Monday, October 5, 2015

Gun Laws Are Both Constitutional And Will Help

Over the weekend, I saw several commentators who essentially argued that no laws which will help stop mass killings are possible because they are either too weak or will run afoul of the Constitution.  These commenters included one from the NRA and another from the National Review (an ultra-conservative magazine). 

They further argued (the same old meme) that criminals will "still get guns" and so any laws which restrict access to firearms are pointless and maybe even make the situation worse because they limit what "law abiding" people may have while not limiting criminals.

There are so many holes in these statements it is hard to know where to begin and equally hard to be concise, but I'll give it a try.

First, any law which limits the ammunition capacity and cyclic rate (rate of fire) of firearms will help and not meaningfully limit the ability of civilians to defend themselves.  I have argued time and again with conservatives on this point and not one of them disagrees that a 12 gauge shotgun or higher caliber revolver is insufficient for self-defense in 99.9999% of all cases.  The argument that the .00001% is some justification for access to firearms which otherwise help to cause needless deaths, is clearly NOT justification.  The purpose of high cyclic and high capacity weapons is ONE thing only, to kill multiple humans quickly, and nothing else.  Further, the US Supreme Court has made it very clear that limitations like banning weapons with a capacity of more than 7 rounds which are gas or spring fed and require no other action than pulling the trigger to fire another round is ENTIRELY permissible under both the Heller and McDonald decisions.  Making such a limitation does not imperil safety, and probably improves it as Police Departments feel more able to de-escalate the kinds of weapons they carry as the firepower of the civilian populace decreases.

Second, making it illegal to sell firearms to ANYONE and ANYPLACE without a background check is also Constitutional, very clearly since background checks have already passed muster in the courts.  Doing so would make the purchase of large numbers of firearms by "straw buyers", straw buyers who then SUPPLY the criminals, very much harder to do without detection.  So, it would likely make the access to high firepower weapons, and weapons in general, for criminals, more difficult.  Not impossible, but just like banning pseudo-ephedrine hurt access for meth amphetamine producers, it would hurt their access without in any way limiting the access by "law abiding" citizens to firearms.

Last, we MUST improve our reporting to a background database and use that database more broadly than is currently used.  It must include the ability to share data between policing agencies, and must include the ability to limit access to those who are judged mentally ill, have a restraining order against them and include the obligation to surrender weapons if deemed such.  Again, these are clearly Constitutional as they've passed muster and they will help because limiting access to firearms AND limiting the firearms they may possess may not stop everyone, but it almost certainly will decrease the potential number of fatalities if people have to reload more often, have to actuate the weapon more slowly, and potentially at least, aren't available to those who are most likely to strike out at those around them.

One post script, the other thing the right-wing gun addicts need to understand.  It is NOT the gang members who are the most dangerous, commit the most murders and otherwise use guns more often to harm so many, it is far more often the supposed "law abiding" husbands who kill their wives, or wives who kill their husbands, or students who kill their peers.  Of the 17k murders by firearms in the US per year, roughly 1000 are gang killings, meaning 16000 are others.  Those others ALSO thought they were "better" than the rest, wouldn't misuse their weapon, etc.. In short, it is THEY (YOU) who are the greatest threat to the wider community, at least where firearms are concerned and so you should not be above the same kind of sane and reasonable limits as you would expect for the rest of society, whether they be the mentally ill or the hardened criminal.  If you are judged a danger, you shouldn't be allowed firearms and you have NO reasonable need for a 5.56 or 7.62mm semi-auto rifle to lay by your bedside for you to defend yourself.  The truth is you're FAR more likely to use your "gun" to kill your family than anyone else but that right (to own and bear) has been affirmed, so it cannot be taken away.  What can be limited is the level of weapon you actually need to (supposedly) "defend" your home/family/self or what you need to hunt.  Those restrictions are legal, constitutional, valid and WILL work.  Changing the debate to what criminals will get doesn't address these reasonable limitations and are little different than ad hominem attacks on those who propose such reasonable limits.  You many not LIKE the limits, but that doesn't mean they won't work nor that they will fail to be Constitutional.

A few graphics that underline the point.  Credit for graphics to Vox, Gun Violence Statistics.

Not all parts of the US have an equal exposure to gun violence, which - logically - correlates to guns owned.  This demonstrates that more guns DO NOT keep us safer, more guns expose us to more gun violence.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Gunner Jacky, we do not permit content on Penigma which contains links that are commercial in nature, that promote goods or services. That was the basis for the removal, but I also wanted this to appear so that you have the opportunity to repost the content of your comment without that link.

      I think you should also know that the author of this piece, my co-bloggers Pen and Laci, and myself, have gone through quite adequate firearms training, Pen is a former 12 year veteran of our armed forces, Laci a combat veteran of an allied military. Apparently you believe in teaching grandma to suck eggs?

      It is incredibly foolish to believe that simply explaining firearms use differently would in any way reduce not only mass shootings, but gun violence of any kind other than MAYBE accidental shootings. But frankly, given the incidents of accidental shootings, including of themselves, BY firearms safety instructors, I'm not even persuade of that.

      In contrast, we see that there is objective, quantifiable evidence that gun control is effective in reducing all forms of gun violence, from suicide to homicide to accidental shootings.

      I would further suggest that you may be well intentioned but are bone ignorant of what actually has been successful in reducing mass shootings-- and that includes effective gun control laws. We prevent in this country three times the number of mass shootings to every mass shooting that does happen.

      You might start with this article:

    2. Btw Gunner Jacky - the fault is (in part) in the gun itself. We are not safer or happier or more free due to possession of lethal force that is so easy to use. Good people do bad things sometimes, OFTEN with guns.

      And as to my comment above relating to gun control, let me supply this in support of that assertion: