What To Solve Gun Violence? Get Rid Of All Gun Laws.

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Today’s Trace contains a very important and must-read article by the Armed With Reason crowd, a.k.a. Evan DeFillippis and Devin Hughes, concerning the single, most hot-button issue in the gun debate.  I am referring to whether it makes any difference whether we regulate guns, since gun violence is mostly the handiwork of criminals and criminals don’t follow laws.  Of course the NRA would never be so brazen as to publicly promote the idea that guns shouldn’t be regulated at all.  What they do instead is to go through the back door by saying that when guns are used by ‘good guys,’ criminals fear to tread; hence, we should make it as easy as possible for all the good guys to get their hands on guns.  And since the only thing that criminals understand is a good, swift kick, let’s punish gun-wielding criminals as quickly and harshly as possible and let everyone else enjoy unfettered 2nd-Amendment rights.

Evan and Devin take issue with this nonsense by pointing out right at the beginning of their well-researched essay that there’s a difference between how criminals react to strong laws as opposed to how they react to weak laws or no laws at all.  And the fact that most states have little or no legal barriers to the bad guys acquiring guns isn’t an argument for refusing to enact or strengthen current gun laws.

A perfect example of this false argument proferred by the gun industry is their opposition to expanded NICS background checks.  Since every gun is initially purchased by a law-abiding consumer, you would think that creating a system of secondary background checks would be a no-brainer when it comes to keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  But expanding background checks to private transfers means, if nothing else, expanding regulations per se.  And while Evan and Devin cite multiple studies which show that qualifying people to own guns invariably leads to less gun violence and less gun crime, the gun industry can always point to this or that example of someone like Vester Flanagan in Virginia who passed a background check and still committed mayhem with a gun.

chris2                I can actually absolve The Donald for pandering to his red-meat audience by saying that we don’t need any more gun laws because he’s never been a public official responsible for enforcing any laws at all. But when Bridgegate Christie negates the need for gun laws and ascribes New Jersey’s low gun violence rate to the fact that he’s a tough governor, he’s simply saying something that’s not true. In fact, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Jersey an A- rating on its gun laws, one of only 6 states to achieve this grade.  Christie can pretend to be as tough as he wants, but he happens to be enforcing some pretty strict laws.

After Dick Heller and his attorneys got the Supreme Court to rule that the 2nd Amendment gave citizens the right to keep a loaded handgun in their home for self-defense, Heller went back into Court and challenged what he considered to be the overly-restrictive licensing process that was put into place. The District of Columbia argued that their licensing regulations were necessary in order to help keep guns out of the wrong hands, but this argument was challenged by none other than Gary Kleck who stated in his deposition that “only the law-abiding will register their guns.”  To which the Federal District Court, in rejecting this argument “with prejudice” responded: “According to Plaintiffs, it seems, municipalities should be limited to enacting only those firearms regulations that lawbreakers will obey – a curious argument that would render practically any gun laws unconstitutional.”

You got that one right.  The strategy of the NRA is exactly to make all gun laws unconstitutional.  Such efforts and the stupidity they reflect are illuminated by the clear and forceful research of DeFillipis and Hughes.  As I said at the beginning, this is a must read.



Since Flanagan Bought His Glock Legally, Why Have Background Checks At All?

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In case you didn’t know it, there’s absolutely no reason to pass laws regulating guns. Want to know why?  Because criminals don’t obey laws.  And since the only people who use guns in ways they shouldn’t be used are criminals, what’s the point of passing more gun laws, right?

The idea that gun laws are a useless response to gun violence doesn’t come from me.  It doesn’t even come from the NRA.  It comes from the place that has tried to pass all kinds of gun laws the last few years, namely, the White House.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s today’s headline from the NRA-ILA website:  “White House concedes new gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Virginia gunman.” The headline links to a story in the Washington Times that quotes WH Press Secretary Josh Earnest that background checks wouldn’t (and didn’t) stop gunman Vester Flanagan from legally purchasing two Glocks and using one of them to fatally gun down Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

flanagan                Now the truth is that the ability of Vester Flanagan or anyone else to purchase a gun and use it to commit mayhem has absolutely nothing to do with whether guns should be regulated at all.  But the NRA and its self-appointed messaging minions like John Lott are out there busily selling the idea that the reason we don’t need gun laws is that they don’t work.  Lott got out there the same day as the Virginia shooting and proclaimed that “virtually all” NICS background checks were “false-positives,” meaning that not only did the background check law not work properly, but worse, it deprived law-abiding people from being able to protect themselves with guns.

So I went to Lott’s website to see whether this comment had even the slightest bearing on the facts, because according to Brady and other gun-control organizations, including the ATF, NICS denials over the years have kept several million guns out of the wrong hands.  And here is Lott’s ‘evidence’ that ‘virtually all’ NICS transaction denials should have been allowed to proceed.  According to our intrepid gun researcher, there were 71,010 initial denials, of which 4,681 were referred to ATF field offices for further investigation, and the remaining 66,329 “did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after [further] review.”  Of the 4,681 referrals, the ATF reversed 572.  Lott doesn’t present a single bit of evidence for how many of the remaining 66,329 were reversed, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming that ‘virtually’ all NICS denials deprived law-abiding citizens from buying guns.

Further on, Lott makes brief mention about background checks conducted by what are called Point of Contact state agencies that utilize the NICS databases but conduct the background checks themselves.  In fact, the total number of POC background checks exceeds the number conducted by the FBI, which means that POC denials also probably exceed the denials that come from the FBI. If Lott is unaware of POC procedures, he shouldn‘t be writing about the regulatory system at all.  If he knows about what goes on in POC states and chooses to ignore it, then his claims about how NICS deprives ‘virtually all’ law-abiding citizens from getting guns is a conscious effort to state a case that isn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no fan of the ATF and my book, Gun Trafficking in America, is a study of how the ATF has screwed up big time since it first got into the gun regulatory business thanks to GCA68.  But it seems to me that if gun violence is going to be addressed honestly, then laws and regulations are tools that need to be evaluated in clear, evidence-based terms.  Given what I have written about the ATF, I would be the last person to criticize John Lott if he could back up his pronouncements on the inadequacy of NICS with solid data that makes sense. Or is the attack on NICS really a way to divert attention from engaging in a serious discussion about gun violence itself?

Why Did The Virginia Shooting Happen? It’s The Gun, Stupid. It’s the Gun.

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Yesterday I wrote that it would probably take a day for the NRA noise machine to ramp up and begin announcing that the shooting of the WDBJ reporters wouldn’t have happened if more good guys were walking around with guns.  I was wrong.  By 7 P.M. last night, Mad Dog John Lott was already on a radio show telling the audience that “dozens of mass shootings” had been stopped by armed citizens and that calls for expanded background checks were wrong because “virtually all the NICS denials were false-positives” in which the particular individual should have been able to buy a gun.

I listened to a tape of Lott’s interview this morning and it occurred to me that we seem to have moved past the point where the debate about gun violence bears any relationship to the facts.  The only study that I know about who stopped mass shootings was done by the FBI that covered 160 incidents between 2000 and 2013.  Know how many of these shootings ended because a gun-carrying civilian intervened?  One.  Lott has published papers which claim to find some kind of statistical correlation between mass shootings and issuance of concealed-carry permits, but the correlation between two data trends proves nothing at all. As for his claim that the NICS background-check system operates only to keep guns out of the ‘right’ hands, I’m no fan of the ATF or the NICS system, but Lott’s statement has absolutely no basis in truth.  I’m being polite.


 Glock 21

I want to make some comments about the video of the shooting that may be hard to take, but I’m trying to make a point.  The shooter, Vester Flanagan, walked up to Parker and Ward, who were interviewing and filming a local government official named Vicki Gardner.  Flanagan stood between his three victims, pointed a Glock at Parker, put the gun down and backed off, then raised the Glock and began to shoot.  By the 3rd or 4th shot the camera being held by Flanagan was no longer picking up any details of what was going on.  But I heard at least 14 shots.  And there was a pause between the first string of 7-8 discharges and then a second, more deliberate string of shots. Which means that Flanagan had a hi-cap gun, and he may have taken his time after the initial barrage to make sure that, deliberately and carefully, he could finish his victims off.   The video actually shows Parker running away after the first round went off but when you have a hi-cap mag it doesn’t really matter if you miss a few shots.

I hate to say it, but I think there’s no longer any reason why gun violence should be discussed in rational, normal terms.  Of course we should have “common-sense” gun laws to quote the White House; of course we all agree with Hillary that we need to “balance legitimate 2nd-Amendment rights with preventive measures” to reduce gun violence. But when someone can film himself mowing down three people, then upload the video to YouTube for the world to see, we’re not talking about whether guns help us or hurt us, we’re talking about a celebration of violence that simply should not exist in a civilized state.

When I joined the NRA shooting club at the age of twelve and punched 22-caliber holes in paper targets at my brother’s junior high school range, we never thought that what we were doing had any connection to protecting ourselves or harming anyone else.  When I sat in my deer stand deep in the woods in Colleton County, SC, read a book and wait for Bambi to come by, it never occurred to me that the Remington 700 sitting on my lap could be used for anything other than to bring home some game. Owning and using guns has become an issue of human life and death because we talk about guns in that way.  And the bottom line is that guns are a root cause of violence, no matter what the NRA says.

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