A Modest Proposal For How To Expand Background Checks.


Now that the Senate is trying to come up with some kind of law that will enable everyone to say we are safer than before a young man who claimed ISIS sympathies shot 49 people in an Orlando club, I’d like to offer a modest proposal that might make a difference in whether any new gun regulation will have the desired effect.  And the desired effect in this case is to keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands; i.e., the hands of suspected terrorists, whatever that means.

And the reason I say ‘whatever that means’ is that to be suspected is one thing, to have it proven is something else.  Which is known as ‘due process,’ a very important legal protection that might take a real shellacking in this particular case.  Because as I understand it, the government will be able to deprive someone from being able to buy a gun just by putting their name on some kind of ‘watch list,’ a process that will take place in a secret court.

ar           Adam Winkler, whose book on the Heller decision is now required reading by everyone on both sides of the gun debate, claims that this process wouldn’t deprive anyone of their Constitutional protections because it’s no different than what happens now when the government goes into court for approval to wiretap your phone.  But it is different because even if the FBI listens to my rantings on the telephone, I can still get off the phone, leave my house and go out to buy a gun. And since buying that gun is currently another Constitutional ‘right,’ which Constitutional protection should disappear first?

So I have a modest proposal that I somehow hope will be considered by all the lawmakers who are discussing this issue right now.  I also hope it will be considered by lawmakers who will be considering an expansion of background checks to cover private sales, which is another amendment to the bill that was offered by Senator Chris Murphy last night.  And finally, I hope my modest proposal will be considered by the vast galaxy of pundits and influencers who are all offering their own ideas for what to do, along with the public health researchers and legal scholars who are also weighing in on the issue at hand.  Note, by the way, that I don’t care whether Street Thug Trump or the NRA read what I have to say; Donald’s getting his hair in place for a fictitious Manhattan fundraiser that’s not going to raise him millions of bucks, and the NRA is getting ready for whatever they are getting ready for, as long as it involves some disparaging remarks about Hillary, gun-grabbers, so on and so forth.

It seems to me that just saying that we want to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ is putting the veritable cart ahead of the veritable horse.  Because the real question that we should be asking is: what kinds of guns? The Orlando shooter would never have walked into The Pulse with a bolt-action rifle like a Remington 700, or a semi-auto hunting rifle like a BAR.  For that matter, he also wouldn’t have showed up with a pump or semi-auto shotgun because, like the guns mentioned above, none of these weapons would have allowed him to get off multiple shots in the few minutes it took him to create mayhem inside the club.

If background checks were required only for all transfers of assault-style rifles and concealable handguns, this would cover the weapons that are probably responsible for 95% of the gun injuries which occur every year.  Less guns that require regulation would also make it easier for the regulators to do a more effective job. And while the ATF is certainly not going to relinquish an inch of their regulatory authority without putting up a fight, what we really don’t want is another Orlando-type massacre because another suspected something-or-other slipped through the cracks.


Glenn Kessler Checks Chris Murphy’s Facts And Gets It All Wrong.

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Just when it appears that the Senate may do the right thing and actually vote some kind of gun law, we are treated to an attempt by, of all publications, The Washington Post, to cast aspersions on the chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Chris Murphy, by subjecting his comments about gun violence and AR-15s to the so-called ‘fact checking’ process conducted by Glenn Kessler, who often writes for WaPo about guns.  I have had differences with Kessler in the past, but this particular effort reveals him to be a liar or a jerk or both, and if Jeff Bezos ever decides to throw Kessler out, he can run right down to Fairfax and work for the NRA.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Kessler begins by taking Murphy to task for saying that states with more gun-control regulations have less homicides, and since Murphy referred to gun ‘homicides’ and not overall gun deaths, his statement, according to Kessler, contained ‘significant factual errors.’  And the great error, according to Kessler, is that by linking gun-control laws to homicides, Senator Murphy completely overlooked the fact that some states, particularly the Western states, have few gun laws and few homicides, but have higher rates of suicide.

To state, as Kessler does, that Murphy’s linkage between gun control and homicides is not factually based is a disingenuous and underhanded way of casting doubt on the value of gun regulations in general, hence, should cast doubt on Murphy’s current attempt to strengthen gun laws.  Hey Glenn, let’s cut the bullshit, okay? There is no doubt that states with stiffer gun laws tend to have lower rates of gun homicides and gun violence in general, and the fact that Western states have lax gun laws and few gun homicides is basically irrelevant because Western states, in case you want to take the trouble to check, also don’t have many people.  So in the overall scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter what the gun violence rate is in Idaho or Montana, understand?  No, of course Kessler won’t understand.

Kessler’s second attempt to smear Murphy is to cast doubt on his claim that there has been a ‘massive’ increase in mass shootings since the assault-weapons ban ended in 2004. This claim is also judged by Kessler as containing significant errors, or to quote Kessler, ‘problematic.’  And what does Kessler reference to disparage Murphy’s statement about the use of assault rifles in mass shootings?  A report published that covered all mass shootings between 1976 and 2011 which found that assault rifles were only used in 25% of mass shootings whereas handguns were the weapons of choice in nearly two-thirds of these attacks.

I’m going to spend a little more in responding to Kessler’s stupid and nonsensical garbage because, obviously, the issue of assault rifles is in the forefront of the current debate. In fact (hey Glenn, note the use of the word ‘fact’) the report used by Kessler defines a ‘mass shooting’ as any incident resulting in the death of four or more people, most of which happen to have been family-connected, domestic events. What in God’s name do such events have to do with gunning down 70 people in a movie theater, or 26 people in a public school, or 100 people in a club?  Nothing.  And guess what weapon accounted for almost 100 deaths at Aurora, Sandy Hook and Orlando?  Furthermore, Kessler’s ‘evidence’ aggregates data beginning in 1976.  Hey schmuck, did it ever occur to you that AR-15 rifles weren’t even sold on the commercial market until 1980 and didn’t become popular until the 1990s?

In writing about guns, I try to maintain a relatively civil and respectful tone, even when I am confronted by something that comes out of one of the crazy mouths representing Gun-nut Nation (read: NRA.) So I apologize for the tone of these remarks.  But my apology is aimed at my readers and not at Kessler or his employer.  His attack on Senator Murphy is shabby journalism at its worst – the absolute worst.