“Had [TV news killer Vester] Flanagan lived in New York State, the story would likely have been very different,” nydailynews.com‘s Robert J. Spitzer writes. “I know this first-hand, because I applied for a state pistol permit two years ago. Had Flanagan been required to do what I had to do, it is highly unlikely that he could have legally obtained a permit, and therefore a gun.” Highly unlikely. Legally. Two qualifiers which tell the tale. Truth be told, criminals and crazies have no problem obtaining a gun illegally, which renders Spitzer’s argument moot. But let’s see how he came to that irrelevant conclusion . . .
To begin with, the permit license application asks, among other things, if the applicant has ever been terminated or discharged from any employment for cause (former employers must also be listed), undergone treatment for alcohol or drug use, suffered from any mental illness, been subject to a family court proceeding or has ever had any vehicle or traffic offenses.
Flannagan hadn’t undergone treatment for alcohol or drug use. As far as we know, he wasn’t treated for mental illness. He wasn’t subject to family court proceedings. He may or may not have received a speeding ticket or other vehicular offense. As for being terminated from employment for cause, yup, true. He was terminated by two employers. So have I. So have a lot of people.
Once submitted, the application, along with fingerprints, is passed to the city police, county sheriff’s department, the state police, probation department, county district attorney, the state Department of Criminal Justice and Office of Mental Health, not to mention the FBI’s Criminal History Record database.
None of those agencies had Flanagan on their radar.
That’s not all. Applicants also submit the names of four character references — who separately must submit detailed, notarized information explaining their relationship to the applicant; whether they had known the person to engage in any illegal activities, have any psychological problems, demonstrate any erratic behavior or commit any act of violence; and state whether or not they feel the applicant is a person of good moral character.
Could Flanagan have provided those “sterling” references? We know that a former neighbor told the media that “He was a very personable man, very nice and respectful. I never saw this coming… I’ll never believe it, but it happened.” So most likely, yes.
The references also must describe the applicant’s “demeanor or behavior” and local reputation, and say whether they could think of any reason why the person should not be granted a permit. (I also had an in-person interview with the local police.)
Applicants select their references; they’re hardly likely to ask someone to write to the licensing board who’s going to say anything negative about them. As for a face-to-face interview, government gatekeepers aren’t the sharpest psychologists on the block. Lest we forget, Isla Vista shooter Eliott Rodger had a police interview after he’d been flagged as potentially suicidal and violent. He convinced Santa Barbara County Sheriffs that he was fine. I reckon Flanagan could have passed a police interview.
Here’s the big point: Because New York is a “may carry” state, the judge has discretion to deny the application if any red flags — not just a felony or obvious mental health condition — appear. Once local authorities got a whiff of a background like Flanagan’s, they would have had ample cause to seek more information, and recommend denial, which could have easily come from former employers or family members.
That assumes that the bureaucracy would have gotten a “whiff” of Flannagan’s potential for violence. That’s a big “if.” Truth be told, Spitzer knows that his faith in New York’s onerous gun control laws is fundamentally flawed.
Could Flanagan have gotten a gun on the black market if licensed gun dealers turned him away? Probably — but it would have been harder, and he would run the risk of arrest.
So the possibility of making it harder – but not impossible – for a deranged killer to legally obtain a firearms justifies making it harder – if not impossible – for millions of law-abiding citizens to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Gotcha.
Anyway, what then? If Flanagan had lived in The Empire State and failed to jump over the hurdles to legal firearms purchase, would he have abandoned his homicidal plans?
Many will respond as did Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who said after the shooting: “It’s not the guns, it’s the people who are committing these crimes. . . . What law in the world could have prevented him from killing them?”
Well, senator, yes: A person can kill another through many means, but no interpersonal tool is more effective than a gun. And unless you are fine with gun-toting crazed people, then shouldn’t the government do what it can to prevent them from getting access?
Because doing so prohibits people who have a Second Amendment-protected right to keep and bear arms from doing so. Why is that so hard to understand? Unless, of course, you don’t care. I wonder if Spitzer got his permit . . .