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Why Do I Own Guns? Because I Like To Own Guns.

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I bought my first real gun in Florida when I was 12 years old.  A beautiful Smith & Wesson 38. Got it in a flea market somewhere on Highway 441.  Owned that gun for about 30 minutes until my Uncle Nat took it away from me and probably hocked it the next day.  He was right.  What the hell was a twelve-year old kid doing walking around with a gun?

 

              Star 30-M

Star 30-M

This purchase began a life-long addiction to guns which continues to this day.  Or at least until yesterday, when I walked into Dave’s Gun Shop and bought a Star Model 30M, a heavy, all-steel pistol that holds 15 rounds.  Why did I buy the gun?  Because I wanted to buy a gun.  Why does my wife buy shoes?  Because she likes shoes.

If I were a typical gun guy, I would tell you that I bought this gun because it’s good for self-defense.  I don’t often, if ever, carry a gun. Guns are lying around the house but none are close enough to be grabbed up if an intruder were to suddenly burst through the door, but I know that owning a gun makes me safer, which is why I bought the gun.

Actually, that’s not true.  I didn’t go into a gun shop yesterday because I was thinking about my personal safety. I didn’t walk up to the counter, take one look at that Star pistol and decide that this gun would protect me from crime. I certainly didn’t for one second imagine that buying that gun would somehow make me ‘free.’  I bought the gun because I wanted to buy a gun.

This may have been the third time I owned this gun.  I had a Star 30M back in the mid-90’s; sold it to some guy in my gun shop who then sold it back because he needed a set of tires for his truck; sold it later to another guy who probably at some point traded it at Dave’s shop where it was sitting when I made it mine.  You don’t see a Star 30M all that often, and it’s not as if the gun, or any gun for that matter, ever wears out. If this gun had been picked up at a crime scene instead of being sold to me, the ATF trace would show that the gun went into private hands somewhere around 1995.  But it went into private hands and then back into an FFL inventory at least two more times over the intervening twenty years.  So much for the value of ATF traces and as well as the nonsensical discussions about Time to Crime.

On the NRA website, Wayne LaPierre tells the NRA membership that “nothing would make us more vulnerable to generations of suffering and slaughter than the destruction of our 2nd Amendment.”  There’s about as much reality behind this statement as the idea that I bought that Star pistol to protect myself from crime.  I live in a White, middle class neighborhood – if anyone ever tried to break into my house it would probably be my drunk neighbor who thought he had come home and forgot his keys.

I have personally owned, bought and sold, probably 500 guns over the course of my lifetime, and I can say that in all those transactions going back to 1956, I never once asked myself why I needed any particular gun. But if someone were to ask me why I bought and sold all those guns, I might rattle off something about crime, or terrorism, or my Constitutional ‘rights.’ After all, I have to come up with some kind of answer, and it’s not as if people who don’t like guns can offer me a clue.

In crafting sensible solutions to gun violence, my friends in the GVP community have to understand that any new law will force me to somehow change this impulsive habit.  And when was the last time you stayed on that low carbs diet?

 

 

 

 

Does Time To Crime Help Us Understand How Guns Get Into The ‘Wrong Hands?’ I Don’t Think So.

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Ever since the NICS system went fully operational in 1998, gun-control advocates have been pushing to expand background checks beyond the original countertop sale.  And while it’s arguable, to say the least, that 40% of all gun transfers take place outside of the NICS background check process, there’s no denying the fact that regulating the movement of firearms throughout the civilian marketplace means, by definition, that less guns would get into the ‘wrong hands.’  In the meantime, however, the lack of comprehensive background checks has also spawned a series of assumptions about how and why guns end up being used in crime, and these assumptions then lead to policy strategies whose effectiveness, as far as I can tell, would be questionable at best.

nics                The biggest assumption flowing from the patchwork NICS system is the notion that guns end up in the ‘wrong hands’ because of something called ‘straw sales;’ i.e., someone who can pass muster with NICS buys a gun for someone who can’t, or someone sells a firearm to someone else who is prohibited under law from owning a gun. Another corollary that runs along the same line is the notion that many crime guns come out of the inventories of a relatively few rogue dealers who consciously furnish these weapons to so-called ‘gun traffickers’ who then set up shop on a gang-infested street.  This leads to the third corollary, namely, that states with weak gun laws (read: the South) are the spores out of which all these straw sales and gun-trafficked weapons initially emerge, then to be carted off and resold in gun-tough states like New York and other parts of the Northeast.

Much of this evidence about how, why, when and where crime guns appear comes from those folks who are responsible for regulating gun commerce, a.k.a. the ATF.  The agency publishes an annual report on a state-by-state basis which shows how long it takes for a gun originally sold by a federally-licensed dealer to wind up in the street.  This process is known as Time To Crime (or TTC), and the average for all 50 states is somewhere around 11 years.  Consequently, when the ATF notices that a particular dealer has a TTC of two years or less, there’s a good chance that this shop is somehow involved in straw selling, gun trafficking, or both.  Let me break the news to you gently: If I had a nickel for every piece of research that has been published on the utility of TTC as a way to cut down on guns ending up in the wrong hands, I’d be sitting in Zelo’s in Monaco instead of the diner near my house which has a hot spot that I’m using while I write this piece.

I hate to break the news to the ATF and the gun-control advocates who rely on the ATF to help formulate their strategies for regulating guns, but the TTC data published by the ATF doesn’t explain anything about the movement of guns from legal to illegal hands.  The trace request received by the dealer is based on the date that the wholesaler shipped him the gun.  So the data which comprises a TTC dealer profile is based on the first time a particular gun was sold.  In most gun shops, upwards of 40% of the guns that are sold (and for which a NICS check is conducted) happen to be used guns.  I sold more than 12,000 guns in my shop and I can tell you that I often sold the same gun two or three times.  But if I received a trace request for that gun, my response would be based only on the earliest, initial sale.

If the average gun dealer sells 30-40 percent used guns, there’s a 30-40 percent chance that the ATF trace will not be a reliable indicator of when that particular gun started moving from legal to illegal hands. Want to base public policy and advocacy on those odds?  You go right ahead.

 

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