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I seem to be on something of a roll here lately, answering questions that antis have asked. This post is inspired by a fairly regular TTAG anti commenter and poster, mikeb302000. One of his recent comments brought to mind (though he never specifically asked) the perennial anti question, “Why are you gun-nuts against reasonable, common-sense gun laws?” Like so many seemingly simple questions, it has a fairly complex, multi-pronged answer, complicated by the incorrect assumptions in the question itself…

To begin with, I’m not opposed to reasonable gun laws. But I think mikeb and I might disagree on what that means. To me, a “reasonable” gun law is one that limits punishment for each violation to no less than 30 years and no more than 50 years in prison for any government official or employee who uses or proposes to use the color of law or authority to in any way restrict an individual’s ability to manufacture, purchase, own, sell, carry or transport arms of any type. Arms being defined as any weapon type used at the company level of any nation’s regular military forces. For example if the US Army uses Stingers, any MANPAD is allowed, if an Engineer company uses C-4, any high (or low) explosive is okay.

My idea of “common-sense” gun laws may also be at odds with mikeb’s. I’d ban any act which causes or presents the immediate danger of causing damage to the physical or economic welfare of any other person. So no discharge bans “within 500 yards of a dwelling”, but if you hit someone’s house, you’re liable. (Note: Credit where credit is due, this idea was lifted from Robert A. Heinlein’s For Us, The Living.)

I should probably, however, go with the standard anti’s definitions of “reasonable” and “common sense” so let’s go to the Brady Campaign’s State Scorecard for 2010 and see what they think the laws should be. After all, the Brady Campaign is only interested in reasonable common-sense measures to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people so their list should be representative. Right?

The Brady bunch starts out with their anti-trafficking wish-list:

Gun Dealer Regulations:

  • State license required
  • Record keeping and retention
  • Report records to the state, and state retains records
  • Mandatory theft reporting of all firearms
  • At least one store security precaution required
  • Inspections by police allowed

I’m really not certain what the first three of these would do to reduce gun trafficking; dealer licensing and record retention won’t prevent straw buyers from buying weapons or aid in tracking weapons stolen from the dealer. These requirements also would do nothing to stop a dirty dealer from providing weapons to criminals and then claiming they were stolen. They just cause extra work and harassment for legitimate dealers, driving up their costs, thus driving up the cost of firearms.

Mandatory theft reporting? What kind of businessman isn’t going to report the theft of high value items from the store? If for no other reason, there’s the fact that a lot of insurance companies won’t pay a claim without a police report. I suppose some might argue that without this requirement, a crooked dealer could divert weapons and later claim they were stolen if there were any blowback. But again, requiring a theft report won’t prevent a crooked dealer from diverting the guns and then filing a police report stating they were stolen.

How does requiring one safety precaution (and somehow they’re never content to stop at just one, are they?) stop trafficking? Any honest businessman is going to do what he considers necessary to protect his stock. Making specific requirements does nothing to stop crooked dealers and harasses the honest ones.

Inspections by police allowed…what does that even mean? Throw away the Fourth Amendment and give cops carte blanche to come in and “inspect” at their whim? A law like this could easily be abused by anti-gun folks like Generalissimo -ahem- I mean Chief Knight of Chaska MN to drive a dealer out of business. Sorry about that Generalissimo crack, but seriously, this guy has four gold stars on each shoulder, scrambled eggs on his visor and he’s the Chief for a town of less than 25,000 (a town that had 4 murders and 20 robberies in the last 12 years).

Bulk Purchase Limits:

  • One handgun per month
  • One handgun per month, 1 or more exceptions

Here is another “reasonable” law that merely impedes legal gun owners rather than actually putting a dent in actual trafficking. Indeed, Virginia has a one-gun-a-month law but that doesn’t stop The New York Times from calling them part of the ‘Iron Pipeline’ of gun smuggling into New York State. In fact, according to The Times, two of the top five “crime gun” source states have one-a-month laws which they still call “the most effective tool” for preventing trafficking.

The antis say that the way things are now, traffickers can buy unlimited handguns in a single transaction and that this rule won’t affect the law abiding. They say no one ‘needs’ to buy more than one gun a month. Just off the top of my head I can come up with a time when, if I’d had the money, I would have needed to buy two pistols at once. I was at a gun show looking for a vest-pocket Mauser. I saw a dealer who had two, with consecutive serial numbers. He wasn’t willing to break the pair up (I don’t blame him) and if I’d had the money I would definitely have bought them.

Unless, of course, I’d been in a one-a-month state, in which case I probably would have passed on the purchase to avoid the PITA aspects. Aside from special circumstances like that, though, the antis will again ask “why would anyone need more than one gun a month?” But by letting the antis frame the argument that way we concede too much. The question should be “why shouldn’t I be able to buy what I want when I want it?” And the “gun trafficking” argument doesn’t stand up, because (again, see the NYT piece) two of the top five – forty percent – of the top “crime gun” supplier states had the one handgun a month laws.

Record Retention:

  • All Firearms
  • Handguns Only

Again, what does retaining records have to do with stopping trafficking? It’s not going to prevent crooked dealers from dealing crookedly, it’s not going to stop straw buyers from buying, it’s just going to increase the time, effort and cost of legitimate dealers.

Crime Gun Identification:

  • Ballistic fingerprinting
  • Require microstamping on semi-auto handguns

Now here’s another beautiful idea in theory that crumbles to dust when it hits the cold hard wall of reality. In practice, New York State has had CoBIS (Combined Ballistic Identification System) up and running for 10 years now at a cost in excess of $4,000,000 a year. To date, the system has produced not one single conviction.

There have been exactly two hits in all that time; one was for a misdemeanor…and because of the backlog of entering data, the statute of limitations had run out by the time the match was made. The other hit was from a drive-by shooting that left one injured. Again, it took over a year to make the match. When police finally went to the owner’s house, he told them where the gun was. When they couldn’t find it, the owner said “it must have been stolen, I want to report a stolen gun.” Really, who wouldn’t think of that?

Officer Friendly: Knock-knock
Gun Trafficker: Yeah, hey dude what’s up?
OF: Sir we found a Glongfield XD-55 at a crime scene and traced it to you.
GT: Oh, yeah, sure dude, I keep it in my shed out back.
-trudge- -trudge- lock unlocks
OF: Sir this shed appears to be empty.
GT: Oh my stars and garters! I’ve been robbed! Well it’s a good thing you’re here Officer, I want to report some stolen guns.
OF: How many, what kind?
GT: Ummm, a bunch…there were some rifles and pistols and maybe a shotgun or two . . .

Repeat as necessary since no one can prove when the weapons were stolen and when GT found out about it.

The state of Maryland had a “ballistics fingerprinting” system, too, their MD-IBIS (Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System). It was generously credited by the Washington Post with solving a murder in the crabcake state. Unfortunately, while ballistics were crucial in obtaining the conviction, it wasn’t the MD-IBIS which made the match, rather a good old-fashioned Mark-1 eyeball (with an assist from a microscope). In fact, a Maryland State Police report detailed all of the problems with the system and recommended its termination.

If you’re still with me, I’ll hit the rest of the scorecard in part two. So much to debunk, and so few electrons….

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  1. So…the whole mandated ballistic matching does nothing to catch criminals ? What about all those episodes of CSI: Any Random City that I’ve been watching? No “I got a hit in CoBIS.” and the episode ends?

    • I think what happens on those shows is that a piece of brass is picked up at the crime scene and a gun is recovered in the possession of the prime suspect. They fire a round out of said gun and compare the brass to the crime scene brass. No database involved.

  2. I see a Pulitzer in this mans future, too bad MSM and the antis don’t like logic. Lets not even consider that by the very definition of the word criminal is someone who does NOT obey the law.

  3. It doesn’t take much for “reasonable” to become “completely unreasonable”. The problem is that once you get that reasonable legislation in place, it’s just the camel’s nose. (old proverb. Once the camel gets his nose in the tent, there is no real way of keeping him from pushing all the way in thus destroying the tent.)Look at that “record keeping” part. Starts out with “the dealer has to retain the records for X number of years”. Dealers will complain. Eventually, in the interest of “helping” the dealers, the state will say “well, it’s unreasonable to ask you to keep track of all this so why don’t you just go ahead and send the records to us and we’ll catalog them for you…”

    From that point it’s a very small jump to say “well, since we’re already keeping these records of your gun purchases, might as well make registration mandatory ”

    Now the government has a nice, searchable database of every gun out there. No need to get a warrant to search your house. They know you have X number of guns.

    “You know, it’s pointless to have more than X number of guns. All you need is a pistol and a rifle at the most.” Hey, Billy, we see from our easily searchable database that you have 4 handguns and 3 rifles plus a shotgun. New law was just passed. Pick out which handgun and rifle you like the most and surrender the rest to the local police station. We assure you that you will be compensated through our buyback program. How does $100 per gun sound? That’s a shame because it sounds good to us.

    “You know what, the only reason someone would have a handgun is because they’re planning on murdering someone. You only really need a rifle. After all we don’t want to alienate our hunter demographic out there.” Hey, Billy, about that handgun we show in our convenient database that you own. Here’s $100, have a great day, citizen.

    “You know, you don’t really need a semi-automatic rifle to hunt with. If you had any skill as a hunter you would do just fine with a bolt action. We have spoken at length to hunters all over the country who exclusively use bolt actions and they’re perfectly fine with getting rid of semi-autos.” Hey, Billy, our database says that you own a really cool AR-15. Say, that is nice. How much did you spend on all those upgrades? $2500. Ouch. Well that’s a shame because we’re gonna have to take that from you. Here’s $50. Yeah…economy, budget cuts. You understand.

    Each step was only a small step from the previous. That’s the trick. There can be no give. Once the first little bit gets in, there’s no way to keep the camel out. All you have to do is look at other countries. It has happened before and it can very easily happen again. It should be noted that the last scenario already happened in England. They divided the gun owners and then removed a large section of them with that whole semi-auto thing. The bolt action and break apart hunters were behind the legislation because they felt that it didn’t affect them. They screwed themselves in the long run.Camel’s nose, my friends.

    • I agree 100%. Ron Paul calls this “Incrementalism”.
      I think we need to cut the crap on the gun issue and second amendment.
      My Daughter and I had a heart to heart talk abouts gun rights tonight.
      The Second Amendment has little to do with hunting.
      The Second Amendment has little to do with self defense against petty criminals.
      The Second Amendment has EVERYTHING to do with providing a constitutional check and brake on out of control government!

  4. It is funny because the more people I speak with about guns, the more that acknowledge there are dangers out there, they are glad I am armed, and they discuss something else. It is such a non issue, I wish the Brady campaign would figure out they have a better shot at increasing their numbers if they focused on increasing jail time for someone using a weapon illegally.

  5. The error of Brady, et al., is that their solution to every issue gun related is somehow to limit the freedom of people who weren’t doing anything wrong. Which leads to the suspicion that they and those funding them don’t really care about limiting crime, but are more interested in making you a slave.

    Freedom isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. The bad guys know this too, including some holding office.

  6. Why does anyone pay attention to Mikeb30200?

    As a self-described “American expat living in Italy these last 22 years,” what basis does he have to comment on anything happening in the United States? Mikeb30200 may lead a charmed life in Italy, but as anyone who follows the news knows, the only reason that his chosen country “has been able to live ‘La Dolce Vita’ for as long as it has over the years has been its ability to sell debt – lots of it.

    Neither does Mikeb30200’s earlier — and troubledlife in America offer any rational foundation for the cowardly and frankly childish drivel that the European welfare state pays for him to propagate across the Internets.

    Rather than engaging him on his chosen turf, why not challenge Mikeb30200 to explain his choice to leave American and contribute to the downfall of Europe?

  7. Crime is a method of social control used by Progressives to entrench themselves in power by using it to destroy first the economic viability of the community, then the educational system and finally the family. This creates a large class of dependent people who will continue to vote them into office. They first experimented on the African-American community and now after that success they want to extend it to the rest of country.

    Thing this is paranoia? Guess again.

  8. Bruce, I think that you should elaborate on what you think would lower crime and why it would work. If you can both show why the anti’s argument is wrong and suggest a valid replacement, then you would have a rock solid position that no one could object to.

    • The easiest ways to lower crime:

      1) Stop manufacturing new crimes that have nothing to do with harming others. If it’s not rape, murder, theft, kidnapping, or something else that directly harms someone against their will, then it’s not a crime.

      2) Stop the anti’s “justice” system that keeps releasing murderers, thieves, and rapists back into communities so that they can commit crimes again.

  9. Sadly, to the average person, such an article like this would lose out to a breathless sentence of emotional fear-mongering.

    • See my reply. I’m honestly not trying to be a fear-monger, just trying to underline how uncomfortable I feel with people owning rocket launchers who aren’t the military. Join up, and once you’re in, join the Oath Keepers and then have fun with your demolition charges.

      • So you’d trust people who’ve committed murder, rape, and genocide at the orders of sociopaths, but not ordinary people who’ve never committed such crimes? Oooooookaayyyyy….

      • The second amendment is not about hunting or sports shooting. Its about getting the government to take its boot of your throat.

        With modern military and the complete destruction of posse commitatus, anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons as well as explosives and crew served weapons would be quite helpful should the time come when the ballot box is no longer effective.

        Just sayin’.

  10. Yeah, I am actually not comfortable with anyone except the military owning MANPADS or C4, thank you very much. Seriously? I’m pretty seriously pro-2A, but I think giving Joe Sixpack the ability to own Claymore mines (or the materials to make them -C4, ball bearings, a stiff plastic box) is absolutely moronic. No, there probably won’t be “blood running in the streets”, but do we really need access to high explosives, Stinger missile launchers, and anti-tank weapons? It’s articles of this kind that give anti’s such lurid material to parade about: “GUN NUTS WANT ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES, ROCKET LAUNCHERS!”

    • I never said I was comfortable with it, I just think it is necessary.
      I think it was L. Neil Smith who once said that every inch of ground you concede to your enemy is ground that they don’t have to fight to take. I believe that following my principles to their natural conclusion should make me uncomfortable because (and again, I;m paraphrasing) how is it possible to be too principled?
      But when discussing explosives with antis you should remind them that the average car gas tank contains the equivalent of three sticks of dynamite. If you really want to see them wet themselves, tell them that you know someplace where you can pick up the equivalent of 3 sticks of dynamite for under ten bucks. I leave it up to you whether you want to explain that 5 gallons of gas is about the same power as a stick of the big-D.

      • Exactly. Given the ease with which one can rig a bomb out of standard industrial supplies that there is no way we can ban and still have our civilization, worrying about C4 is a little overboard.

        As for stingers…people’s gut reaction to that just shows how non-seriously they take the idea of the 2nd amendment as a check on tyranny.

      • Not to mention anyone can go to the local grocery store or gas station and pick up the necessary materials to make mustard gas.

      • Let’s go back to the meaning of words when the Second Amendment was written. Weapons were divided into two classes: Arms and Ordinance. Ordinance, i.e, cannon were to be supplied by the government. Arms, i.e., personal weapons used by infantry, were supplied by you the citizen. I think it is fair to say that in the modern world crew served weapons, anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons are ordinance not arms. If the founders wanted to allow private citizens to own ordinance they would have written it that way. Since they kept it as keep and bear arms ordinance is not protected by the Second Amendment.

        I originally took your position to be a literary device to mock the a gun control lobby but I see you are serious. Banning the private possession weapons classed as ordinance is not a concession to the antis. It is consistant with the original text of the amendment. You do our cause no good by taking this position.

        • And your pooint is what? That you can make weapons from commonly available materials and somehow this changes the meaning of the Second Amendment?

        • Quite the opposite. I believe that regulation of explosives is meaningless when such substances are easily manufactured by anyone with a stovetop and a web connection.

        • Your argument is of the form “I believe the regulation of murder is meaningless since human beings can and will find ways to kill people.”

          And what does that have to do with the Second Amendment?

        • Forgive me if I wasn’t clear. I believe that regulating the possession of explosives is meaningless. Murder is a behavior. Weapons are physical objects. See the difference?

        • Actually I do and you don’t. This thread is about constitutional rights not adminstrative law or regulation. Don’t confuse the two or you might look foolish. You know, like someone claiming that maintaining a standing army is unsconstitutional instead of merely being undesirable.

  11. a mandatory paper trail will deter trafficking. sure it won’t eradicate it entirely but no measure has eradicated murder or theft does that mean any measures to deter them are useless.

    • Gabba I actually address that issue in part 2 (or maybe 3? I’m not sure how Robert split it up). Anyway, briefly: Your argument falls apart because the primary purpose of laws against murder, rape, etc. (what are called mala in se acts) is not to prevent them, but to punish them. And yes, I know that some people are alive (probably me included for that matter) only because it’s illegal to kill them, but you have to agree that the primary purpose of laws against hurting someone is to punish those who do. A moral person doesn’t need a law to tell him that it is wrong to kill or steal and an immoral person doesn’t care that it’s wrong.
      Anyway laws requiring a paper trail are not sold as being punitive they are described as being preventative. In other words we aren’t told that not filling out paperwork is evil and wrong and must be punished, we are being told that if paperwork is required it can be used to curb trafficking.
      See the difference?

      • Plenty of examples exist where all the laws and regs were followed, paperwork filed, and bad things happen anyway. The left seems to stoke this notion there are rings of gun runners buying cheap semi autos and shipping them by trucks to distribution points where they enter the black market. I don’t think this really exists but it sure scares people into supporting their idea of gun control. I’d rather see them going after meth makers, that’s where the easy money is made.

    • Nearly every study I have seen shows the vast majority of illegal shootings are done with gun that was stolen from a lawful owner several years before. A paper trail isn’t going to do anything for those crimes.

  12. Two more reasons for buying more than one gun a month:
    1. I have two sons and I want to give each a rifle for Christmas.
    2.If I buy them togeather the dealer will give me a discount.

  13. What kills me about Ca.’s “one handgun a month” and 11 day “cooling off period” bullshit, is that I already have a bunch of @#$%^ing guns. Maybe it will deter(doubtful) someone who doesn’t have any, but once you have one it’s not like you’re going to say “I want to shoot someone, but this gun I already have just won’t do! I need a new one to shoot your ass with!” Though I wish Bloomingdale’s women’s shoe department had a 10 day “cooling off period” sometimes…

  14. “Why are you gun-nuts against reasonable, common-sense gun laws?”

    IMO, the answer is very simple and can be answered in a single sentence: Because you anti-gun nuts can’t be trusted to stop at “reasonable, common sense” gun laws.

  15. I’d like to know who gets to decide what is reasonable and what common sense is used for the proposed laws. There is this recurring fascination with registering and recording firearms data and owners that is chilling, that’s the first place the government turns to when confiscation begins. So no, sorry, I’m not down with that.

  16. A while back there was a post, from Andrew Snyder, pointing out how many guns and what type every gun owner should attempt to build into his/her collection. Now that right there is 7 types of guns, and if someone is building his/her collection and they have the money for it all at once, why make them wait 7 months to get every piece? What if someone suddenly has a need for (and gets the necessary permits) for CCW and they want to buy their carry gun and a back-up gun at the same time?

  17. This may be a good time to repost a mikeb quote that helps answer the question that this thread addresses:

    mikeb: ” If you guys suddenly cooperated with the common sense gun control laws that we propose and we saw a tremendous decrease in gun violence, we would naturally want stricter laws in order to lower even more the remaining gun violence. Eventually, I and most of the others would conclude that no guns at all in civilian hands is the best way to go.”

    And if we suddenly cooperated with the gun control laws that mikeb proposes and we saw NO decrease in gun violence at all, he would still want stricter laws anyway, claiming that the first round of laws were not “strong” enough or had “loopholes.”

    Of course, he would still “conclude that no guns at all in civilian hands is the best way to go.”

  18. Since we never seem to be able to get the anti-2nd Amendment people to give us a complete list of the “reasonable, common-sense gun laws” they want, I would like to issue the following challenge to MikeB and other civilian disarmament advocates:

    Name ONE existing anti-gun law that you think is UNreasonable. Thank you.

  19. Chlorine can be made through the stupidity of mixing ammonia and bleach-are they gonna ban those items also?If there’s no bleach,those a**holes like Napolitano won’t be able to wash the sh*tstains out of their drawers.(She probably wears boxers).

    • Chlorine gas, I should mention, was deployed by the HUNDRES OF TONS in the first world war. And even then, its a blister agent, and requires very very high doeses to be lethal. It is perhaps one of the least effective chemical weapons.

      So that’s not a very good argument.


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