Topic Tuesday #98 2014/06/03 "Guns. Lots of Guns."
How do we speak rationally to all parties about the topic of guns? This is a tough one, as no matter what side of the argument you talk about, you are going to deeply offend someone. Let me start by saying that is far from my intention, so please let's let feelings, no matter how strong fall away for a few minutes and let's calmly look at the situation we have in the United States.
Gun violence is an issue.
Gun control is an issue.
Would you agree to that? That we have issues about guns and how they are being used? I think everyone can at least swallow that.
First off, let me state that I personally think guns are fun. I enjoy going shooting, not hunting mind you. I was a weapons master in college and taught gun safety to those that had never held a firearm before. These were props, and had to be handled with the utmost care. If you will recall, Brandon Lee was killed when a firearm was mishandled on the movie set for "The Crow". Accidents happen, even to those that are highly trained. That said, there are many that are not highly trained that are handling their own weapons incorrectly. You cannot peruse the news without coming to at least one story involving a firearm discharge or the threat of its use interwoven with the story. Remember, a threat constitutes "Assault" while the physical violence represents "Battery" in an Assualt and Battery charge.
We have a certain expectation as a "polite" society that we can walk about and not be threatened or physically harmed. Unless you are particularly paranoid and believe the world is out to get you, you should see this pretty clearly. We also have certain expectations as legally set in our beloved Constitution. For clarity I will append the Second Amendment (as ratified and on display at the National Archives) here.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I am, at best, a hobbyist when it comes to history and the law. This topic has been droned on about ad nauseam and though I am touching on it, I refuse to reinterpret it beyond plain english.
First, this section states a well regulated Militia. I am not part of a Militia, well regulated or otherwise. I certainly believe that the security of a free state does mean that the state has the ability to defend itself from threats, foreign and domestic, which is implied. "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." By itself, which is how we most often hear this phrase, it is plain that this can be taken to mean that it is the right of every citizen to have a weapon and defend themselves if needed. It does not indicate that it is any particular armament, though it is always assumed to be guns. It could be knives, swords, cannons, bola, crossbow, etc... The number and types of weapons that we could list is staggering, but we always default to guns. I am not sure why, but I suspect it is a vocal minority with an agenda that has passed that idiom our way over many years. Now, the part about not being infringed.... That is a sticky point, so we won't go into how it makes sense that bazookas and heavy weapons should not be personal protective devices... Because... if we go past that line, we are taking things to their extreme positions and this is not the time for that. Instead, let's just allow that you can own whatever weapon you like. Now... Let's talk about regulation. To draw a comparison to something else that can be used for harming others, let's look at automobiles. By law, we are required to have a class, pass a test, be licensed, keep a vehicle in proper working order to the point of passing annual checkups in some states, and we are required to keep insurance. We have accepted this across the board. You do not have to own a car, but to do so, you need to follow the rules that are put in place. This makes sense, as these rules are in place to protect everyone on or near the road, including others that do not have a car.
So, why is there opposition to gun safety? Mandating locks, has been opposed. In fact mandating any ordinance involving firearms has met with stiff opposition. I recall when even a waiting period to buy a handgun was opposed. I do not understand why there is such opposition to things that could make the world safer, without taking away your gun, or the right to own one. Recently there was a firearm manufacturer that built a smart gun. one that would prevent the trigger from being pulled if it was too far away from a transponder the owner would wear. There are problems with the implementation, but it is sound in principle. The NRA and several other groups put extreme pressure on vendors to not sell the gun. Why?
There have been many tries to implement a mandatory national firearm registration. Where the Federal law stands today is with four key laws.
National Firearms Act of 1934 (written with the help of the NRA I might add)
This law regulates the transfer of a particular class of weapons known as Title II weapons. Title II weapons include machine guns, certain parts of machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, silencers, and destructive devices such as grenades or mortars. Title II weapons also include a category called, "Any Other Weapon." This is a generic term used to describe a concealable weapon that can shoot, but doesn't quite fit into any other category. An example of an "any other weapon" would be a cane gun or pen gun. The fee is $200.
Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA)
The Gun Control Act has the broadest reach of any federal gun control law as it pertains to the sale or transfer of any firearm and ammunition. This act established the Federal Firearms License (FFL) system which requires gun dealers to be licensed and prohibits interstate gun sales by anyone other than a licensed dealer. The GCA also made it unlawful for certain people to purchase firearms. These "prohibited persons" include:
- Anyone currently under indictment for a crime punishable by more than a year in prison
- Anyone who has been previously convicted of such a crime
- Users of any controlled substance
- Anyone who has been committed to a mental institution or deemed mentally defective
- Illegal aliens
- Anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the military
- Anyone who has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship
- Anyone who currently has a restraining order against him or her from an intimate partner or child of said partner
- Anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor
Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA)
The Firearm Owners Protection Act was enacted to make changes to the Gun Control Act of 1968. One of the most notable changes banned civilian ownership of machine guns that were manufactured and registered after May 19, 1986. The act also introduced the “Safe Passage” provision. This provision protects gun owners who are traveling through a state from being prosecuted for breaking that state’s gun laws—under certain conditions. The gun owner must not spend any extended time in the state and must have his or her firearms unloaded and stored in a separate compartment such as a trunk or a lockbox.
Before this change to GCA, a dealer was defined as someone “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. Under FOPA, the definition was modified to specify that a dealer must be selling firearms for profit or livelihood. This allows unlicensed individuals to sell firearms from their private collection without performing a background check on the buyer. This change created what has become known as the “Gun Show Loophole.” The GCA still requires that guns not be sold to a “prohibited person” but without a background check, it may be impossible to determine if a buyer is prohibited.
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1994)
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requires that Federally Licensed Dealers conduct background checks on any individual who purchases a weapon from them. The background check is to determine if the individual is a “prohibited person” as stated in the GCA. The act does not circumvent the Gun Show Loophole, provided the seller is not in the business of selling guns. In addition, federally licensed collectors of Curio and Relic (C&R) firearms do not have to undergo a background check when purchasing a C&R gun.
This is all we have right now. Some states hae their own laws but nationally I can buy a gun and it is not readily traced back to me, especially if it was sold at a gun show 3 or 4 times. No one would know I had a gun. No one is making sure I know how to use it, take care of it, and what safety measures should be taken. Why not?
It is my personal opinion that we should be required to register our guns. Keep in mind that every (modern) gun has a serial number and a unique "blast" pattern and grove combination. Every gun sold (to my knowledge) is test fired for before sale. There should be a record of this information. Something to hold the owner accountable for every discharge of their weapon. Also... just like with a car, you should have to have training and liability insurance to own one. Background checks should also be compulsory, even at gun shows and personal sales would require the registration to change hands, just like a car. Of course, I understand that any additional steps and paperwork would raise the cost of a gun. But I can't look at a headline and think that those extra dollars that could have prevented a tragedy or made bringing the perpetrator to justice faster... is not worth it. I would rather people go to jail for having an unregistered firearm than for drug possession. Is that unreasonable?