A few More Points
(By Alex)

Since it sounds like we are both rapidly losing the luxury of “free time” to be able to post a lot, I thought I would bring up some of the other items of debate that have been discussed in the comments. (I am not doing this to derail our discussion of the legal definition- I will continue to respond to that discussion as we proceed, I just feel I am running out of time).

The Industry

I maintain that the gun industry as a whole uses the 2nd as an excuse to fail to properly police itself to limit the flow of guns to criminal users (without limiting the right of citizens to own and use weapons).

One statistic I found is from a questionable source, the Brady Center, so I am naturally suspicious of its authenticity. (I would be equally suspect of NRA figures not otherwise corroborated) I tried to verify it on the ATF site, but I could not find it. Certainly this doesn’t prove it is true or false, but those with other sources may be able to indicate whether or not it seems reliable. (For now I will just classify it as unverifiable from a source that has been known to play fast and loose with figures)

“Indeed, ATF data reveals that, nationwide, just 1.2 percent of current dealers account for 57 percent of successful crime gun traces. Despite the availability of this information, no gun manufacturer has attempted to identify, question, correct, or terminate these dealers who are the most prolific sources of guns used in crime.”

If that number is true (or within say, a factor of ten- lots of room for error there allowing for the source) then why would the industry not do more to rid itself of that 1.2%? You get data back saying “One of your distributors is making sales where the guns seem to end up in the hands of criminals at an alarming rate”. Everybody else has a low rate (they would have to if only 1.2% had the majority of traceable guns associated with crimes). So make the non-conforming dealers either clean up their act, or get booted. No additional legislation here. No infringement on the right to bear arms (regardless of how we interpret the 2nd).

Stores across the country have voluntarily put in place measures to try and prevent the easy, bulk purchase of critical ingredients for making meth. They place the Sudafed (etc.) in a secure place, they may limit how much you can purchase at one time, the age you must be etc. This, clearly, will not eliminate the production of meth, and products such as cold medicine should remain available for the people who need them. What they did recognize was a responsibility not to make a bad problem even worse, and takes steps to try and curtail their impact on the problem. The gun industry should do the same, all on its own (without being forced), simply as a measure of corporate responsibility

Straw Buyers and Large Volume Purchases

This dovetails off the first point. You cannot argue that, even if you interpret the 2nd to mean “any individual can own guns”, somehow the 2nd amendment prohibits placing a limit on how many guns a person can purchase at one time (or in a fixed time period like a month). Allowing someone, as in the case of Williams v Bemiller, MKS et. al, to purchase 87 guns, pay cash, and step aside to let his girlfriend fill out the papers, is not a “right” guaranteed under any provision of the constitution. You have the right to arms (under that interpretation) but not to an unlimited quantity of arms. Limiting the purchase of handguns to, for instance, 1 per month does not stop any lawful citizen from exercising their right to obtain arms. It also doesn’t preclude the collection of multiple arms, over time, or the assembly of a cache of weapons (I would argue that even under the “you have a right to arms” interpretation of the 2nd, it doesn’t guarantee that- but let’s say for the sake of argument that it does). All this does is remove the privilege of rapid assembly of, say, 87 Saturday Night Specials. Why not limit the number that can be purchased, since this case showed the damage one trafficker has on a population (10,000 traceable guns recovered in crimes from one dealer- that figure is truly stunning- how could they remain an authorized dealer?)

The case also demonstrated the willingness to look the other way for obvious straw men purchases. If the first point I made about the industry policing itself were followed, and the second point about the limits on numbers of weapon purchased within a time period, the straw man approach would become much less effective and, presumably far less prevalent. A panacea, no. But a start in the right direction, unquestionably.

Make them Safer

As soon as you start to mention safety measures that would help prevent accident, you usually elicit a “just follow proper safety procedures” or “there is no need for mechanical doodads on my gun”. This is like telling the victim of a car accident (and I apologize that this example hits home in your case- it just is the most precise way I can make this point) “just drive safely and you don’t need things like a seatbelt or airbags”. Accidents, by definition, happen when either things are out of our control, or people, for whatever reason, do not act in a safe manner.

If we know that people get injured or killed because someone fires a weapon they mistakenly believed to be unloaded after taking out the clip, then what is the rationale for not putting in a mechanism for preventing that from happening. Yes, the person who pulls the trigger without intending to destroy whatever they are aiming at (or pointing at as the case may be) has broken the cardinal rule for gun safety. But people are still stupid enough to do it, and (usually teens I would speculate) someone pays the price for that stupidity. Just as I may need my airbag to protect me from the poor driving of another, my kid may need that safety measure to keep from being a victim of the “I didn’t know it was loaded” stupidity of another. And, like everything else I mentioned, it doesn’t abridge any actual or perceived rights granted by the 2nd.

Similarly, the manufacturing of weapons should be subject to the same oversight that consumers get for all other mechanical products. They are tested and analyzed to see if they pose a risk to a operator using them as directed under reasonable conditions. This does not mean they would find “Hey, these things kill people- therefore they are unsafe”. It means if a particular manufacturer made a weapon in a way that became dangerous or unpredictable when used as directed, then they would have to modify the production and/or recall the existing sold units. Just like everything else. Not an end run to declaring all guns unsafe, just a quality control, consumer protection measure.

There’s a lot more ground I’d like to cover, but this probably wraps up my contributions for the day (possibly for a while- but I will try to get back at least this week).

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