Analysis by Reporting San Diego
Oct 9, 2017 (San Diego) Every mass shooting we see this. Social media and conversations filled with both memes with minor to significant errors and emotion. Granted, it is hard to detach oneself and look at the situation with a cold, almost detached, clinical analysis. When discussing policy we need to be able to do that. Why? Those who oppose any change on any policy rely on errors. Those errors make it easy to ridicule those who want change as uninformed emotional boors who do not get it.
This means that the first step is understanding the facts of the matter. Here are some facts:
- 3 percent of Americans own 50 percent of all guns. On average gun owners own 17 weapons. This is an average. So yes, some people do own one, while some own veritable arsenals.
- Fully automatic guns have not been sold to the public in decades. Those that do remain in private hands are chiefly collectors and movie studios. They are tightly regulated by the Federal government. No, you cannot go to Joe’s Gun Shack and buy an M-16, or a Squad Automatic Weapon. Good luck finding a Thomson like the one in the photo.
- A fully automatic weapon requires lots of paperwork and a long background check by the Federal Government. The ATF is in charge of this.
- What you can buy is a semi-automatic weapon. Meaning a pull of the trigger equals a bullet leaving the barrel.
- The Feds require a 72-hour background check when you buy a weapon with an authorized dealer. They are just looking for highlights such as whether you are a felon or not. Felons are not allowed to own guns.
- Most states do not allow people to buy more than one gun every 30 days.
- In some states, these two critical requirements are not required at gun shows
- Unlike dealer based weapon transfers, private sales do not require a background check or have a limit to the number of weapons you can get a month.
- There is no insurance requirement to own a gun.
Some states require licenses for owners, and gun safes or gun locks for home storage.
What is also true is that some states have tougher gun laws than others. For example, California has tougher gun laws than Arizona, including a ban on any magazines over 10 rounds Arizona and Nevada allow for indoor ranges or especially licenses outdoor ranges for rental of fully automatic weapons, which are again, tightly regulated by the Federal Government.
Here is where the clinical detachment comes in. When the US had an assault weapons ban, it did little but to regulate weapons by name, not working mechanism. You could still go out and buy an AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16A, no problem. What you could not do was buy, and install, certain attachments. Among them a flash suppressor or a silencer, or a bayonet lug. It did remove some specific weapons from the market
For example, it banned the import of UZIs and Kalashnikovs but left alone the AR-15. Critics have pointed to this inconsistency. The AK family works the same way, mechanically, as the AR. Both are gas operated weapons that use the gases from the spent round to push the next round into the chamber. This is one reason why the assault weapons ban has been called a mommy device. It made people feel good that something was done after the Stockton shooting, but it was more cosmetic than anything. In short, while the ban worked to make some guns rare, for a while, it did not slow down the prevalence of guns in a small sector of American society. Nor has a bayonet been used in any mass shooting, or for that matter nobody has used a grenade launcher (which was not a bad idea to remove from the market), and the NRA is pushing for legal rifle silencers. That bill was compromised, from Democrats that fear doing more could mean they would lose their jobs.
Americans want something done, and the bump stock ban will satisfy that immediate need. Moreover, it was a cute way to get around the full automatic ban. Nor did the ATF see it as dangerous in 2010 as early models quite frankly, sucked. But that ban will be hardly enough to do much at the policy level. You still cannot own a fully automatic weapon, and this does not regulate anything for real. This is the kind of incrementalist policy prescriptions that Democrats have followed for the last 30 years in many areas of American life and require no profiles in courage. And even this has problems.
The first is that we are getting to the point that guns could be 3D printed. This has been the case for some time now. 3D printed guns are a way to get around any law or regulation. There are also ways for people to mill the aluminum receiver of things like 1911 semiautomatic and the AR-15. This will make those guns untraceable, as there will be no serial number on them. This will make them highly desirable to those who do not want to be followed and live under the delusion that they will defend the people from the coming tyranny. They will also make the “Saturday night special” even more appealing.
The Bump Stock ban is something that fits our emotions, but little else. What the country needs is a comprehensive review of gun laws at the federal level. It also needs the political class to stop catering to a small group (the NRA) that truly is in it for the money. In Vegas, the shooting stopped when an unarmed guard distracted the shooter. It did not take a good guy with a gun. And unless any of the good guys had a rifle in the crowd, no good guy with a sidearm was going to to stop the shooting. So that talking point proved as empty this time as it usually does.
I can hear people now, but what about the Second Amendment? While I know what Heller found, it is still the case that the second amendment still mentions a militia. In time we as a nation will have to make a decision about the second, which historically came from a lack of a standing army. That ended in 1812 when the country decided that having a small professional army was a good idea.
Nor are a bunch of militia members, with AR-15 and SKS, or even AKa going to stop a truly tyrannical government that owns nuclear weapons, fighter aircraft, tanks and other weapons. That is a fantasy borne of delusion. And truly those rifles are not needed to put dinner on the table. They are fun to shoot, and I can accept that as to why people like them. Anything else, hunting, overthrowing a tyranny, or being a good guy with a gun is just that, empty talking points.
But to the other side of the equation, that claims their Sudafed is more regulated, no it is not. The regulations are different, but not less intrusive. And as long as driving a car is treated as a privilege, while owning a gun is treated as a right, good luck with some of the ideas. Moreover, while making guns at home is the new thing, and relatively easy, making your own ammo is really easy. So good luck taxing a paranoid minority that is buying guns like crazy.
Emotion has to be replaced with cold policy prescriptions. Any politician who pushes for real changes, regardless of party, will also require support from citizens.
And no, bump stock bans are hardly a profile in courage. The question is, how many more mass shootings until this level of real reform comes? We are sad to say that Las Vegas will not be the last. Next time we expect the same pattern though.