In his stunningly premature, entirely partisan, irresponsibly political post-Umpqua Community College shooting address to the nation, President Obama asserted “It cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.” Wait. How easy? We still don’t know how spree killer Chris Mercer obtained the four weapons used in the attack (three pistols and a rifle). Besides, who cares? Unless the person who sold/gave Mercer the guns knew he was going to commit a crime, what difference does it make where he got them? Predictably enough, Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop operation – thetrace.org – is already on the case and lost in those weeds . . .
One of next key questions: How, where, and when did he get the guns?
So far, there has been no indication that Mercer had a criminal record that barred him from owning or purchasing a firearm. There are a number of other factors that could have blocked him from gun ownership, such as an admission of drug use or an involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric treatment, but nor has evidence of such disqualifiers surfaced.
But even if he was prohibited from owning a gun, Mercer might have been able to buy a firearm in Oregon without passing a background check — depending on when the transaction occurred.
Until recently, Oregon did not require background checks on private sales, at gun shows, or at sales arranged over the Internet. That changed in August when a hotly contested measure instituting universal background checks went into effect. Oregon is now one of the 18 states to require checks for all gun sales.
As the bill traveled through the state legislature, local gun groups and retailers rallied in opposition. Some law enforcement officers also sought to derail the bill, with several sheriffs calling it unenforceable and lamenting a lack of resources to sufficiently complete universal checks.
In April, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin testified at the state house against the bill. “I can tell you that this law is not going to protect citizens of Oregon,” he said. “It will not do that.”
I’ll go further. No law can protect the citizens of Oregon from a determined homicidal maniac or, for that matter, a practiced violent criminal. But any law making it difficult or impossible for law-abiding citizens to exercise their gun rights in their own defense – and the defense of others – may cost them and other innocents their lives.
To my mind, the source of the Oregon killer’s gun is only important in that the antis may be able to use the information to degrade and destroy Americans’ gun rights. Otherwise it’s a minor detail. Am I wrong?