Category Archives: guns

Guns, Guns, and More Guns

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So reads the second amendment to the constitution. The ambiguity of the construction of the sentence has been a cause of disagreement for centuries. Some view the amendment to give carte blanche to gun ownership, that is, anybody can own any kind of firearm. The other end of the extreme think that it only allows for the formation of organized state militias.

The reality of the courts’ decisions lie somewhere in between these extremes. Most can possess a gun but not all. Guns can be restricted from some locations but not all. Some kinds of guns can be owned but not all.

There is probably no better example of why there must be a final arbiter of what is the meaning of the words strung together in the constitution, it’s amendments, and laws. It doesn’t matter what you or I may think those words mean. It only matters what at least five members of the supreme court think. Their decisions become the law of the land, but even those decisions aren’t static. As the membership of the court changes so may the legal interpretations change.

Equally interesting are the changes to gun ownership. An obvious trend is that every time we have a mass murderer in the news, and every time there are discussions of gun safety, gun sales spike upwards as some fear that they won’t have access to a gun in the future. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives recognizes that we now have more guns than people in the United States.

Does that mean every man, woman, and child has a gun? Of course not. NORC at the University Chicago recently did a study which produced some interesting results. Paradoxically, at the same time the total number of guns in the country is increasing, the number of households with one or more guns is decreasing! More and more guns are held by fewer and fewer people.

This has be attributed in the main to fewer hunters. In 1977 someone in 32 % of households hunted. By 2014 that number had been cut in half to 15 %. This follows the demographic change of increasing urbanization. Fewer and fewer people live a rural life which favors hunting for sport or filling the larder.

Gun ownership by region of the country is unsurprising. Most guns are in the old south because, well, the old south. Sparsely populated Rocky Mountain region was next with the heavily populated mid Atlantic region at the bottom with the fewest households with guns.

Apparently the more money you have the more likely you are to own a gun as there is a straight line correlation between household income and gun ownership. Finally the gender gap for gun ownership is narrowing. Even as total gun ownership by household goes down, the share of guns owned by women is going up.

Not More Guns, More Gun Safety

Once again we’re anguished over a seemingly senseless mass murder. Well, this time it’s not senseless but obviously racist. And just like every other time, gun control comes up followed immediately by calls that “now is not the time to talk about gun control.” We shouldn’t have the discussion because we are too emotional at this time. We need time to heal before making tough decisions. We shouldn’t politicize the grief of the bereaved.

The same refrain followed Columbine, the Sikh temple, Aurora, Newtown, and now the Charleston AME Church.

The gun manufacturers lobby, essentially the NRA, has sufficient clout that the Democratic party has about given up on the discussion. And yet a conservative website screams “Charleston shooting may trigger Obama gun grab.” I suspect just like the past sales of guns and ammunition will increase in the near term as the terminally paranoid feel the need for more weaponry. So be it.

It is time for the talk. It is way past time to talk about some modicum of tightening the access to guns of those who don’t deserve to have them. Neither those with a violent criminal past nor the mentally ill should have access to guns, but loop holes in the law allow that access. It is estimated that 40% of all gun transfers occur through private hands where no background check is required. Our most recent killer Dylann Roof, got his gun as a birthday present from his father. It is illegal for a private entity to transfer a gun to a felon or one under indictment for a felony unless the seller is unaware. No problem – don’t ask, don’t tell.

That is a loop hole worthy of Paul Bunyan’s belt. But it is one that could be easily fixed legislatively. Simply outlaw private gun sales. If you want to sell a gun, you sell it to a licensed gun dealer. If you want to buy a gun, you buy it from a licensed gun dealer after a background check. If you want to give a gun as a gift, give them a gift card to a licensed gun dealer. See that wasn’t so hard, was it? Is it an inconvenience, yes, but so is maintaining the brakes on your car or attaching your toilet to a sanitary sewage system.

Consider the analogy of handling of potent, potentially dangerous prescription drugs. We have through our laws agreed that the distribution of them must be tightly regulated. Just because I have a script for an opiate and therefore can legally possess the same, it doesn’t mean I can sell them to my neighbor.

There are so many guns out in circulation now that it will take some time to have an impact on the use of guns in violent crimes but it will help. And of course we can’t expect perfection. We can’t expect that all violent crime with guns will stop, but we can expect a reduction.

Nothing herein would violate that oh-so-poorly-worded 2nd amendment. In fact it would serve to improve on the “well regulated” part that is so often ignored. Once again we’re anguished over a seemingly senseless mass murder. Well, this time it’s not senseless but obviously racist. And just like every other time, gun control comes up followed immediately by calls that “now is not the time to talk about gun control.” We shouldn’t have the discussion because we are too emotional at this time. We need time to heal before making tough decisions. We shouldn’t politicize the grief of the bereaved.

The same refrain followed Columbine, the Sikh temple, Aurora, Newtown, and now the Charleston AME Church.

The gun manufacturers lobby, essentially the NRA, has sufficient clout that the Democratic party has about given up on the discussion. And yet a conservative website screams “Charleston shooting may trigger Obama gun grab.” I suspect just like the past sales of guns and ammunition will increase in the near term as the terminally paranoid feel the need for more weaponry. So be it.

It is time for the talk. It is way past time to talk about some modicum of tightening the access to guns of those who don’t deserve to have them. Neither those with a violent criminal past nor the mentally ill should have access to guns, but loop holes in the law allow that access. It is estimated that 40% of all gun transfers occur through private hands where no background check is required. Our most recent killer Dylann Roof, got his gun as a birthday present from his father. It is illegal for a private entity to transfer a gun to a felon or one under indictment for a felony unless the seller is unaware. No problem – don’t ask, don’t tell.

That is a loop hole worthy of Paul Bunyan’s belt. But it is one that could be easily fixed legislatively. Simply outlaw private gun sales. If you want to sell a gun, you sell it to a licensed gun dealer. If you want to buy a gun, you buy it from a licensed gun dealer after a background check. If you want to give a gun as a gift, give them a gift card to a licensed gun dealer. See that wasn’t so hard, was it? Is it an inconvenience, yes, but so is maintaining the brakes on your car or attaching your toilet to a sanitary sewage system.

Consider the analogy of handling of potent, potentially dangerous prescription drugs. We have through our laws agreed that the distribution of them must be tightly regulated. Just because I have a script for an opiate and therefore can legally possess the same, it doesn’t mean I can sell them to my neighbor.

There are so many guns out in circulation now that it will take some time to have an impact on the use of guns in violent crimes but it will help. And of course we can’t expect perfection. We can’t expect that all violent crime with guns will stop, but we can expect a reduction.

Nothing herein would violate that oh-so-poorly-worded 2nd amendment. In fact it would serve to improve on the “well regulated” part that is so often ignored.