Yesterday, I began the Herculean task of answering mikeb’s (and every other gun grabber’s) unspoken question, “Why are you gun-nuts against reasonable, common-sense gun laws?” Taking this on – and doing it justice – is no small job. Not if it’s going to be done right, anyway. There are just too many facets to the antis’ “common sense” proposals and how they would work in the real world where people actually live. So on with part two…
The next section of the Scorecard addresses strengthening Brady background checks. As I mentioned in this piece last spring, I’m not a fan of these types of checks: once we concede that there are some people who can’t be trusted with guns, it’s a very slippery slope. To my mind there is no sort of background check system that’s either reasonable or common-sense.
The antis will argue that more than 1.9 million ‘prohibited persons’ have been prevented from getting guns since the law’s inception in 1994. But when making this statement, they’re either ignorant or lying. It’s true that 1.9 million attempted purchases have been blocked by the Brady checks since 1994. But the vast majority (something in excess of 90%…I can’t find the exact numbers at the moment) of these are “false positives” resulting from typos or a legitimate purchaser having a name that is similar to or the same as a prohibited person.
But even if we concede the point, New York State Attorney General Schneiderman’s recently completed gun show sting shows perfectly why gunnies don’t trust the reasonableness of the antis. As I point out here, New York state closed their “gun-show loophole” over 10 years ago and the AG’s sting caught 10 sellers (not dealers, private sellers who probably had no idea they were breaking the law) violating this malum prohibitum law. But instead of saying that people broke the law and now they’re going to pay a penalty, Schneiderman says that people broke the law which proves it isn’t working and therefore needs to be strengthened.
This leads to digression number one: the constant ratcheting efforts of the antis. Every law they pass seems to be “a good first step” which they promise will prevent certain problems. When the problems are not eliminated, they don’t conclude, “obviously the law doesn’t prevent bad behavior so let’s chuck it.” No they say “we just have to close this loophole or tighten that restriction.” Tent…camel’s nose.
Witness AG (I’m not typing his whole smegging name over and over), witness AG Eric’s reaction to the gun show sting. Better yet, witness the antis’ reaction to gun manufacturers compliance with the Clinton “assault weapons” ban.
The ban outlawed cosmetic features which supposedly made these weapons more deadly. The manufacturers, being the rational businesspeople they are, removed or changed the cosmetic features. Instead of rejoicing that gun makers were complying with the law, antis said that manufacturers were “exploiting loopholes” in the law and pushed for the nefarious ‘loopholes’ to be closed. Once the ban expired, all attempts to “renew” it have been much more restrictive than the original Clinton ban. End of digression number one.
On to the next section of the Brady Scorecard, the assault weapons ban section. This is a little confusing because no one seems to be able to decide exactly what an “assault weapon” is. Heck, in California even the cops have trouble figuring out what constitutes an assault weapon under California law.
But the Bradys decided that any ban was better than none, so they award points based on how many features it takes to turn a regular, everyday semi-automatic weapon into an evil people-killing black rifle. What makes these sorts of laws neither reasonable nor common-sense is that the designations are so utterly arbitrary and usually based on purely cosmetic features. Indeed I have heard from several different sources that the original Clinton-era AWB banned bayonet lugs purely because they made a rifle look “too military.”
Along with their assault weapons ban, this section includes restrictions on normal capacity magazines (what erroneously became known as “high-capacity” magazines during the AWB). The idea is that if you are gunning down a mall-full of people, having to stop shooting and change magazines will let more people escape. Or something.
In fact, the Tucson shooter (I refuse to use the names of mass shooters if I can possibly avoid it…let them rot in obscurity as far as I’m concerned) was disarmed when, after 30-some rounds, he went into slide-lock and had to change magazines. I contend that if he’d been limited to 10-round magazines (which seems to be the antis’ magic number of choice) it is entirely possible he A) would have been able to keep track of rounds fired and swapped magazines while he still had one up the pipe to discourage pesky bystanders and B) would have practiced his magazine changes, possibly becoming as good as this guy. Or this guy, or this guy.
Of course the other aspect of magazine capacity limits is that, like assault weapon bans, they are utterly arbitrary. Why pick 10 rounds as the maximum capacity? Wouldn’t we be “safer” if people only had seven shots before they had to reload? You can see how these arguments eventually lead to single-shot rifles and pistols being the only legal guns remaining.
Next on the Brady hit list is that old heart-tugger Child Safety. Right up front I’m going to have to disagree with their entire premise that gun locks and child access prevention laws make children safer. I can almost hear the anguished screeches from the antis now: “Oh, but a little inconvenience is nothing if just one life is saved!”
Let me introduce you to the Carpenter family. They lived in California so dad made sure the gun was stored unloaded and out of reach of the kids, as required by state law. When a lunatic broke in and started stabbing her younger siblings with a pitchfork, 14 year-old Jessica (who had gotten her hunter safety certification at age 12) was unable to retrieve her dad’s .357 revolver and shoot the madman. As a result, her 9 year-old sister and 7 year-old brother were killed and her 13 year-old sister seriously injured before the cops could arrive and shoot the intruder. So how do you weigh possible lives saved with actual lives lost?
“But don’t you know 13 children a day die from gun violence?!?,” shrieks my internal anti. And the answer is, no, I don’t know that. In fact I know that this little sound bite is utterly false. To reach 13 deaths a day, you have to include “children” up to 21 years of age. Most of the definitions of child that I find set puberty as the upper limit for children, and most descriptions of puberty place it occurring at between 12 and 13 years of age. Let’s go with the upper limit so I can’t be accused of trying to ‘cook’ the data (which, by the way, I am getting from the CDC’s WISQARS site, averaging the data over the nine years from 1999 to 2007).
Resetting the age to a more reasonable one, we find that instead of 13 deaths a day we are down to less than one, just a shade more than 283 a year. Still, five to six child deaths a week from gun violence seems awfully high; isn’t it possible that Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws will help reduce that number? Well, according to this brief by Public Health Law Research the answer is, “there is currently insufficient evidence to validate their effectiveness as a public health intervention aimed at reducing gun-related harms.”
Although I am not a statistician (nor have I ever played one on TV), digging a little deeper into the CDC’s numbers reveals what I believe may be the reason for the inconclusive results. It appears that CAP laws will have the greatest effect on accidental shootings, and looking at strictly accidental deaths in the age group, we find that they average 57 1/3 deaths per year which works out to about one in a million (it’s actually 1 in 986,777). So even relatively large changes in the absolute number of deaths will have a relatively tiny effect on the aggregate.
We now reach the final part of the scorecard, the Guns in Public Places section. They score on 4 criteria:
GUNS IN PUBLIC PLACES AND LOCAL CONTROL (8 Points)
- No Guns in Workplace: Employers not forced to allow firearms in parking lots
- No Guns on College Campuses: Colleges are not forced to allow firearms on campus
- Not A CCW Shall Issue State: Law enforcement discretion when issuing CCW permits
- No State Preemption: Local control of firearm regulations
The first item is a classic case of bait-and-switch: The Bradys talk about guns in the workplace. But look closer and you find out what they’re really talking about is whether employees are allowed to have firearms locked in their cars while they are at work. Beyond that I have to ask, just who does a parking lot ban protect people from? Co-workers are protected from someone:
- Who is cool-headed and law-abiding enough to obey the employer’s restrictions and not bring a gun into work with them.
- Who is hot-tempered and psychotic enough that if they did have a gun in their car at work and lost their temper to a sufficient extent, would be willing to go out to the car, get their gun and come back in to commit murder.
- Who’s cool-headed enough that if they leave their gun at home, lose their temper and decide to kill someone, instead of just walking out to the parking lotm they have to go home to get their gun. Then, upon arriving home, say to themselves “You know I think I’ll just make myself a sandwich instead of going back and going postal my co-workers.”
Next is the ever-popular campus ban. Personally, given the outcomes of shootings at the Appalachian School of Law versus VA Tech, Northern Illinois University, etc., I think we’d be safer if schools were forced to allow permit holders to carry on campus. Given the lack of problems on campuses in Utah (currently the only state with a history of guns on campuses) I would say we would definitely be safer if students and professors with permits could carry.
Let’s move on to CCW ‘shall-issue’ states and law enforcement given discretion when issuing permits. You know, the two are not incompatible. I see the Bradys say Minnesota LEOs do not have discretion when issuing permits but, quelle surprise, they lie. Minnesota statute 624.714, Subdivision 6(a)(3) specifically states that the issuing authority may “deny the application on the grounds that there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public if authorized to carry a pistol under a permit“. If that doesn’t constitute discretion, I don’t know what does.
I think I know what the Bradys are after, though. They want LEOs to have the “discretion” shown by the former Maplewood, MN Chief when he said he didn’t care if someone was chasing you down the street with a bloody knife, as far as he was concerned, no ‘civilian’ would ever have ‘need’ as required (at that time) by Minnesota law.
They want the cops to have the sort of “discretion” allowed a Minneapolis officer to deny my friend Joel’s permit renewal on the grounds that the death threats and vandalism of his house constituted harassment – not stalking – because (and this is a direct quote) “you haven’t been killed yet”. That is the kind of “discretion” the Brady Campaign wants to see police exercising.
And then there’s the Bradys’ final point, gun law pre-emption. The Bradys think that having large political entities (like state legislatures) telling smaller entities what gun laws they may pass is absolutely horrible. Unless, of course, the large entity is the federal government telling states that they have to ban “assault weapons”, or prohibit “large capacity” magazines, or close the “gun show loophole” or the “terror gap.”
It’s interesting to note, however, that their concern for “states’ rights” is rekindled when it comes to the “Packing Heat on Your Street” Act. It’s almost as if they have a double standard or something. “Of course they don’t have a double standard,” my internal anti shrieks! “They are for gun safety which means sometimes you have to override state laws to protect people.” Unfortunately for my internal anti, I know better.
The peer-reviewed Lott-Mustard study and the expansion of the study publish by John Lott in More Guns, Less Crime has been validated more than two dozen times. In fact every academic group that did not have an anti-gun track record validated these findings. In addition, years more experience with ‘shall-issue’ laws across the nation (40 states are either constitutional carry or shall-issue by statute or practice) has shown that permit-holders are just about the single most law-abiding demographic you can find. There hasn’t been “blood in the streets” or “fender-bender firefights.” Permit holders have not turned the various shall-issue states into recreations of the proverbial “wild west”. At this point, the worst that people opposed to shall-issue laws can say is that they don’t reduce crime the way they are supposed to.
So while we’re at it…what else is on the typical anti’s legislative wish-list?
One of the perennial favorites for the antis is requiring a “waiting period” between buying a weapon and actually taking possession of it. According to the Legal Community Against Violence’s publication Model Laws for a Safer America:
“The purpose of a waiting period is to: 1) give law enforcement officials adequate time to perform a thorough background check; and 2) provide a cooling-off period to help guard against impulsive acts of violence.”
I’ve already stated my objections to background checks, but even if I were to admit their validity or desirability, we are well into the computer age nowadays. According to FBI figures, over 90% of NICS checks are completed within 30 seconds, so how will ten days facilitate the background check process?
As for “cooling off” to prevent “impulsive acts of violence,” lawyers have a very descriptive word to describe someone who loses their temper, goes to their car, drives to a gun store, chooses a gun, fills out paperwork, buys the gun and ammo, drives back to the scene of the argument and shoots dead the person with whom they are angry. Here’s a clue; that word is not impulsive. No, that word is pre-meditated.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s look at that oldie but goodie, registration. Now I know that the antis don’t really mean it when they say “treat guns like cars,” so let’s just look at the gun registration issue for what it is.
According to LCAV, registration will allow police to trace guns found at crime scenes, return stolen firearms to their lawful owners, discourage illegal sales and allow officers to know whether there are firearms at a house they are called to. There are just a few problems with this registration thing, though: guns at crime scenes won’t be traceable if they aren’t registered. And the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Haynes (1968) that criminals could not be required to register because that constituted self-incrimination.
So although gunnies often complain about criminals not following the laws, registration is a law that literally will only apply to the law-abiding. As for returning stolen guns to their owners, you don’t need registration to do that. If you did, people would never get back stolen TVs, jewelry, artwork, etc.. Registration will no more discourage illegal sales than requiring that owners report stolen firearms would. Someone who is planning on selling guns illegally is not going to be dissuaded by mere registration.
For the other “benefits” of registration, we only need to look north of the border to our friends in Canada where they’ve had registration of all firearms since 1995. Cops there say that registration is utterly useless for warning them about locations where guns are because 1) criminals don’t register their weapons and 2) no sane cop is going to bet his life on the accuracy of a government-run database.
Then there is the cost to consider. The Canadian firearms registry was initially projected to cost $2 million Canadian; it has now surpassed $1 billion Canadian and still counting. According to the Brady Campaign, the U.S. had 283 million guns in private hands in 2004 and that number is increasing by 4.5 million year. By 2011 we should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 315 million privately owned guns.
Also according to the Bradys, there are 2 million second-hand gun sales a year. According to the 2010 Census, about 47 million people move each year. So, assuming each household that moves has an average number of firearms (yeah, I know, not really a valid assumption but I’m treating this as a Fermi problem), and given 112.6 million households in the US we have 315/112.6 = 2.8 firearms per household which means we would have about 131.5 million moving registrations per year. Plus 4.5 million new sale registrations and 4 million secondary sale registrations (remember each sale requires 2 registration entries) giving us our final S.W.A.G. of 140 million registrations per year.
Now, if we take the BATFE’s National Firearms Act registry as the exemplar, we can expect about a 20% to 30% error rate…or 35 million incorrect entries. If, however, we attempt to impose some discipline and get a 1% error rate that would still give us 1.4 million registration errors each year. If the government’s records say one thing and reality is something else, who do you think the judge is going to believe? Especially if the government’s agents are directed to commit perjury by their supervisors and testify that the registration records are 100% accurate?
As in all things governmental, the devil is in the details, so let’s try to detail just how much this registry would cost. Taking another SWAG at it, assume that it takes five man-minutes to process each registration from entry into the mailroom to entry into the computer. What with meetings, coffee breaks, Angry Birds sessions, bathroom runs, etc., an average government worker will perform about five hours of productive work per 8 hour day.
That means that one worker will process about sixty registrations a day. Working 47 weeks a year (2 weeks vacation, 5 sick days and 10 holidays per year) the average worker will be able to process 14,100 registrations a year. So to process 140 million registrations will require a staff of about 10,000. Given that the average .gov employee costs $120K per year (salary, benefits, etc.) that translates to $1.2 billion a year just in personnel costs for the registry.
So tell me one more time what the benefits of registration will be and just how these benefits will recoup the billions of dollars that will be required to get this system up and running and the billion plus in operating expenses?
hope I’ve answered mikeb’s unspoken question of why we gun nuts are opposed to “reasonable, common-sense gun laws.” I know that if and when he responds to any of this, he’ll provide the level of detail I have to support his arguments.