JP‘s timely and thoughtful Comment of the Day on #4 in yesterday’s Warm-Up would also be a germane COTD on #3 of this morning’s Warm-up.
Unlike the anti-gun “Do Something!” chorus, JP actually examines the likelihood of two widely proposed gun regulations having any measurable effect on the problem they are supposed to address.
Below is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition.
I’ll be back at the end, with quite a bit, frankly.
I think [the “We have to do something!” response] is virtue signaling because it accomplishes nothing and because doing something just to do something can be reckless. Mostly, I have been ignoring these incidents because I have no better solution. Americans have a right to own a gun. However, in the increasingly intense aftermath of the 2016 election, I have been amazed at the number of people who I believe to be intelligent that have thrown logic and reasoning out the window. Therefore, I have decided to investigate some versions of “doing something” to see what they might accomplish.
Outside of total gun confiscation, the most common types of gun control proposed are bump stock bans and closing the gun show loophole. According to CNN (take that for what it’s worth) there were 12 bump stocks found on the weapons used in the recent Vegas strip shooting. For those of you who are not aware of what a bump stock is, it is a device that is attached to the weapon to simulate rapid fire. What it actually does is compensates for the slowness of the user at the expense of accuracy. For example, if you were using an AR-15 you would steady the weapon with your shoulder. If you are pump firing, the rocess involves bracing the rifle with the non-trigger hand, releasing the grip on the firing hand (leaving the trigger finger in its normal position in front of the trigger), pushing the rifle forward in order to apply pressure on the trigger from the finger, and keeping the trigger finger stationary. During a shot, the firearm will recoil (“bump” back) and the trigger will reset as it normally does; then, the non-trigger hand pulls the firearm away from the body and back to the original position, pressing the trigger against the stationary finger again, thereby firing another round when the trigger is pushed back. During this process, it is common for the magazine to be emptied in a quick manner.
Bump stocks cost about $100, though the price depends on the quality. I’ve read that you could do a makeshift bump stock using some rubber bands, making it difficult to regulate. So the question remains, is the bump stock something that should be available to the public? To me, the answer is no. A bump stock is not a feature of a weapon. As such, banning it does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. Furthermore, the bump stocks create a loophole in the assault weapon ban. Finally, since its purpose is to sacrifice accuracy for speed, using the bump stocks are dangerous and irresponsible. A smart gun owner knows the importance of environment, accuuracy, and aiming at a target. While it might be fun to shoot quickly, I can see no way a bump stock could ever be used responsibly (though feel free to contribute one).
The second proposed regulation is the so-called “gun show loophole”. This is a misnomer,g because it is not actually a loophole. The law, which goes by many names such as gun law loophole, Brady law loophole (or Brady bill loophole), private sale loophole, and private sale exemption, was intentionally designed to be as it is. Current federal law does not require private sellers to do background checks; i affects the secondary market or the unrelated market that includes private sellers. I assume the law was crafted this way to pass down weapons in families, and to avoid an unnecessary burdens between private owners. The logic for support of the law is fewer guns in the hands of people who should not have them.
Here, I will just refer to it as the gun show loophole.
Let’s look at some background. In a 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice, it was found that fewer than 2% of convicted criminals bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show. About 12% purchased their firearm from a retail store or pawnshop, and 80% bought from family, friends, or an illegal source. A 1999 report by the Justice Department found a majority of gun show owners had a license to sell and did perform background checks. It concluded that although most sellers at gun shows are upstanding people, a few corrupt sellers could move a large quantity of firearms into high-risk hands. In short: though it was not likely to happen through a gun show, it was possible. More recent data might reflect better or worse conditions.
In relation to mass shootings, can we see this being a problem? The gun show loophole became a prominent issue in 1999 after the Columbine school shooting. However, these guns were obtained legally by the parents and stolen by the kids. It was an issue again in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, but these guns were also obtained legally (the shooter passed a background check). In the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, Homes obtained his guns through four shops legally. Also in 2012, the guns used in the Sandy Spring Elementary School killing were stolen from the mother of the shooter who had obtained the guns legally.
The 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting is perhaps the most interesting. The killer was stopped from buying a rifle but was allowed to buy a shotgun, which he used to kill 12 people. In 2014, the Fort Hood Killer legally purchased his gun. The 2014 shooterin Washington obtained a gun legally, but only because prior abuse was never entered into the system (which should have denied him the gun). The 2015 Charleston church shooter should have also been stopped from buying a gun but was allowed to, also because of human error. The 2015 San Bernardino guns were obtained legally. In the 2016 Florida Nightclub shooting, the guns were obtained legally. Finally, in the two most recent shootings (Las Vegas and Texas church) the guns were obtained legally, though the Texas shooter would have failed a background check had the Air Force properly entered the data it was supposed to.
This is not exhaustive. There are more . I tried to highlight the big events and the ones where guns were obtained illegally. There are two things we can take from this list. In the cases where guns were obtained, it was stealing, human error, and perhaps 1 case of negligence (denying rifle, but allowing shotgun). None of them had anything to do with the gun show loophole. Therefore, to shut down the gun show loophole would not have prevented any of these cases. In quite a number of these cases (though not discussed here), mental health was a significant issue. I believe for any serious debate to continue on gun control, we have to have mental health reform. However, for now, I will stick with my two points.
Should we close the so-called ‘gun show loophole’? I don’t think it will change anything; there is no data to support the claim that it will.. However, I am OK with background checks and see why they are necessary. I believe they uphold the integrity of the system. Furthermore, I have demonstrated that research has shown the potential for exploitatiing the loophole, and to some degree it is already happening. These numbers might be relatively insignificant, but they shouldn’t be considered acceptable.
I am worried how additional regulations will impede passing down weapons to family, and that they will creaet unfair burdens on people who cannot afford the added cost of trying to move a gun or acquire one. Checks can cost anywhere from $5 to $100. Depending on the city, purchasing a weapon can cost up to $1000. Classes can be free depending on where you go, but that is also a potential additional cost, which might be required depending on where you live.
While I don’t believe it will change anything, closing the gun show loophole can be a responsible step to reducing the loss of life. If it is to be considered, it should be considered in the with consideration of ways to lowering costs to law-abiding citizens who would suffer by it.
I’m back. In a follow-up comment, JP recounted some responses he received on Facebook when he posted this. It provided an excellent survey of the shallow, emotion-based and largely poorly-reasoned and rationalization-based arguments of the anti-gun crowd. They are worth examining.
A. “The problem with mental health reform is diagnosis. Are we saying all illnesses? What about ADHD? It involves impulse control. Who needs to diagnose. I will be capable of diagnosing once I have been licensed. There are different opinions often about someone’s diagnosis. If we say someone’s ill does that absolve them of their crime? The mental illness route does not stop the fact that gun violence cannot happen without guns. I don’t dispute your claim about the 2nd amendment, but it means we will continue to have this discussion and God help us that none of our children are shot.”
1)Yes, but violence can happen without guns.
2) What “claim” about the Second Amendment? It exists. It’s a right. It’s not Big Foot.
3) Ah, the old “let’s create a conflict of interest to preclude objective analysis” trick. Yes, if my son was shot to death, I might have a bias against guns. That would make me a worse analyst, not a better one.
B. “The other thing I’ll say is that it says the right to [bear] arms which means anything the government has we are allowed to have. By this extension any billionaire has the right to own a fighter jet, a tank, a battleship, or a nuclear bomb. Ummm I clearly don’t believe that so why guns.”
Ummm, you’re an idiot. No, the laws are quite clear about the fact that citizens do not have the right to have fighter jets and nuclear weapons, and this is neither the issue at hand nor a current problem. This is called a “straw man argument,” as well as a terrible analogy.
C. “It may be protected by the bill of rights, true, but we have the ability to change our constitution. It’s called an amendment. The NRA and others are quick to hold to their constitutional rights but we’ve done it before. In fact, we have changed our constitution 33 times in the past. We got rid of prohibition and abolished slavery.”
1)It’s not “maybe” protected; the Bill of Rights guarantee it.
2) Changing the Constitution on this issue is in fact almost certainly beyond our “ability,” unless about half the population are replaced by Pods.
3) None of those amendments reduced a Constitutional right except for Prohibition, and it was repealed, precisely because Americans will defy any effort to give them less liberty than they have.
D. “Total confiscation has worked well in other countries (Australia for example after the Port Arthur massacre) and can work here and save lives if people stop being so closed minded about our precious little Constitution.”
1)”Precious little Constitution,” eh? Is there a better res ipsa loquitur for complete civic ignorance and the complacency of so many American? Or, in fewer words, “What an asshole!”
2) Define “worked well.” If you are willing to sacrifice liberty for the illusion of safety it “worked well.” There have still been mass killings in Australia, and with guns.
3) Australia and the United States are very different places and cultures. Total confiscation would require a police -state style assault on private homes, and be a blood bath, and still wouldn’t “work,” much less “work well.”
Says JP, “I almost don’t even know why I bothered.” You bothered because people who sneer at our “precious little Constitution” are being turned out of the Progressive anti-democracy factory with increasing speed and volume, and you have an ethical duty to bother.