Reduce Gun Violence By Regulating Gun Dealers. What Else Is New?


              Last week a lawsuit that was filed in Chicago in 2018 was given the green light to proceed in the Federal courts which could possibly provide a new and different approach to reducing gun violence beyond what has now become a rather hackneyed and useless argument about how gun violence is a ‘public health threat.’

              The suit names the Governor of Illinois and the Illinois State Police as defendants. It claims they are violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) because gun violence in Chicago creates emotional trauma that is responsible for ‘trauma-related disabilities’ in children, chief among them being cognitive and emotional functions which control learning and the ability to communicate properly with other kids. It’s a class-action suit brought by the mother of a 9-year old boy who saw his father gunned down in the street, and includes many other children living in what can only be described as Chicago’s war zone; i.e., the neighborhoods that have seen over 500 murders this year alone.

              The suit names the Governor and the State Police as defendants because it argues that the gun violence which violates the ADA is the result of lax enforcement of the laws that cover the behavior of gun retailers around Chicago, thus resulting in guns that are first sold legally but then trafficked illegally into the neighborhoods where so many shootings take place. The suit lists 11 remedies that should be instituted in licensed gun shops, including the installation of video systems, inventory audits and more training of store personnel.

              This lawsuit builds on a state law, ‘Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act,’ which took effect at the beginning of this year and requires all gun dealers in Illinois to install security systems, keep more comprehensive records of sales and submit to annual inventory audits, as well as only hiring staff who are licensed to own guns. The lawsuit basically claims that the state government and the state police have been lax in enforcing this new law, the proof cited is the extraordinary level of gun violence on the Windy City’s streets.

              The problem with this lawsuit is that it assumes a causal connection between how well the government fulfills its regulatory responsibilities as listed in the law which took effect at the beginning of this year and the level of gun violence which occurs on the West Side and South Side of Chicago every day. In other words, if gun violence continues at its current horrific pace, this must be somehow tied to lax enforcement of the new law. The lawsuit cites data which shows that 40% of the ‘crime guns’ picked up by the Chicago P.D. were first purchased in gun shops located in suburbs around the city; hence, with stronger enforcement this flow of guns into high-crime neighborhoods would go down.

              Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. Like so many other laws which seek to prevent a specific commodity from reaching a specific market, the Illinois gun dealer law doesn’t take into account the issue of demand. And as governments have discovered since the sixteenth century when the Valois Monarchy tried to regulate the commerce of salt, if people want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to get around any law which tries to control supply.

              This is the reason that I refer above to the ‘hackneyed’ arguments about gun violence being bandied about by my friends in public health. Because again and again I hear the gun-control community demanding that we enact stronger laws to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ But what if the size of the wrong-handed population keeps going up?

              As long as songs like ‘Bullets Ain’t Got No Name’ are best-sellers on the hip-hop charts, the idea that guns will somehow disappear from high-violence neighborhoods because we pass another regulation is not only a joke, but demonstrates just how far away from reality the discussion about gun violence has moved.

              Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the you-know-whats, okay?

Lawyers Take On Gun Violence – Will It Make A Difference?

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I’m not an expert or even a novice on what I know about America’s legal profession, but when firms like Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Arnold & Porter and Covington & Burling announce that they are joining forces to tackle a legal issue, it’s worth my time to figure out what’s going on.  And when these firms and a bunch of other legal powerhouses announce that the issue they want to pursue is gun violence, then it’s something I need to understand.  And what better way to understand what’s going on than a long and detailed article in The New York Times which says these firms are committing “tens of millions of dollars in free legal services” to aid the gun violence prevention community (GVP) in its efforts to reduce the annual carnage caused by America’s love affair with guns.

lawyers             Predictably, Gun-nut Nation immediately responded to this announcement by accusing the lead Arnold & Porter attorney, Michael Schissel, of “lying through his teeth” in an interview with NPR because he wouldn’t admit that his real reason for getting involved was to help his firm get “rich off frivolous lawsuits” that would be filed once his firm helped dispose of the gun-immunity law known as PLCAA. And to prove just how much the gun industry doesn’t need any more anti-gun lawyers poking around, the whine about Schissel mentioned the sad case of Stag Arms whose owner was barred from the industry for life simply because he couldn’t provide the ATF with documentation about a pile of full-automatic assault guns.  We’re not talking about the semi-automatic assault rifles which Stag manufactures in boatloads every month.  We’re talking about weapons where you pull the trigger one time and the gun barks roughly ten times per second until all the ammo is used up.

Of course what the new legal alliance is facing isn’t some small fry in Connecticut who forgot to do the paperwork on his machine guns.  What they are really facing is the power and authority of the Executive branch of the Federal government whose new occupant better not forget the television ads that NRA ran during his Presidential campaign. I find it interesting, incidentally, that there was absolutely no mention of anything having to do with the 2nd Amendment in the hundred-day agenda that Trump released back in October when he delivered his version of the Gettysburg Address. And what really concerns me in this respect was the statement coming out of the new legal coalition formed to help reduce gun violence that their effort “was not aimed at eroding gun rights.”

The problem with this approach on the part of advocates for GVP is that the statement simply flies in the face of reality, or at least the reality of gun ownership as it is understood by most people who own guns.  Take, for example, the surveys which show a majority of gun owners and even NRA members allegedly supporting the extension of FBI-NICS background checks. Yet none of those surveys ever ask these same NRA members how they feel about the NRA’s explicit rejection of any additional background checks at all.  I can guarantee you that if those same NRA members had to choose between supporting background checks and supporting the NRA, the folks in Fairfax would get their money and their votes.

The search by this new legal coalition to identify and speak to all those ‘responsible’ gun owners reminds me of all those ‘responsible’ Republicans who were going to desert the party and vote for Hillary because they just couldn’t accept the rantings and ravings of this new guy named Trump.  Know what happened to all those ‘responsible’ Republicans when they walked into the voting booth on November 8th? They voted the way they always voted, which is exactly what will happen if gun owners have to choose between gun regulations drawn up by liberals (and their attorneys) or the protection of the NRA.

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