Monday, July 26, 2010

A "grand bargain" on guns ?

After many years of involvement with hunting and shooting, as well as following debates over gun control and gun rights, I think when you cut through all the smoke, there are four general pre-dispositions or political positions people have regarding guns. The main two we hear a lot about in the media, whether they are ever accurately described or reported, are: "pro-gun", and "anti-gun". As far as I can tell, being pro-gun means you believe guns are morally good things, regardless of place, political or social context, or who is allowed to have them. If criminals, terrorists, or mentally unstable people have them, the answer is to bring in more guns to the situation, simply arm the "good guys" more, rather than focus on restricting access to firearms for certain people. The result of putting this belief into law would be an increasing weaponization of more and more aspects of daily life.

Then there is being "anti-gun". This position is that guns are made to kill, thereby it is best to restrict them extremely or eliminate them from society, and only allow the military and police to have them. They are morally evil things as they are an instrument of death. They are used by murderers, terrorists, and unstable people to more effectively inflict harm. Parts of the Chicago and Washington, D.C. gun ordinances are anti-gun, as they seek to so severely restrict the use of firearms, through imposing significant extra costs and inconvenience for their use, in addition to background checks and licensing requirements. This position has in common with the "pro-gun" position that its judgement about the nature of guns cuts across time and space and social and political contexts. As an otherwise intelligent person told me recently when I consider guns a tool, but a powerful one that not anyone should be allowed to have : "Guns aren't a necessity, so they are not like a jackhammer or a drill".

Another is pro-gun control that is not anti-gun. This position views guns as dangerous to society if not properly regulated, but that guns are not in and of themsleves morally evil. While it is distinguished from being anti-gun, it also doesn't in particular see benefits to society from private firearms ownership and shooting sports. It is something you can personally choose to do as long as you follow the proper rules.

The position that I hold is to support a system which regulates private firearms ownership AND supports the shooting sports. This position is never discussed in the mainstream media. It recognizes that there can be dangers to society from private gun ownership that is poorly regulated, but also strongly supports shooting sports, especially hunting, as there are benefits to society from these activities.

This position forms a unique program, which I have been referring to as a "grand bargain" politically. It would require that advocates of stricter gun control support measures that help the shooting sports, such as money for shooting ranges, firearms safety education in the public schools, and affirmation of shooting sports as positive activities. In exchange, gun owners would have to actively support stricter gun control, or more accurately, regulations to keep guns from some people that shouldn't have them.

There is potentially a large constituency for this approach, and Minnesota is the place to try. We have a high firearms ownership and hunting participation rate, with a history of progressive politics. A large swath of gun owners here have pragmatic views about guns, aware of the satisfaction they gain from their proper use, as well as the death and mayhem guns can be used for in the wrong hands or from unsafe practices and storage.

Then the question is, what should be in the "grand bargain" ? On the "control" side, I'd say closing the gun show loophole is a no-brainer, strong state authority to close crooked gun dealers who allow repeated straw purchases, and possibly a system of licensure to be a firearms owner. The license would be a training requirement, people who took their hunter safety training would be covered. Lastly, tougher safe storage regulations, especially in homes where there are children. A possible rule would be that ammunition be locked, which would be an affordable requirement. On the "support" side, a short mandatory firearms safety course in all public schools, with full firearms safety as an after-school program where there is interest, run by the DNR. Money will be needed for the the safety training, and to support access to shooting ranges. A tax should be levied on the firearms industry's profits. It should be put into a dedicated fund controlled by the DNR to pay for the classes and give grants to shooting ranges for upkeep, as well as even buy ranges that go on the market or get offers from developers. This could have stopped Moon Valley range, my former favorite shooting range, from being sold off. The fund could also help boost 4-H and high school shooting leagues.

This is a starter, and any such arrangement would be be the result of lengthy negotiation and discussion. There will be sticky issues which require a lot of research and debate. A perfect example is : when should people be allowed to sell or lend guns privately, with no background check ? One bill authored in the legislature closed the gun show loophole and required all guns be sold through some institution that requires background checks, with only immediate family exempted. What about friends or people you know or more distant relatives ? There are cases of people lending or selling guns to people they knew, confident the person was not unstable, and the gun was then used in a murder or suicide. On the other hand, I recently lent a gun to someone I have hunted with for several years who I know already owns firearms. This is a common activity amongst hunters who would feel unduly restricted if it were prohibited or forced to go through some time consuming process. Responsible gun owners and anti-gun violence activists who see the importance of shooting sports will have to craft proposals that address both these situations.


  1. Beginning your piece with a misrepresentation (or, arguably, more than one) is hardly an auspicious start, but overall, your post is pretty even handed, if misguided.

    The pro-gun position is not (at least for any proponent of whom I'm aware or whom I've met) that there is never any reason or purpose to abridge the right to bear arms. Legal proceedings that consist of due process are perfectly reasonable grounds to deprive a citizen of rights (see Amendment 5 to the US Constitution). It is perfectly reasonable, following due process and upon order of a court, for someone's right to keep and bear arms to be suspended or revoked.

    The point is not that gun right supporters condone "criminals, terrorists and the mentally unstable" owning guns, the point is that if they choose to be, they will, regardless of any laws or attempts to prevent it; therefore, good people should be armed as well.

    I'm sure the rabidly anti-gun side would take issue with your caricature of their position as least in the sense that they don't admit in public their desire to completely eliminate civilian gun ownership.

    That point aside, I can understand the emotional underpinnings of your proposals and how you would consider them reasonable and moderate, but they have little chance of acceptance by either side.

    They would never be accepted by the anti-gun side because, protestations of innocence to the contrary, they really do want to see, as their end goal, repeal of the Second Amendment and a complete ban on the civilian ownership of guns.

    Just because you only use your guns for "sporting use" and accept many of their current proposals as legitimate, they are not your allies. As soon as you accept and implement their current crop of infringements, they'll come up with a whole new set of "common sense" measures. At some point, you'll find that they are no longer targeting guns and activities of which you disapprove, but are now targeting the sports and guns that you participate in and use...and since you've already thrown large segments of the gun owning population under the bus, you'll find sympathy for your plight to be very thin.

    But that's all just prognostications, I can't prove any of it, so I'm sure you'll just write it off as hysteria and unrealistic.

    Why do you concentrate on hunting? Because that's what you like to do? What about people like me who don't? I'm a second class citizen and my interests and hobbies don't count? Why?

    You're simply looking out for your own selfish interests. Might seem perfectly reasonable to you, but everyone in the country isn't you.

    I don't hunt, but I would never support or advocate any law that would infringe your right to participate in or to own the tools of your avocation. Why are so many hunters so loathe to grant their non-hunting fellow shooters the same respect?

    Why is "closing" the fictional "gun show loophole" such a no-brainer? Even anti-gun researcher Garen Wintemute, in a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was recently forced to admit that the gun show loophole is a fallacy and that gun shows are actually a relatively insignificant contributor to guns on the criminal market.

  2. ...continued

    Registration? Licensing? Not a chance in Hades. Historically those measures have been almost inevitably followed by bans, confiscations and disarmament.

    That whole "slippery slope" argument.

    Yes, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Second Amendment precludes bans. But if they can incrementally and over time, reduce the numbers of gun owners in the country, further stigmatize gun ownership as a morally unsound choice, place more and more roadblocks and reduce our numbers enough, how far out of the realm of imagination is a future repeal of the Second Amendment?

    Excise taxes on gun industry profits? You are aware that those already exist right? They are primarily used for conservation and protection of hunting lands.

    So now, in order to protect and encourage ranges and education, we need to pay MORE excise taxes?

    Heck, plenty of us already do the things you want the government to do. I'm an NRA and 4H firearms instructor and am a dues paying member of a private shooting club that hosts educational events regularly. What have you contributed to the cause...other than recommend that other people have their money taken away to pay for your pet projects?

    "When should people be allowed...":

    Hmm. Under what concept of "freedom" or "liberty" (supposedly the foundations of our great country), does a private citizen have to "be allowed" to sell or transfer their personally owned property to another private citizen?

    Free people don't need the government's permission to conduct private transactions.

    This is getting ridiculously long so I'll leave you with a couple of final thoughts:

    "You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered."
    -- Lyndon Johnson

    "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates his duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
    --Thomas Paine

  3. Sailorcurt -

    I didn't say the NRA condoned possesion by criminals, terrorists, and the unstable, but they enable such people by opposing controls that ought to be consensus. I don't categorically reject the use of guns for self-defense, but the idea that the bad guys will inevitably be armed is flawed. There's a reason they use straw purchases, and to say that they don't make use of the gun show loophole defies logic, the Virginia Tech killer used it once. The background checks will deny these people weapons in other venues (or in the Virginia Tech case, should have).

    I said licensing, not registration.

    I think the gun control groups would have little choice but to support my idea if it were ever given serious consideration, as it grants them something. For hunters and recreational shooters, it makes shooting sports fully backed by the schools and government, which will make it more likely that participation will continue.

    I focus on hunting because it's a great thing to do, it creates a constituency for conservation, is good for your health, and creates social bonds that strengthen families and communities. It's not that recreational shooting isn't a positive activity, but hunting is so much more.

    I take issue with your contention that I and other non-NRA affliated hunters (probably the majority) are or would selfishly sacrifice other gun owners' rights. The public supports gun ownership for the purpose of hunting more than any other reason, it is the foundation of support for private ownership. Where bans and extreme controls have been enacted or discussed, there are very few hunters. The slipperly slope is declining numbers of hunters.

    Despite this, the NRA has many times thrown the interests of hunting to the winds in favor of their extreme gun rights agenda. Typically, they'll support an anti-conservation GOPer who wants to expand gun rights over a pro-conservation Dem who is ok with existing law or maybe would shut the gun show loophole. The NRA didn't lift a finger to support the Legacy Amendment in 2008, all MN hunting orgs were campaigning for it. The NRA has been lobbying to allow crossbows for all hunters during the archery season, instead of disabled hunters only. Archery hunting orgs oppose this strongly. In 2007, the NRA lobbied to continue ATV use/abuse in Browns Canyon in Colorado, even though the local hunting community wanted it closed to ATVs. They even used the cynical argument that they were protecting access for the elderly hunters. Hunters on foot only saw 20-40 year old men ripping through the canyon. As an op-ed stated in the magazine New West when the NRA was up to this nonsense, they stand for Not Really an Ally when it comes to hunting.

  4. Regarding the gun violence debate: gentlemen, it's a very complicated landscape. And one that keeps altering with time. It's not your grandfather's NRA anymore, nor is it your grandfather's Brady Campaign.

    Regarding the latter group & their supporters, no current "mainstream" gun control group supports a ban on any type of weapon, except the assault-type. True, up until recently, there was an interest among a few of them to ban, or seriously regulate, the ownership of handguns. But the general gun control lobby realizes that a handgun ban is unrealisitic. And after the recent Heller & McDonald decisions, such a ban would also be unconstitutional. SO IT JUST AIN"T HAPPENIN'.

    And I've dealt enough with Brady, et al, to know that the gun grabbers within their ranks are few, basically powerless, and just about alientated within these organizations. True, that may have not been the case a few decades ago, but it is now.

    I personally don't support a ban on any type of firearm, but do strongly support NATIONAL near-universal background checks, mandated safe storage and mandated lost & stolen gun reporting. And I'd like to see better funding for the BATFE and more freedom for LE to pass gun info amongst themselves. These are all essentially left-leaning gun control initiatives. If such laws are tightly written, funded & enforced, they would drop gun violence significantly over time.

    But the right-leaning approach to gun violence would also pay big dividends. It largely focuses on mending a penal system that's presently ineffective (with all the plea-bargaining that goes on, among other things). As we all know, gun offenses are among the ones often bargained away. Also, many violent persons zip through the system's "revolving door", ending up on the outside prematurely to commit more mayhem.

    A sound anti-gun violence policy should address both approaches, left & right. It would be entirely constitutional and effective.

    The trouble is getting the federal government to do something. In the end, it's not a job for state or local governments. They can enact such measures and perhaps reap a small benefit. And, if enough of them do so, they may get the fed to react since many local or state initiatives can go national. But ultimately, the fed has to do the heavy lifting.

    Brent Gurtek
    Gun Maker

  5. Sorry for the delay in continuing the discussion...I was out of town for a week.

    - If I misinterpreted your description of the "pro-gun" position, I apologize, but I sure don't see how. And I didn't say anything about the NRA. The NRA represents only about 4 million of the estimated 80 million gun owners in the US. Why would you give them credit for the totality of opinion on gun rights?

    - Did you even bother to look into Dr. Wintemute's recent study? Read the summary of his findings? He's on your side, I'd think his opinion would count for something.

    Be that as it may, I'm afraid you're misinformed about the Virginia Tech tragedy. The perpetrator of that crime obtained both of his firearms from licensed dealers at established gun shops, not from gun shows.

    Which is why the Brady Campaign et al's exploitation of the grief of the victims of that tragedy in order to push their agenda is especially egregious. Virginia Tech had nothing to do with the faux "gun show loophole". What's more, the actual loophole in the law that allowed the perpetrator to pass the background checks in spite of a history of mental illness was promptly closed by the General Assembly and Governor of Virginia...with the full support of both the NRA and state level gun rights organizations.

    - does one go about implementing licensing without keeping a registry of licensees? Registration and licensing go hand-in-hand.

    - Having dealt with anti-gunners for quite some time as an activist, I feel that you are being overly optimistic about what the anti-gunners would "have" to do.

    When have you ever seen a proposal from an anti-gun organization that included any concessions to gun rights?

    As far as the NRA, I would tend to agree with you but for the opposite reasons. The NRA has sold out non-hunters way too many times and supported politicians who voted against the general interests of gun owners because of their tepid support for "hunting rights".

    The fact is that the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or some ill-defined "sporting purpose".

  6. ...continued

    I would agree that hunting and sporting use of firearms are great American traditions and are inalienable rights...but under the auspices of the 9th Amendment, not the 2nd.

    The NRA is a huge organization and is very political in nature. At various times and for various reasons, it has supported politicians, measures and compromises that pretty much everyone in the nation could take exception to. It's all a matter of perspective.

    You're the blind man standing at the front trying to describe an elephant by only feeling its trunk, while I'm the blind man describing the exact same elephant from a completely different perspective because all I can feel is its leg.

    Which, of course, leads me back to your apparent obsession with the NRA. The only reference I made of the NRA is to mention that I'm certified by them as a firearms instructor. I hardly consider them the be-all and end-all of gun rights organizations and am vocally and stridently critical of their endorsements and political machinations on a regular basis.

    While I think the NRA's educational and mentoring programs are top notch (not to mention pretty much the only game in town), you won't hear any defense of the organization's political activities from me...not to mention the basic fact that criticism of the NRA hardly constitutes justification for your support of gun control measures.

    I support hunting for the same reasons you do...even though I'm not a hunter; but the sad fact is that, due to a multitude of factors including expense, the increasing urbanization of America, opposition of anti-hunting groups like "animal rights" groups and environmentalists, hunting is in decline in this country.

    What is on the increase is recreational shooting, shooting sports other than hunting, and gun ownership for self-defense purposes.

    The thing is that by advocating the placement of roadblocks in the path of entering into the "less traditional" shooting disciplines, you increase the "price of admission" and inadvertently decrease the pool of new shooters from which new hunters may be recruited.

    Not to mention alienating new shooters who do not hunt by doing exactly what you're advocating here...throwing them under the bus because they don't participate in your "approved" shooting sport.

    The fact is that many of your proposals have been tried in some form or another at some point. None of them can be demonstrated to be effective at preventing crime.

    When we start talking about licensing and background checks and other potential infringements of an enumerated, Constitutionally protected right, in my humble opinion there had better be some pretty compelling evidence that such measures would be effective in achieving their goals. That evidence simply doesn't exist for the proposals that you support.

  7. I personally don't support a ban on any type of firearm, but do strongly support NATIONAL near-universal background checks,

    How would this be implemented? There are some estimated 250 to 300 million guns in private hands in the US. Short of total registration, how would anyone know if I sold a gun to another private citizen without a background check?

    If your answer is "registration", I can tell you right now that's a non-starter. Just as in pretty much every other country that's ever tried it, such a law would be met with massive non-compliance.

    Guns are not exactly perishable goods. I've got a couple of guns from the civil war that still work just fine. It would take literally centuries for the supply of "off the books" guns to be depleted. And that assumes that no new guns enter the "off book" market through theft of registered firearms or illicit manufacturing.

    mandated safe storage

    You can't legislate common sense. Is the government going to send inspectors out to every gun owner's home to ensure that they are practicing safe storage?

    Accidental deaths due to unsafe storage are rare. Such laws most likely would only serve to further victimize people who've already been through an extremely traumatic experience.

    Oh...and people like me who have no kids and therefore no reason to concern myself about keeping guns out of the reach of children...would I be an instant criminal should the Police have any cause to enter my home and see a loaded gun sitting on a kitchen counter or coffee table unattended?

    and mandated lost & stolen gun reporting.

    Again, good sentiment, but completely unenforceable. The only usefulness would be in prosecuting people who bought guns that were subsequently used in crimes, but claim that they were lost or stolen.

    The crime has already been committed, you aren't preventing anything. In prosecuting someone who's gun was used in a crime for failing to report, you may be prosecuting a straw purchaser...or you may be prosecuting a victim of a theft who was legitimately unaware that the gun was missing.

    I was raised in a rural community. Almost everyone owned guns and many of my relatives had guns stashed away that they hadn't used or even seen for years.

    What you're saying is that if cousin Rick boosted an old pistol from Grampa's closet and pawned it 3 years ago, then that pistol found its way into the hands of a criminal and was used in a robbery four states away, Grampa should go to prison because he "should have known" that his gun was stolen but didn't report it?

    The concept behind this law is understandable, but there's just too much possibility for inadvertent violation or abuse of it in my opinion.

    And I'd like to see better funding for the BATFE

    Please...I'd like to see the ATF disbanded.

    and more freedom for LE to pass gun info amongst themselves.

    I assume you're talking about the Tiahrt Amendment (which was made permanent this year).

    The thing is, the Tiahrt Amendment doesn't prevent law enforcement agencies from sharing information with each other for investigative purposes, it prevents the trace data from being released to non-leo organizations or for public release which can jeopardize ongoing investigations and the lives of undercover Police Officers.

    That's why the Fraternal Order of Police has consistently supported the Tiahrt Amendment every year.

    The claim that the Amendment prevents sharing of information between law enforcement agencies for investigative purposes is flat-out false.

    Trying to control inanimate objects is a fool's errand. You only end up making the object less available for legitimate purposes.

    If you want to control crime, you've got to do something about the criminals, not about the tools they abuse.

  8. Sailcourt,

    I am presently on the road, as you were recently. I'm writing this on a relative's computer & have limited time to answer you now, but will when I get home next Wednesday.

    I will say that national gun laws can be made to work; Switzerland has done it. They are not the whole of the solution, nor could they be. But they are an important part.

    (Near)universal background checks work because most sellers/gifters/bequeathers are law-abiding folks who, if aware of a BC requirement for ordinary ctizens, will have one done on persons recieving any of their guns.

    No registration is needed as the BCs are only done on guns as they change hands. Most people will do them because most people are law-abiding.

    And they'll work, along with safe storge, because they make it difficult for criminals to re-supply an arsenal that is constantly being eroded away by LE. It's most likely that LE confiscates a minimum of 1/2-million crime guns per year. Interestingly, it's estimated that about the same number, or more, are stolen from homes, businesses, etc, per year, & about 40% of those end up as crime guns. Those "stolen source" crime guns, coupled to trafficked crime guns & crime guns purchased w/o a BC, come to something over 1/2-million "replacement" guns for criminals nationally.

    So the "LE confiscated" number, guns per annum, is in the same ball park as the "replacement for crminals" number. It's like a swimming pool where a hose is pouring water in while an open drain is discharging about the same amount of water. So the water level stays about the same or slowly rises.

    If we constrict the hose as much as possible, yet leave the drain open, the water level will go down with time.

    In this gun issue, the pool is the pool of illegal guns. It's not the total pool of guns nationally, which as you say is 200 to 300 million - who knows how many. It's just the criminal gun arsenal. The hose is the loopholes in our gun laws & the drain is LE's confiscation efforts.

    I've got to scoot. But for now, I can also say that lost & stolen gun reporting can be effectively written to bite only after a particular gun owner fails to report several lost/stolen events. Massachusetts has such a law & it's very reasonable on gun owners. It helps fight gun traffickers.


  9. I presume that it's the whole "machine gun in every home" part of Switzerland's gun culture that you wouldn't be too eager to implement here.

    Just because something works in one culture, with one set of traditions, history and societal mores, doesn't mean it will work in another, completely different culture.

    Especially one as inhomogeneous as ours is.

    (Near)universal background checks work because most sellers/gifters/bequeathers are law-abiding folks who, if aware of a BC requirement for ordinary ctizens, will have one done on persons recieving any of their guns.

    I guess that depends on your definition of "work".

    If, by "work" you mean that the people who are already conscientious enough to do things the right way: check ID, keep sales records, refuse to sell to obviously shady people, will now be required to pay extra to have an FFL do the transfer for them, you're right.

    Very few guns enter the criminal realm by this method currently. The vast majority of guns enter the criminal market through theft or straw purchases from licensed dealers.

    You may be right that the "most people" would follow the new law...but "most people" are already conscientious about the guns they sell...they check ID, they don't sell to people who are evasive or seem shady, they keep records about whom they sold to. It's that minority who don't do those things that are the problem...and it's that same minority that will ignore any law requiring background checks and continue selling to the wrong people. And without some sort of registration scheme, who would ever know?

    The criminal market for guns is actually very small, and only a tiny fraction of those guns come from this avenue. Such a measures impact on the availability of guns to criminals would be infinitesimal.

    "Safe storage" laws prevent theft? In what world? Unless your version of a safe storage law includes the required purchase of a 1,000 lb, $5,000 safe...and even that isn't a guarantee. A locked container that can be pried open with a crowbar will not prevent thefts. Trigger locks that can be easily cut with bolt cutters will not prevent theft. "Safe Storage" laws were never about preventing theft, they were about preventing the unauthorized access of guns by children.

    I'm late for church so I've gotta run. We can continue this conversation when we've both got more time.

  10. Since I sit on the Board of the Brady Campaign I need to respond to the accusation that Brady Exploited VT victims. No one at Brady suggested that Cho got guns at a gun show. His name should have been on the prohibited purchaser NICS list but wasn't. Now Virginia, Minnesota and other states are required to send the names of dangerously mentally I'll people like Cho to the federal data base. So if Cho had been turned down by the FFLs where he bought his guns he could have walked into a gun show and bought the same guns with no background check at a private seller

    My sister was a victim of gun violence. That puts me in the category of a victim. If the voices of victims make people uncomfortable it's nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one to a bullet. In fact, one VT victim came to a gumshoe in Minnesota last summer with a hidden camera and showed how easy it is to buy a gun fr a private seller with no background check and no questions asked. Colin Goddard is a brave young man shot 4 times at VT and survived. I don't believe he is being exploited by telling his story and working for safer communities. Check out Colin's story on the Brady Campaign website. What he did was similar to what Dr. Wintemute did- going to gun shows with a hidden camera. Wintemute's latest study did not exactly conclude that the gunshow loophole was a fallacy. He noted that just closing that loophole wouldn't be enough. He actually advocates for requiring background checks on all gun sales just as Brent has also said. I applaud Erik for this article. He is a reasonable person who can see both sides. If we could come together to do the right thing we could prevent some gun deaths and injuries. That's what this is about.

  11. Apologies for the typo in my post. I'm using my iPhone. I meant gunshow, not gumshoe which is something else altogether. By the way, my own blog today touched on the same subject matter.

  12. Working from memory, I was in error about Cho's purchase of his second pistol from a gun show. It must have been in an early media report that the police thought that was a source. The reports I googled yesterday said that he filed off the serial numbers of his guns, but he had left a receipt in his bag. That's when the evidence of the failure of the BC system became clear. The NRA supported strengthening this AFTER 32 people were killed. As Japete mentioned, Cho could have easily gone to a gun show had he been denied elsewhere as he should have been had the system been working properly.

    Contrary to the numbers Sailorcurt claims, I have seen research partially funded by the Shooting Sports Foundation that says both non-hunting recreational shooting is down as is shooting for hunting purposes. It is going to take government support to reverse, stop, or slow this decline. I'm a member of a private gun club, and we are always scratching for money trying to keep up the place and have it be affordable as well. Getting that gov't support is going to take principled compromises between non-ideological gun owners who love shooting sports and anti-gun violence/gun control activists.

    Closing the gun show loophole, going hard after dealers that allow straw purchases, licensing, punishing gun crime harder and safe storage will all have some positive effect. As Brent says, it is a job for the feds, but a state could show how to overcome the cultural warfare that surrounds gun politics. Minnesota is the place to do it.

    We need to look at countries that have a high firearms ownership rate (like the U.S.) but lower crime and way LESS gun crime and deaths. There are a few that come to mind: Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. From the research I've been able to do on the web, which is imperfect, they all have alot less contentiousness over gun politics. The one example I am most familar with is Norway, because my dad is Norwegian, and I have lots of family there that own guns and are hunters. They have much too strict of gun control for American tastes, but a remarkable consensus around gun policy: seven parties in Parliament, all, from Socialist left to the most conservative, the Progress Party, have the same position on guns.

    I do agree with Sailorcurt on at least one issue: the gun registration is a bad idea. When Canada tried a long-gun registry in the last decade, there was massive non-compliance by individuals and a number of provincial governments, and it upset what appears to be a decades-long Canadian consensus around gun policy.

  13. Sailorcurt, et al,

    Regarding Switzerland, from what I remember of their gun laws, that country has a "firewall" of gun regulations that keeps such weapons out of dangerous hands. The automatic weapons in private Swiss posession contribute little to violence.
    Interestingly, the automatic weapons in private hands in the U.S. (i.e., Class III weapons) have at least as a good a record as the Swiss ones; probably quite a bit better in fact. That's due to the federal regs governing their ownership, storage & use. But also due to the Class III culture that's very safety-minded & respectful of those regs. (Their MG42s, Schmeisers, Thompsons, M2s, etc, are actually more public-friendly than my longrifles!!)

    I've been both a visitor & an exhibitor at gun shows & can say that most sellers there, both licensed & not, do their best to keep guns out of the wrong hands. But the street traffickers, many of whom can't pass a BC, easily purchase all kinds of firepower from unlicensed sellers. It's so easy for them.
    A mandatory BC law would be respected by the vast majority of those sellers.


  14. So if Cho had been turned down by the FFLs where he bought his guns he could have walked into a gun show and bought the same guns with no background check at a private seller

    Possibly. But the fact remains that he didn't. So why does the Brady Campaign et. al. continue to imply that Colin Goddard and other victims of Virginia Tech have some special insight into the subject? Why does the Brady Campaign insist upon mentioning the Virginia Tech tragedy virtually every time the issue of the faux "gun show loophole" comes up?

    No, they don't blatantly claim that the Virginia Tech killer got his guns from gun shows, but they do imply it very strongly, which explains completely why Mr. Jenson was confused about the issue.

    My sister was a victim of gun violence. That puts me in the category of a victim.

    And that is what places this in the realm of exploitation...even if the exploited don't realize they are being abused in such a way.

    I empathize with your loss (and the suffering of Colin Goddard), but being a victim gives neither you nor him any greater insight into the societal impacts or practical effects of specific policies than anyone else.

    What about the voices of those who would have been victims of violence, but were able to spare themselves and their families from these tragedies because they were armed?

    What about victims of violence who were required by law to stand by and watch the violence being perpetrated because they had been disarmed by the very laws that the Brady Campaign supports and pushes?

    Emotional attachment, rather than being a valid basis for granting a holder of a view more credibility on the subject, is actually more of a reason to be skeptical of the position; emotionally driven positions are often not based on rational thought or reason, the holders of those positions are routinely immune from valid facts that would tend to undermine the emotional attachment they have with their position. In short, they are not objective.

    The bottom line is, when the Brady Campaign et. al. leverages the grief and emotional suffering of the victims of violence, rather than adhering strictly to the facts: that is exploitation, pure and simple, whether the victims of that exploitation ever come to realize it or not.

    Wintemute's latest study did not exactly conclude that the gunshow loophole was a fallacy.

    Oh really?

    In fact, there is no gun-show loophole as such. Federal law is silent on the issue of gun shows and permits private-party gun sales to occur anywhere. -Dr. Garen Wintemute [bold added]

    Seems pretty clear cut to me. In fact, Dr. Wintemute goes on to say:

    Gun shows account for a small percentage of all gun sales in the United States — between 4 and 9%, according to the best estimates available. Similarly, they account for just 3 to 8% of all private-party gun sales. Legislation to close the gun-show loophole would not affect the great majority of private-party sales, and motivated illicit buyers could simply find private sellers elsewhere. (In addition, closing the alleged loophole would not necessarily reduce, by more than a small amount, the importance of gun shows as a source of guns used in crimes. Most sales at gun shows — more than 80%, according to unpublished data — are made by licensed retailers, not private parties, and data from gun-trafficking investigations indicate that two thirds of the guns used in crimes that have been linked to gun shows were sold by licensed retailers.)

    You are correct that Dr. Wintemute's conclusion is that the proposed laws "closing the gun show loophole" don't go far enough, but I can at least respect the fact that he has the intellectual integrity to be honest about the issues rather than use misleading terms, out of context statistics, or emotionally charged, factless rhetoric to support his position as the Brady Campaign does.

  15. I have seen research partially funded by the Shooting Sports Foundation that says both non-hunting recreational shooting is down as is shooting for hunting purposes. It is going to take government support to reverse, stop, or slow this decline.

    I've seen studies purporting to show both increases and decreases in non-hunting gun ownership and use. Because there are studies that show both, I have to write off the science as inconclusive and go with my own personal observations on the issues.

    In areas where open spaces and private areas in which to shoot are scarce, recreational and sporting shooting clubs are growing. The private club that I'm a member of was just formed 5 or 6 years ago and is already beginning to contemplate closing down new memberships to prevent overloading the facilities. The gun clubs in this area that have been around for a while routinely have waiting lists for membership that are a year or more long.

    As an NRA firearms instructor, registrations for classes are full almost as soon as the class announcement is posted. Facilities that have a regular schedule for classes have waiting lists that are up to 6 months long.

    In my experience, these are primarily new shooters who are trying to increase their safety and knowledge about basic firearms use.

    Even though the spike in gun sales caused by fears that the Obama administration and democrat congress would attempt to re-enact bans on certain classes of firearms has waned, gun and ammo sales are still significantly higher than historical norms and participation in "action shooting" sports such as IDPA and USPSA are at all time highs.

    In short, in lieu of consistent science and statistics demonstrating a wane in the shooting sports and gun ownership in the US, I prefer to believe my lyin' eyes.

  16. Off topic:

    Mr. Jenson, I wish to thank you for hosting a civil and thoughtful discussion. This is a very rare trait among those who advocate for gun control and I want to be sure to mention that I appreciate it.

    Most gun control proponents are not eager to freely discuss the issues and so tend to moderate comments and delete those that make uncomfortable points that they cannot refute...or simply don't allow comments at all. I find it refreshing to find someone who is willing to entertain competing ideas and defend their position without resorting to incivility or simply disallowing the debate. My hat is off to you sir.