17 January 2013

Reasonable Gun Control? Let's take a look

I haven't posted in a awhile for various reasons, including a major change in venue for me and my family.  But with all that is going on related to firearms I can't help but post some of my thoughts.

I'm behind the commentary curve, only having commented in other blogger's posts, but I want to address a recent press release from Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg (yes Mayor Michael Bloomberg) School of Public Health:  http://www.jhsph.edu/events/gun-policy-summit/information-for-media/ (h/t to Sebastian)

I want to address each of the items in turn, since some merit further discussion, and some don't. My comments will follow each quoted talking point.

  • Establishing a universal background check system, which would require a background check for all persons purchasing a firearm (inheritance exception).
This is an attempt to close the supposed "gun show loophole".  Currently the federal government exercises its regulatory muscle in the form of background checks from federally licenses firearms dealers.  It is required to have an FFL in order to purchase or transfer firearms across state lines.  This is seen as an acceptable regulation, by most people, because it falls under the federal government's ability to regulate inter-state commerce.  By requiring universal background checks, including for private sales between private citizens within the same state, the federal government should not be able to argue under the commerce clause anymore.
  • All sales would be facilitated through a federally licensed gun dealer. This would have the effect of mandating the same record keeping for all firearm transfers.
This is an extension of the above item except now they are not only requiring private individuals to conduct background checks, they would not allow private citizens to engage in firearms commerce at all except through a federally sanctioned middle-man.
  • Increase the maximum amount of time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 to 10 business days.
 A better solution would to increase the efficiency and staffing of the NICS program so that background checks didn't take longer than 3 days.
  • Require all firearm owners to report the theft or loss of their firearm within 72 hours of becoming aware of its loss.
Again, I don't know where the federal government would derive its authority to enact this, but it is also reasonable that a citizen should report the loss or theft of a firearm, if only to ensure he is protected should it later be used in a crime.
  • Persons who have a license to carry a firearm must still be subject to a background check when purchasing a firearm.
This is an interested proposal, since they do not propose a national licensing scheme for handguns.  However, if a state requires a license to carry a firearm and conducts regular background checks during renewals, this would be an excellent way to reduce the load on the NICS system and decrease the number of background checks that default because of the 3 day limit.  I think this is completely COUNTER productive.
  • Persons convicted of a violent misdemeanor would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 15 years.
This is crazy.  If a person is caught in a minor altercation, which can happen to anyone, and they were convicted of a Class C misdemeanor - which usually results in petty fines, they would be precluded from owning a firearm for their defense for FIFTEEN YEARS.  This is crazy talk.
  • Persons who committed a violent crime as a juvenile would be prohibited from firearm purchase until age 30.
 Again, crazy talk - especially since many court records for juvenile crimes are sealed or purged.  I'm not sure how this would be enforceable.
  • Persons convicted of 2 or more crimes involving drugs or alcohol within a three-year period would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 10 years.
 So a person who gets into a minor physical altercation resulting in a Class C misdemeanor can't own a firearm for 15 years, but a person who is a habitual drug user and is only caught an convicted once in a 3 year period can? This makes COMPLETE sense (NOT)
  • Persons convicted of a single drug-trafficking offense would be prohibited from gun purchase.
I'm guessing it would be permanently/til death/etc... since no time frame is proposed.  Drug trafficking offenses are quite broad in the scope of prosecution these days and this could preclude a person who had a small amount of marijuana crossing the border with Mexico as a teenager from EVER owning a firearm.
  • Persons determined by a judge to be a gang member would be prohibited from gun purchase.
I have tried to re-write my response to this one several times. WTF??? So how would this be determined? Belonging to a gang, although wrong and maybe reprehensible, is not currently against the law.  If one can't be convicted of being a gang member, how will a judge be able to determine, officially, who is and isn't a gang member? Will there be due process? Will there have to be evidence presented?
  • Establish a minimum age of 21 years for handgun purchase or possession.
So first is was alcohol consumption. Now its owning a handgun (which by the by is the rule in most states already).  Can we just have the discussion already? How about we raise the age of majority to 21. You can't vote til you are 21. You can't join the military til 21.  If we are going to limit a legal adult's ability to exercise a right, let's just fix it so they aren't adults anymore.  Any takers?
  • Persons who have violated a restraining order issued due to the threat of violence (including permanent, temporary and emergency) are prohibited from purchasing firearms.
 The biggest problem I have with this, again, is the FOREVER part.  Because everyone knows that there have never been instances where emergency or temporary restraining orders have been filed because someone disliked another person rather than posing any real threat.
  • Federal restrictions of gun purchase for persons with serious mental illness should be focused on the dangerousness of the individual.
Johns Hopkins University and the "world's leading gun policy experts" do know that "dangerousness" isn't a word, right? How would they propose we determine a mentally ill person's "dangerousness"? Will that be a subjective determination by the mental health care provider? Will there by a government issued chart that grades "dangerousness" on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Fully fund federal incentives for states to provide information about disqualifying mental health conditions to the National Instant Check System for gun buyers.
This screams PRIVACY VIOLATIONS to no end. Mental health information about a person is protected by several legal means, including but not limited to HIPAA and HITECH acts. Without any proposals about the protections that would be put in place to ensure that health information wasn't improperly used.
  • A permanent director for the ATF should be appointed and confirmed.
Although I agree, I don't see how this will solve anything. It's not like the ATF has been running around like headless chickens because they don't have a permanent director.
  • ATF should be required to provide adequate resources to inspect and otherwise engage in oversight of federally licensed gun dealers.
I don't know what this means, other than "ATF, DO YOUR JOB". It's not a call for more funding (thank goodness).
  • Restrictions imposed under the Firearm Owners Protections Act limiting ATF to one routine inspection of gun dealers per year should be repealed.
The reason for this protection is that FFL dealers should not be subject to unwarranted searches of their property without reasonable cause.  To be sure, if the ATF has reasonable suspicion to believe a FFL has violated the law, they are able to obtain a warrant to search them more than once in a year.
  • Provisions of the Firearm Owners Protection Act raising the evidentiary standard for prosecuting dealers who make unlawful sales should be repealed.
There's another made-up word, "evidentiary".  I don't have much of a comment on this because I don't know what the standards for evidence are currently, or what they would be absent the FOPA.
  • ATF should be granted authority to develop a range of sanctions for gun dealers who violate gun sales or other laws.
Sanctions? Like they can't buy or sell guns anymore?  If they are convicted of a crime, especially related to guns, they are subject to revocation of their FFL and will likely have their inventory seized and be thrown in jail.  So do we need more? Are they suggesting that the ATF be able to shut down a FFL's business on suspicion and without a conviction?
  • The Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act, providing gun dealers and manufacturers protection from tort liability, should be repealed.
I think there needs to be more tort reform in other areas of our society.  Maybe dealers and manufacturers shouldn't be exempt (although I'm not sure they really are anyway), but I see this is a clear way to try and kill off an industry. Much the same way that tort liability has truly made a disaster of our healthcare system.
  • Federal restrictions on access to firearms trace data, other than for ongoing criminal investigations, should be repealed.
Do they want to make this public information subject to FOIA? What for? Firearms trace data can be used by criminal justice agencies (state and federal) so I don't see what the purpose of this suggestion is.
  • Federal law mandating reporting of multiple sales of handguns should be expanded to include long guns.
Well, I know I don't know everything, but I didn't realize there was a federal law that requires the reporting of multiple handgun sales. As far as I am aware, the ATF has interpreted existing law to allow them to require the reporting of "multiple" firearms sales. They tried to apply it only to border states in the Southwest not long ago.  Again, I don't see how this necessarily does much to help the situation.  A violent criminal can do a lot of damage with just one gun.
  • Adequate penalties are needed for violations of the above provisions.
Glad they at least recognize you have to have consequences for violating these crazy new proposals.
  • Congress should provide financial incentives to states to mandate childproof or personalized guns.
Childproof? I know young children who have opened "childproof" pill bottles.  Young kids have been known to steal their parents' cars. I can't think of anything they could come up with to childproof a firearm that couldn't be circumvented.  As far as the "personalized" guns idea, it is crazy.  They are suggesting that you have to put in a code, or enter a fingerprint, or other ridiculous ideas to use a firearm.  Let's not admit that most defensive incidents that require the use of a firearm take a matter of seconds.
  • The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission should be granted authority to regulate the safety of firearms and ammunition as consumer products.
By the CPSC's own admission, their goal is "banning consumer products if no feasible standard would adequately protect the public".  So essentially they are hoping to use the CPSC to ban all firearms, since their above suggestions wouldn't make them any less lethal.
  • Ban the future sale of assault weapons, incorporating a more carefully crafted definition to reduce the risk—compared with the 1994 ban—that the law can be easily evaded.
This made of "assault weapon" terminology is getting tiresome.  An ASSAULT RIFLE is a rifle capable of switching between automatic and semi-automatic fire.  Assault rifles are illegal to own in the US unless they were made before 1986 and you have registered them with the federal government.  The term "assault weapon" is a new term coined to try and fit as many firearms into it as possible so they can be banned under the guise of being more lethal or dangerous than other firearms.
  • Ban the future sale and possession of large capacity (greater than 10 rounds) ammunition magazines.
I'm going to throw the slippery slope argument out there. I know what you are thinking, "people who argue slippery slope are delusional . Really? Look what happened in NY this week.  They had a ban on magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds.  Now, they have a ban on magazines that can hold more than 7 rounds. Is that not a slippery slope in action?
  • The federal government should provide funds to CDC, NIH and NIJ adequate to understand the causes and solutions of gun violence, commensurate with its impact on the public’s health and safety.
This is fallacy.  "Gun violence" is no different than any other violence.  The gun is the tool or weapon a violent  offender chose to use.  To we perform separate studies of "knife violence" or "baseball bat violence"?  Violence is a human condition. The gun qualifier is misleading and a false flag.
  • The Surgeon General should produce a regular report on the state of the problem of gun violence in America and progress towards solutions. 
Again, how is "gun violence" any different than any other violence?

So, in summary, my conclusion that this "commission" or whatever they are calling themselves is bogus and they need to work on their mastery of the English language. (which we all probably need help with)