The Boston Globe is the source of today’s discussion. Author Scot Lehigh published the opinion piece, After Charleston, voters must demand new gun laws. Like most articles calling for new gun laws, he relies heavily on emotion and puts forth proposals without showing how these new laws would stop these events in the future.
I have a problem with the way I am characterized by many gun grabber organizations. In many twitter arguments, my side of the debate has been characterized as “it won’t work so we shouldn’t do anything.” This is a horrible way to look at it. The argument is that we should not pass laws that are useless. We will simply end up in another one of these situations, and when it is shown that the changes we did make were ineffective, they will call for something even stronger.
Take Washington State and the passage of I-594. I was visiting family there when the debate was going on. I was certain it was going to pass because I know that the ultra-liberal populace of King, Snohomish, Whatcom, and Pierce County. The tragic shooting incident at Marysville-Pilchuck High School sealed the deal. At that point, there was no longer a chance and gun rights group had of defeating that bill. Regardless, it does nothing to prevent these sales from happening. All it does is give the state the authority to go after you if it is found out that you did make this kind of transaction. In which case, the gun must be found by LEOs, most likely, after it has already been used in a crime.
So how would I-594 have prevented the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck? It would have had any impact. The truth is that the father purchased the gun legally, with a background check. It did not even involve the transfer between father and son, which may or may not be legal depending on how you read the bill. There was no transfer; the son just took it. It was not even a straw purchase where he got around the BGC to buy it for his son. No one in the Washington state media wanted to look at how a kid decides that being turned down for a date should lead him to kill three people and then take his own life. There is a serious issue with your decision-making process and morals if this is what you feel is the best resolution to a situation.
But I’ve run off on a tangent. The Boston Globe Article talks about the letting “gun buyers sidestep federal background checks” and of course the first thing that he mentions is gun shows (Lehigh. 2015). He tries to protect himself with the note of “purchasing from private dealers at gun shows” (Lehigh. 2015). What is sad is that this accounts for less than 0.7% or gun purchases (Olmstead. 2013). But it is one of the general reactions from the media and many democrats after a shooting like what occurred in Charleston, SC.
The Gun Show loophole is the biggest myth of the gun control debate. I have only been to three gun shows, I buy most my firearms from Cabela’s (Sorry Bass Pro and Gander Mountain) and Quantico Tactical. But of those I have been to, every booth was an FFL and required by law to conduct a background check for a firearms transaction. The only vendors who were not FFLs were selling holsters and other accessories or showcasing their shooting range.
The fear is that I show up at a gun show wanting to sell a gun. Rather than sell it to a vendor, I run into a private citizen willing to pay more than what I would get form the vendor. I make the sale with no background check. This is a private sale, that was facilitated by both buyer and seller being at the same gun show, but not a part of the gun show in any way. It should be telling that the gun control crowd still refers to this as a gun show loophole instead of a private sale loophole which is a much more accurate description of what they want to prohibit. The problem is that if you say private sale loophole, you cannot generate the same support that you could if you use the much more menacing “Gun Show” term.
The other transaction he hopes to prohibit are gun sales over the internet. What they leave out is that all online gun sales must either be done in person (another private sale) of if all transactions are done online, the gun must be shipped to an FFL before being released to the customer. So how do they propose to stop people from meeting in private to execute a sale?
What it comes down to is that the only way to enforce any kind of gun transaction from happening is to require registration, and a reoccurring validation that a firearm remains in your possession. How on earth is a government going to enforce this? And is the criminal who illegally possesses a firearm going to show up to register their gun?
Here is the best part. Lehigh states that “All the presidential candidates, certainly, should be queried about whether they support measures to keep guns out of the hands of the criminally or violently inclined and the mentally ill.” Who in their right mind would not support this? But what it comes down to is that our methods of accomplishing it. None of the proposals he set forth would prevent criminals from getting guns. It is already illegal for these people to possess guns. What this does is set up additional legal traps that will turn law abiding citizens into criminals.
Regardless, the Charleston shooter passed a background check (he should not have). He went to a store, not a gun show or an online vendor or some guy on the street. This means that the purchase occurred before his arrest and the information of his pending charge was entered into the NICS system. There is also a report that Roof’s father bought him a gun as a gift, knowing he was facing charges. This means that the straw purchase took place. A quick search of Google and Bing does not show any reference to an arrest or charges for the father making a straw purchase, i.e. the gift he gave his son who was barred from owning a gun for his previous arrests “on charges of trespassing and drug possession” (Warren. 2015). The Washington Post even goes further and says this is a legal Loophole. The Author invalidates his argument when he states that “If prosecutors can show that the father knew about Roof’s indictment but gave him the gun anyway, Roof’s father could face up to 10 years in prison” (Guo. 2015). Are we to assume the father did not know that his son had pending felony charges? This is not a loophole. This is a straw purchase which is already illegal.
This gets to the frustration gun rights proponents have any time we hear calls for more restrictive gun laws. Why do we not enforce the laws we have, and why do you constantly call for laws to address things that are already illegal? Why are gun charges always pleaded away? If we actually enforced our gun laws, prosecuted those who illegally obtain guns, and those who knowingly sell to them, and we could show that it was still was failing, maybe then we could talk about our failed gun system.
Lehigh, Scot (2015) After Charleston, voters must demand new gun laws. Boston Globe, Boston, MA http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/06/23/after-charleston-voters-must-demand-new-gun-laws/AkTI6dvy7hQMVmCfn2L2DM/story.html
Olmsted, J. Scott (2013) Where criminals get their guns. Washington, D.C. The Daily Caller http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/11/where-criminals-get-their-guns/
Warren, Lydia (2015) Friends of suspected race-hate killer, 21, reveal he’s a pill popper who got a gun for his birthday, wears apartheid flags and has a Confederate license plate. London, UK. The Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3129887/Dylann-Roof-21-suspected-murdering-nine-race-hate-church-crime-got-gun-birthday-arrested-twice-year-drug-trespassing-charges.html
Guo, Jeff (2015) The legal loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun. Washington D.C. The Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/06/18/the-legal-loophole-that-allowed-dylann-roof-to-get-a-gun/
Updated 30 October 2016 for grammar.