As could have been predicted, the reaction to the President’s announced executive orders have been fierce and wrong. The gun lobby and run rights extremists as well as certain politicians believe that these executive orders are meant for them personally apparently. For the reaction just doesn’t fit with what is actually in those orders. The fear in the statements from those who disagree is unfounded but it’s hard to convince them otherwise. This is going to be a tough job.
Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote this article about why the executive orders should be embraced by the gun rights enthusiasts. He lists several, including the issue of mental health and guns, enforcing existing gun laws and supporting the second amendment. All 3 of these are what the corporate gun lobby and their supporters in Congress have been talking about for many years when they oppose any new common sense measures to reduce gun violence. From the article:
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a set of new gun rules that might amount to a big political statement but, technically, represent a clarification of already-existing laws. The biggest change — a provision that would require more gun sellers to be licensed as firearms dealers — does not qualify as new regulation, and hence is not dependent on either public comment or congressional review. The provisions are so modest that initially even the NRA initially shrugged off the changes by saying “they’re not really doing anything.”
Still, champions of gun rights in Congress and elsewhere wasted no time in lambasting the president and his proposal — even though it appears that many of the provisions are pretty much in line with what gun rights advocates have long demanded.
So what is this about then? Opposition to anything President Obama wants to do. That’s obvious. The fear mongering and paranoia about gun confiscation and government overreach has been screamed at us now by Wayne LaPierre and others as if it is true. And the worst of this is that too many people believe it. Captain Mark Kelly, husband to Gabby Giffords, had a really good question at the town hall meeting:
Mark Kelly, the astronaut and husband of former Arizona congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords, told Obama the two gun control advocates have encountered fears that expanding background checks “will lead to a (gun) registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.”
“With 350 million guns in 65 million places, households … if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?” Kelly asked.
Cooper jumped in, asking: “Is fair to call it a conspiracy? I mean, a lot of people really believe this, deep down — that they just don’t trust you.”
“I’m sorry, but yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” Obama said. “What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can enforce marshal law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy. I would hope you would agree with that. Is that controversial?”
He said if he truly desired to strip away Second Amendment rights, he’d have started much earlier in his presidency.
“Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year. I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?” Obama said.
It turns out that President Obama has made no attempt to confiscate the (about) 350 million guns in circulation in the U.S. And it also turns out that most gun owners agree with President Obama. Apparently they don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory that any new gun regulation will automatically lead to their guns and rights being unceremoniously stripped from them. Most people already understand that that is going to be an impossible thing to do and just won’t happen.
I was on the Facebook page of a Minneapolis area TV station during the CNN town hall meeting on Thursday night making comments along with many gun rights advocates. The arguments were indicative of the above and based on hyperbole and often not fact based. There was some agreement here and there about the sentencing for gun crimes.
But I want to talk about one item in the Presidential executive orders that Christopher Ingraham did not address in the above linked article- on-line gun sales. For the last several years, I and others have argued that there are opportunities to obtain guns through on line sales with no background checks. The gun lobby argues that this is not possible. Their argument is that all on line sales must go through a federally licensed dealer. This is not true. Internet groups have made it possible for gun sellers to advertise their guns for sale on sites like Armslist.com.
I found something new and interesting on the Armslist site today while looking it up for this post. It has been changed and one can no longer click on private sellers to see how many there are. Also many of even the private sellers are advertising that the gun needs to go to a licensed dealer or ( in my state of Minnesota) a Minnesota permit to purchase or conceal carry permit is required by the seller. Perhaps all of the attention paid to private on-line sales is already affecting this market place. And if so, this is good news for everyone.
Back to the site, though, buyers can go to this site and find a seller of a gun they want, connect with the seller and make arrangements to exchange money for a gun(s). Some of these sellers advertise that they are private sellers and actually have advertised that no background checks are required. I did not see this while looking this morning. I did notice that in other states with generally looser gun laws, like Florida, there were more “unregistered” or private sellers listed.
Armslist is where the shooter at the Wisconsin spa that killed 3, not including the shooter, got his gun through a private seller with no background check. He was a prohibited purchaser because of his domestic abuse.
The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that if I drive to one of those states and buy a gun from a private seller, I give him the money, he gives me the gun, I drive back home and that’s the end of that. And that’s the end of that because those states do not regulate private gun transfers which, in the case of long guns, happens to be true in more than 40 states. Will the seller of an out-of-state gun ask me to prove that I am also a resident of his state? He might, but then again he might not. Remember, if he lives in a state that doesn’t regulate private sales, he’s not breaking any law by selling me that gun. And since he’s not a licensed dealer, he is under no requirement to ascertain whether I am legally able to own that gun, or even keep a record of the sale. I’m breaking the law because I can’t bring an unliensed gun back to my home state. But I didn’t want to submit to a background check anyway, remember?
The situation gets a little trickier with handguns because such transfers tend to be more strictly regulated in many states and folks who sell handguns are generally aware that handguns have a funny way of winding up in the ‘wrong hands.’ So if I want to buy a handgun without submitting to a background check, I probably will stay within my own state, assuming that my state doesn’t regulate private handgun sales. Which is the real impact of the internet as regards the flow of private guns, because I can drive from one end of my state to the other within 3 hours, but could I know of the desire of some seller in another town within my state to get rid of a gun without going online? Of course not.
When the internet first started up, you could find gun listings on Craiglist, other online classifieds including eBay, and you could pay for guns if you had a Paypal account. Those sites quickly banned guns because they decided the liability far outweighed the returns. But I can’t imagine that websites like Armslist or GunsAmerica would voluntarily ban private sales, since that’s their reason for being in business in the first place. As long as the internet operates as a giant flea market and guns are legal commerce, guns are going to be sold online, it’s as simple as that.
So yes, there is reason to regulate this on-line market place that sells guns to potential prohibited individuals. Does anyone want them to have guns?
Facebook was involved in a bit of a tussle with gun safety reform advocates a few years ago about the site allowing the sales of guns. They made some minor changes to their position but did not outright ban the sale of guns as did Craigslist. ( I am editing this post to include this article that reveals that Craigslist did ban gun sales on its’ site but apparently people are still advertising guns and ammunition for sale. This is an insidious problem.
So here is just one example of an Arizona teen who got a gun through a Facebook group. He brought that gun to a school.
It’s hard to tell if these moves slowed down gun sales on Facebook generally or made a dent in unregulated or illegal deals in particular. The platform still hosts scores of members-only groups that exist solely to facilitate private sales, many with thousands of followers. While some of the groups operate instates with universal background check laws, 32 states don’t mandate such checks for private transfers. So even though members of those groups can’t boast that they won’t conduct checks, they’re under no obligation to actually make sure in-state gun transfers they’ve arranged on Facebook are legal. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
Facebook’s approach is similar to those taken by other popular social networking sites, such as Reddit. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” bans discussion of baldly illegal activity, but even after outside pressure it remains a pretty easy place to arrange a gun transfer free from background checks. One entire subreddit is dedicated to gun sales. It asks first time visitors if they’re over 18, but there’s no way to verify if a user is answering truthfully. Many sellers on the subreddit offer to meet “FtF,” or face-to-face, where they can make the exchange without running the background check that a licensed dealer would require.
Some newspapers allow sales of guns from private sellers who most likely will not require a background check from a buyer. My own local newspaper changed their policy some years ago with some pressure from our local Brady Campaign chapter as did other media outlets. But then the ownership of the paper changed hands and the sales are again allowed. How does a seller know to whom he/she is selling that gun(s)? There were no firearms for sale in my local newspaper today. Maybe this is a sign that things are changing for the good.
Public opinion is coalescing around President Obama’s executive orders and even further measures to make sure we are safe from people who should not have guns. National columnist and conservative Kathleen Parker wrote this opinion piece today:
This may well be true, but couldn’t we stand to tweak them a bit? Or, perhaps, enforce them? And, isn’t it possible to reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands without surrendering our Second Amendment rights or invoking the slippery slope of government confiscation?
Of course it is — and we can.
Obama made an artful and poignant counterargument to the usual objections Tuesday during a news conference from the White House. He reminded those gathered, including many who have lost family members to gun violence, that other people also have rights — the right to free assembly or the right to practice their religion without being shot.
In fairness to the gun lobby, which may not deserve such charity, one can understand reservations about limiting access to guns. What is less easily understood is the refusal of Republicans to take the reins of any given issue and do something constructive rather than invariably waiting to be forced into the ignoble position of “no.”
It is one thing to be in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. It is another to do nothing and then assume a superior posture of purposeful neglect, as though do-nothingness were a policy and smug intransigence a philosophy. (…) Obama’s actions won’t go unchallenged, needless to say. And much political hay will be threshed, bundled and sold to Republican primary voters in the meantime. But GOP voters should be as skeptical of those ringing the gong of doom as they have been of Obama. In a civilized society, more guns can’t be better than fewer.
Parker does reflect the truth of the matter. There are much in these executive orders to actually strengthen the second amendment and rights of law abiding gun owners as well as the right of the rest of us ( and even reasonable gun owners who agree) to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Reasonable discussions can occur with reasonable people. At this point in time, during a Presidential election, I guess we can’t expect that to happen from the Republican candidates or members of Congress who are beholden to the corporate gun lobby. And more’s the pity. Lives will be lost in the daily carnage that results in 89 dead Americans a day. Children will get their hands on guns and shoot themselves or others. Domestic abusers, some who are prohibited purchasers, others not, will continue to shoot their spouses, girlfriends and/or partners. Gangs will continue to get guns through an illegal market that we can do something about if we put our mind to it. And young (mostly) men, teens and older (mostly) white men will continue to shoot themselves at alarming rates. Serving and ex military members will shoot themselves on almost a daily basis. And “accidental” gun discharges will continue to occur amongst those who are not responsible with their guns.
To say the President’s orders would no nothing to stop any of this is the height of hypocrisy. The gun lobby speaks out of both sides of its’ collective mouth. Which is it? That Obama is coming for your guns or that these measures will do nothing..
We are better than this. Let’s get to work.