Reactions to new gun executive orders

??????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.

Mike the Gun Guy addressed on-line sales in a recent blog post. From his post:

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.

Facebook gun sales largely remain unregulated:

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.

“Good guy with a gun” myth

frog_heartIt’s a myth propagated by the corporate gun lobby mostly in the figure of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA that a “good guy with a gun” can stop a “bad guy with a gun”. This presupposes that the only folks with guns who mean evil intent are the “bad guys”. Let’s look at this mythical thinking in the first linked article above:

That argument was put to the test last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, when two “bad guys” with guns, Jerad Miller and his wife, Amanda, shot and killed two police officers. To be clear, the Milers were, in the eyes of the NRA, “good guys” until that exact moment when they used those guns to do “bad” things.

After the cold-blooded shooting, the Millers headed to a Wallmart for a final confrontation with police. Inside, there was a good guy — Joseph Wilcox, a 31-year old Las Vegas resident with a concealed carry permit and a gun in hand. Rather than running away, he took out his weapon and approached Jerad Miller from behind. It was a heroic and selfless act and one for which Wilcox deserves nothing but praise.

But it was an act that cost Wilcox his life.

Unbeknownst to him, there was more than one shooter, and when Wilcox approached Jerad Miller, he was shot in the back and killed by Amanda Miller.

While the NRA claims that a more armed population can prevent these types of mass killings, we know this is not true — and a tragic death like Wilcox’s is a far more likely outcome.

How does the gun lobby respond to this recent shooting in a Grand Forks, North Dakota Walmart store? From the article:

The gunman in Tuesday’s shooting had two passengers in the car when he pulled up to the Wal-Mart in south Grand Forks, Grand Forks Police Department spokesman said Wednesday.

Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said the two people stayed in the car while Marcell Travon Willis, 21, entered the Wal-Mart around 1 a.m. Within seconds, Willis allegedly shot two Wal-Mart employees, including 70-year-old Gregory Weiland, who died as a result.

Lisa Braun, 47, was injured from a gunshot wound. She was still in “satisfactory condition” as of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, according to an Altru Health System news release.

Willis then shot at a third, unidentified Wal-Mart employee and missed before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life.

The shooter was stationed at the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base:

Sean Willis of Nashville, Tennessee, said only that his son had been in the military for about three years and was originally from Springfield, Tennessee.

Sgt. David Dobrydney, a base spokesman, said he couldn’t yet release any information about Willis due to Air Force regulations.

So far we don’t know why the shooter did this and then took his own life with the gun. Most likely we will learn more in the coming investigation. But I think it’s safe to say that the shooter was a “law abiding” gun owner and therefore one of those “good guys” with a gun that the gun lobby is talking about.

Mr. LaPierre?

The words uttered by Mr. LaPierre dropped like a thud on the American public. The inane response to a terrible national tragic shooting just seemed to puny and ridiculous and just plain incredulous. But this must be what the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions actually believe. They are wrong but they continue believing in myths. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence took on this myth in an article about a poster boy for the “good guy” with a gun myth. They write about a case of an Alabama “good guy” with a gun who shot another in a presumed robbery but got away with the shooting. From the article:

Who Will Protect Us from the “Good Guys”?
Folks like Wayne LaPierre and Cam Edwards and “More Guns, Less Crime” Author John Lott might think our country is better off when criminals under indictment for rape are allowed to own guns and carry them in public.  Rational Americans might disagree, and ask, “If these are your ‘good guys,’ who are your ‘bad guys’?”  Perhaps then-NRA President Karl T. Frederick had this quandary in mind when he told Congress in 1934, “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns.  I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

It also begs the question of how many other NRA “Armed Citizens” have criminal records and histories of violence, a topic which Media Matters recently explored.  As Timothy Johnson of Media Matters pointed out, the NRA’s glorification of individuals like Marlo Ellis “demonstrates how the show must scrape the bottom of the barrel to find actual cases of self-defense with a gun for its audience.”

The thing is, when all of those “good guys” with guns are walking around in public with their guns as they now are everywhere, how do we know what will happen? How will we know when one of them snaps or is suicidal and takes the lives of innocent people? How can we tell these “good guys” from the “bad guys”? And when we allow people with no permits or training to now carry guns as we have done in several states, we will open up our communities to more of these kind of shootings. It is inevitable.

And why wouldn’t the “bad guys”- and by that term I assume the gun lobby means criminals and domestic abusers and others who are otherwise prohibited from owning and carrying guns- also then carry their illegally or, actually, legally purchased guns in public? And what I mean by legally purchased is the policy of allowing private sellers to sell guns at gun shows, through Internet sites ( Armslist.com) on Facebook, in daily newspapers and/or flea markets and other venues. It’s legal because we have not passed laws to require those gun sales by private sellers to undergo background checks.

Which brings me to my point. We have no idea if someone obtained their gun with a background check or not. And in states that don’t require background checks before granting carry licenses, we surely can’t guarantee that the person with the gun is law abiding. Without background checks on all gun sales, the person carrying with a license that doesn’t require a background check and a gun purchased without a background check could be the next Jared Loughner or the next Radcliffe Haughton.

The public has common sense when it comes to background checks. 92% of Americans (and including gun owners) believe all gun sales should come with a background check. Of course. Why in the world did anyone believe it was a good idea in the first place to not require background checks for all gun sales? It slipped through the cracks of the Brady Law when it passed in 1993 in part because then there were only occasional private sellers. Now is different. Private sellers often have exhibits of guns similar to those being sold down the aisle by licensed dealers where background checks are required. And a whole new market has opened up on the internet at places like Armslist.com, even on Facebook and in ads in local newspapers for just a few. Yesterday there were 3 guns for sale by private sellers in my home town newspaper. How about yours? I assume they will be sold with no background check. In my state of Minnesota today there are multiple listings of guns for sale by private sellers- presumably with no background check. In fact, this website called gunlistings.com makes it very easy to find gun ads in papers all over the country. Interestingly enough, there is advice for the buyer and the seller here:

For ensured safety when buying or selling your guns you should meet at a FFL dealer and conduct the transaction through the gun dealer. (transfer fees vary by dealer)

It is up to the buyer and seller to determine if transfering the gun through an FFL is required by law.
If you choose to conduct a transaction privately always meet in a public place!

Always consult federal, state, and local laws before conducting firearms transactions.

At least that advice was given. We have no idea if it’s taken. And we can see how easy it is to find guns for sale from private sellers.

Consider the reason we need a national law. Some states require background checks on all or most gun sales and some don’t. Naturally those who don’t want to go through a background check know where to go to get their guns. And when they are allowed to buy as many as they want, it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand what happens with those guns.

We need to finish the job started in 1993 and require all gun sales to go through Brady background checks. The Brady Campaign’s Finish The Job campaign asks you to sign a petition to send to Congress to pass the background check law they refused to pass after the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting. If we don’t pass this law, we are not doing our job to protect our communities from devastating gun violence. We also know that even this will not stop all shootings or all “bad guys” from getting guns. There are straw purchases, stolen guns, bad apple gun dealers and lots of trafficking. But it is one way to make us safer. Saving lives is what this is all about and if we can save lives, why wouldn’t we? And the bigger question is why the corporate gun lobby is so opposed to keeping guns out of the hands of the “bad guys” instead of a laser focus on arming who they believe to be the “good guys”.

It’s time for a change of conversation and a change to our gun las. We need action and we need those who support background checks to speak out and bring others with them. Lives depend on it. We are better than this as a country.