The Wrong Questions
“Is there any law which would have prevented Sandy Hook?” This oft-repeated question is just a narrow-minded effort to rebuke gun laws which were strengthened last year here in Connecticut. Of course there isn’t ONE law to prevent all gun crimes. In the case of Sandy Hook, there was a woman who provided firearms to her son. Many gun owners give guns to their kids and teach them gun safety, as did Nancy Lanza. She apparently didn’t know what he was planning. Did not foresee the horror and tragedy he would inflict on an entire nation, but especially on their town. So when someone says what law would prevent Sandy Hook, the answer is, in America, no law. Because the only law to prevent that particular tragedy, is one that would remove the right of morbidly stupid and irresponsible, but otherwise law-abiding citizens, like Nancy Lanza to own guns, and our right to own guns is protected by the Constitution, regardless of stupidity, ignorance or irresponsibility. But Sandy Hook is not the only incidence of gun violence in America.
Another common refrain is that gun laws only affect responsible gun-owners, because criminals don’t obey the law anyway. Unfortunately not every gun death is at the hand of a criminal. 100,000 people are shot in America every year. Eight children are killed by guns in America every day – often by people who probably consider themselves responsible gun owners, leaving a loaded gun where they didn’t think a child could get to it. That’s not an accident, and we should stop treating irresponsible gun ownership that results in the death of a child as anything less than murder. Imagine if we learned that Iran was murdering eight American children every day. We would be collectively outraged, and immediately declare war to protect our children. But it’s not Iran. And it’s not always a criminal. It’s just us.
Some people seem to want to head in the direction of lawlessness and vigilante justice. Maybe they’ve watched too many episodes of The Walking Dead. I don’t know. I do know that when Americans threaten to cause “State-provoked chaos and violence” because they disagree with the way America works (laws are passed, courts determine if they are constitutional) they are guilty of the one crime actually defined in the Constitution – treason, the act of taking up arms against the State. Maybe they haven’t gotten to that part yet.
While there is no one law that would magically prevent the scourge of gun violence gripping our nation, there does exist a series of laws that would drastically reduce gun deaths in America. And yes, on that list are the very laws enacted by the state of Connecticut last year. I have written about this before, and I will do it again. So while it’s not ONE law, it is most definitely a step in the right direction. For most of us, anyway.
The Best Plan to Reduce Gun Violence in America
The following is from Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick. It came about through a symposium at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
One month—to the hour—after the harrowing and unfathomable massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, Johns Hopkins University convened a summit that brought together preeminent researchers on gun violence from across the country and around the world. This was a moment when advocates, lobbyists, and politicians on both sides of the gun-control debate were beginning to mobilize and spar. In this unruly mix, Johns Hopkins seized the opportunity to discharge a critical role of research universities and provided principled scaffolding for the debate. We wanted to use the opportunity to cut through the din of the shrill and the incendiary, the rancorous and the baseless, and provide rigorous, research-based considerations of the most effective gun regulations and the appropriate balance between individual rights and civic obligation.
Fix the background check system by doing the following:
- Establish a universal background check system, which would require a background check for all persons purchasing a firearm (with an exception for inheritance transfers).
- Facilitate all sales through a federally licensed gun dealer. This would have the effect of mandating the same record keeping for all firearm transfers.
- Increase the maximum amount of time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 to 10 business days.
- Require all firearm own ers to report the theft or loss of their firearm within 72 hours of becoming aware of its loss.
- Subject even those persons who have a license to carry a firearm, permit to purchase, or other firearm permit to a background check when purchasing a firearm.
Prohibiting High-Risk Individuals from Purchasing Guns
Expand the conditions for firearm purchase:
- Persons convicted of a violent misdemeanor would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 15 years.
- Persons who committed a violent crime as a juvenile would be prohibited from firearm purchase until 30 years of age.
- Persons convicted of two or more crimes involving drugs or alcohol within a three-year period would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 10 years.
- Persons convicted of a single drug-trafficking offense would be prohibited from gun purchase.
- Persons determined by a judge to be a gang member would be prohibited from gun purchase.
- Establish a minimum of 21 years of age for handgun purchase or possession.
- Persons who have violated a restraining order issued due to the threat of violence (including permanent, temporary and emergency) would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.
- Persons with temporary restraining orders filed against them for violence or threats of violence would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.
- Persons who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.
- Focus federal restrictions on gun purchases by persons with serious mental illness on the dangerousness of the individual.
- Fully fund federal incentives for states to provide information about disqualifying mental health conditions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun buyers.
Trafficking and Dealer Licensing
- A permanent director for ATF should be appointed and confirmed.
- ATF should be required to provide adequate resources to inspect and otherwise engage in oversight of federally licensed gun dealers.
- Restrictions imposed under the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act limiting ATF to one routine inspection of gun dealers per year should be repealed.
- The provisions of the Firearm Own ers’ Protection Act which raise the evidentiary standard for prosecuting dealers who make unlawful sales should be repealed.
- ATF should be granted authority to develop a range of sanctions for gun dealers who violate gun sales or other laws.
- The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, providing gun dealers and manufacturers protection from tort liability, should be repealed.
- Federal restrictions on access to firearms trace data, other than those associated with ongoing criminal investigations, should be repealed.
- Federal law mandating reporting of multiple sales of handguns should be expanded to include long guns.
- Adequate penalties are needed for violations of the above provisions.
- Congress should provide financial incentives to states to mandate childproof or personalized guns.
- The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission should be granted authority to regulate the safety of firearms and ammunition as consumer products.
- Ban the future sale of assault weapons, incorporating a more carefully crafted definition to reduce the risk—compared with the 1994 ban—that the law would be easily evaded.
- Ban the future sale and possession of large-capacity (greater than 10 rounds) ammunition magazines.
- The federal government should provide funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Justice adequate to understand the causes and solutions of gun violence, commensurate with its impact on the public’s health and safety.
- The Surgeon General of the United States should produce a regular report on the state of the problem of gun violence in America and progress toward solutions.