
And with his next breath:
While gun shows provide legitimate enterprise and entertainment for thousands of good citizens, they also have become a major marketplace for the trafficking in illegal weapons by criminals who can easily avoid the deterrent of a background check through a loophole in the federal law.
Wait just a damned minute here. Even the Bureau of Justice Statistics admits that gun shows are the source of less than 2% of guns acquired by criminals. Criminals can “easily avoid the deterrent of a background check” by stealing a gun, trading drugs for a gun, having a friend or relative buy a gun for them, or any number of different ways. Going to a gun show would be less convenient for most of these people.
But it gets better!
Very simply, dealers in used weapons are exempt from the statute that requires licensed dealers selling new weapons at these shows to put their customers through a record search. So why should a person intent on using a gun for illegitimate purposes buy from an honest, licensed dealer either in his shop or at one of these shows when the guy selling a used semi-automatic handgun from the next booth has no such restrictions?
Very simply, that’s a blatant lie.
Dealers in used weapons are required to be licensed just like dealers in new weapons are. If you’re a dealer, you’re making a living off of selling firearms for a profit. If you attempt to do so, it’s the BATF’s job to find you, arrest you, and see you’re put in jail. If, however, you’re a poor schmuck like me who simply wants to sell a gun out of your personal collection, that doesn’t require a license. If I want to sell everything in my collection, that doesn’t require a license. But if I try that three times a month, I should be expecting a visit from my friendly Federal agents. And licensed dealers are required to run the background check. I, on the other hand, am legally prohibited from running a background check. I’m not allowed to determine if the guy who wants to buy my .357 snubbie is a felon or not.
That’s the crux of the problem that has made these weekly events the second-largest source of weapons for criminal activity.
Blatant lie #2. Notice there is no attribution for this lie. I’ve given you a link to the Bureau of Justice Statistics that states that less than 2% of criminals get their guns from gun shows – yet Mr. Thomasson claims baldly that gun shows are the #2 source of crime guns. Why shouldn’t you believe him? He’s published in the Washington Times!
The first still is licensed dealers who either ignore the law or unwittingly sell to a straw buyer who can pass the background check.
Note again, no attribution for his claim that bad gun dealers and straw purchases are the #1 source for crime guns. He’s just making this stuff up. The inference is that a criminal buys a gun or has one purchased for him, then goes and commits a crime with it immediately. Undoubtedly that happens occasionally, but it’s the exception, not the rule. The California Department of Justice produced a report on the efficacy of implementing a “ballistic fingerprinting” database on all new handguns sold in California. In that report is this statement:
In the Crime Gun Trace Reports 2000 from the ATF, average TTC (Time to Crime – the time between the selling of a firearm and actually committing a crime with it.) are mentioned per age of the offender and type of firearm [X, p.30-40]. The following results are obtained for semiautomatic pistols (4.5 years), revolvers (12.3 years), rifles (7.0 years), shotguns (7.6 years) and other firearms (7.1 years). The nationwide average TTC for all firearms for all ages of offenders is 6.1 years.
The average time between a gun being sold and it being used in a crime is over six years. But unscrupulous gun dealers and “straw purchases” are the number one source of crime guns?
But he doesn’t stop there:
Congress clearly should deal with the first by closing the gun-show loophole and with the other by vastly improving its prosecution of federal gun-law offenders.
First, there is no “gun show loophole.” I just illustrated that fact. Second, I heartily agree that violators of federal gun laws aren’t being prosecuted enough. I can’t figure out, for example, how Brian Borgelt, the FFL holder who owned Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma Washington managed to hold on to his license for so long after “losing” over 200 firearms. What does it take?
Apparently a high-profile crime committed with one of the “lost” firearms.
Let’s get one thing straight here: I’m an advocate for the right to arms, but I believe that there is some appropriate regulation of arms sales. I also think the BATF has proven to be incompetent to do that job, and passing more gun laws – especially ones that address phantom issues – isn’t going to make them more effective.
At the same time, lawmakers ultimately should extend the ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, which expires in September, and reject a gun-lobby effort to immunize the nation’s manufacturers of firearms from the legal responsibility for the rising toll of gun crimes – an act law-enforcement officials oppose as relieving the industry of any obligations to make their weapons safer.
Another blatant lie. The bill is dead, but it didn’t relieve the industry of “any obligations to make their weapons safer.” It didn’t address “making weapons safer.” This is bait-and-switch. The immunity bill was designed to protect gun manufacturers and dealers from frivolous lawsuits brought when they did nothing illegal, and a gun one made and the other sold was used criminally. For instance, in the DC Sniper shootings, Bull’s Eye and Bushmaster – the manufacturer of the rifle – are being sued. If it can be proven that Bull’s Eye sold the rifle illegally, then they would not have been protected by the bill, but how the hell can Bushmaster be held liable for criminal misuse of their product?
And, just out of curiosity, how do you make a device designed to hurl a small metal projectile at high velocity “safe?”
While all three prongs of the attack on firearm misuse are important, tougher enforcement of existing laws probably outweighs the others because of the message it would send to casual violators. Federal prosecutors for years have been looking the other way when it comes to gun-law violations. Only 2 percent of federal gun crimes are ever prosecuted, according to the Americans for Gun Safety organization.
For instance, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives cited the Washington state dealer who sold the sniper rifle that killed so many in and around the District with six violations of federal law and recommended prosecution. But so far no charge has been filed, a disappointing contradiction to recent Justice Department pledges to go after gun violators.
Supporters of stronger enforcement also had hoped the Bush administration would give ATF the prosecutorial support when it was moved to the Justice Department. Somehow, that backing has been slow in emerging and anti-gun forces blame it on the fact Attorney General John Ashcroft has been a strong pro-gun advocate.
This predates Ashcroft by quite a bit. Actually, I view it as a two-edged sword. The BATF has proven to be a grand-standing out of control organization that Michigan Democratic Representative John Dingell called “jack booted thugs” in House testimony over BATF abuses which are many and egregious. Moving the Bureau to the Justice Department wasn’t, I think, an improvement.
The ban on assault weapons is regarded as essential in ensuring that the nation’s law officers aren’t outgunned, as they have been in a number of highly publicized instances recently. The gun-safety group, citing Justice Department figures, says that during the 10 years the ban has been in effect the proportion of assault weapons traced to crimes has dropped by 65.8 percent.
Yet other organizations bitch and complain that the law didn’t stop the manufacture of “assault weapons,” that more “assault weapons” are being sold today than in 1994, and that one in five officers killed with firearms were killed with “assault weapons.” Who do you believe?
Accomplishing anything in the direction of a more responsible national firearms policy during this election year will be difficult, if not impossible, with most politicians from both major parties terrified of the repercussions of supporting such action.
Note that “more responsible national firearms policy” means, well, more laws making it harder for people to acquire and keep firearms. That’s the only way these people measure the effectiveness of “gun control.” No mention of the fact that without any major “gun control” laws passed before or after the 1994 so-called “ban” that violent crime of all types was on the decline, that passage of the AWB didn’t accelerate or retard that decline, and that the level of violent crime now is lower than it’s been since the 1960’s. Yet we need more gun control laws.
The well-heeled National Rifle Association, despite the fact its membership is largely made up of those law-abiding citizens who use guns wisely, has never been supportive of responsible steps to protect the rights of those who don’t hunt, shoot skeet or targets or collect antiques or sleep with a gun under their pillows.
And what rights would those be?
The NRA (more or less) defends one right: the right to arms. And it protects that right even for those who don’t exercise it. The NRA leaves the defense of the other rights to other organizations.