Gun retailers are constantly exhorted to be careful to whom they sell a gun. And they are. The Reese family in New Mexico spent a year in jail for accepting false statements on the ATF new gun purchase form 4473. A Missouri gun store recently paid out $2.2 Million to settle a lawsuit after selling a gun to someone they were told was mentally ill. And yet . . .
There’s a flip side to this. When a retailer refuses to sell because they’re uncomfortable, they run the risk of being labeled discriminatory. The “discrimination” side of this squeeze play was demonstrated in Florida at a Bass Pro store. From wcjb.com:
Bakr said, “There was an older gentleman there and he was kind of looking at me and I thought it was kind of strange, I told him something was kind of shady because he was staring at me and staring at the dude that was working with me.”
Bakr went through the entire firearms buying process, and paid the $5 for the background check.
“That’s when he told me he didn’t feel comfortable selling me the firearm because he said that since I was with Heath, they thought I was going to buy it and give it to somebody younger,” Bakr said. However, Smiley is 19, and has been sold guns before.
Gun retailers have, quite deliberately, been put into a no-win situation. More than that, the whole idea of stopping criminals and miscreants from obtaining guns by doing checks at the retail level is flawed. It doesn’t accomplish its stated purpose of preventing “bad people” from getting a gun.
There are nearly 400 million guns existent in the United States. Retail checks have been shown themselves to be ineffective in preventing crime in any measurable way. If a person wants a gun to do evil, they’re either legally prohibited or not. If they’re not prohibited, they can buy a gun. If they’re prohibited, they can have someone else buy for them or purchase a gun that is stolen or manufactured in the black market.
What retail checks do: make it difficult for marginally motivated buyers, such as Bakr, to become gun owners. The vast majority of people prevented from buying guns aren’t a threat to anyone. The effect of retail background checks is a chilling of the exercise of the Second Amendment.
The history of infringements on the Second Amendment is a history of racial discrimination. Robert Sherrill, in The Saturday Night Special, wrote that the purpose of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which initiated the national regulation of guns at the retail level, was to keep guns from inner city black people.
The approach didn’t work, and it never has worked. The crime and homicide rate skyrocketed after the 1968 law was passed. It didn’t come down until the revolution in legalizing concealed carry was underway.
We would be better served by repealing the entire 1968 law, and concentrating on removing guns from those who are legally prohibited from having them.
That’s the approach used by project Exile. It’s the approach promoted by Harvard scholar David Kennedy. It requires that police work with communities to concentrate on bad actors. This results in more legitimacy for the police.
When that happens, there are spectacular reductions in homicides. It’s the opposite of the approach in the Obama administration, which promotes the de-legitimization of police. That approach has resulted in the Ferguson Effect, enormous increases in urban homicides, and increased homicides of police officers.
Donald Trump has mentioned project Exile. He would do well to bring David Kennedy on board as a crime policy advisor. Repealing the counterproductive GCA 1968 would be another positive step but I don’t expect it in a Trump first term.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.