Further into the article, it is revealed that there are, indeed, laws that are not enforced as they should be. Why is that? Does that happen with other things? Are speeding laws always enforced? Are littering laws always enforced? Are penalties for underage smoking or driving while drunk always enforced? And if they aren’t does that mean we shouldn’t pass new laws? I don’t think so. But further, from the article:
One is simply a resource problem: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, which investigates licensed gun dealers, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System are woefully understaffed and replete with red tape, gun control supporters say.
The groups also say the federal laws themselves have such high standards to meet in court that it’s a disincentive for resource-strapped federal prosecutor offices to bring cases, as they don’t want to waste their time on cases they are not likely to win.
“It is true that gun laws are vastly under-enforced, but the reason that they’re under-enforced is not because the administration or law enforcement has failed: It’s because they’re written in a way that makes them impossible to enforce — intentionally,” Trumble said. “They’re too vague to prosecute, the standards are too high to meet, the penalties are too low to be a deterrent and there’s too little evidence to prosecute.”
The Gun Control Act requires those “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to obtain a license from ATF, and licensed dealers are required to run background checks and follow federal laws on dealing weapons. But what constitutes “engaged in the business” has been unclear, and prosecutors say it can be tough to prove unlicensed individuals who sell multiple weapons online and at gun shows have broken the law.
Who writes our gun laws? Why are they vague and the standards too high and penalties too low? We know the answer. The NRA is busy helping legislators write the laws and it’s true that the wording is often vague and difficult to enforce. If you don’t want laws to be enforced because of an ideological position on gun rights, this is what happens. I have long thought that passing laws also changes the cultural norms as it has with drinking while driving and smoking inside of public places. It goes both ways, changing the cultural norms can also lead to changes of hearts and minds amongst our legislators so they get brave enough to pass strong gun laws just as they passed strong traffic laws, strong drunk driving laws, strong laws banning smoking inside, strong laws for safety of our food and water. We expect that most people will follow the laws for the benefit of public safety.
Traffic laws are not just in place to punish “law abiding” drivers. They are there to keep us safe and keep others safe from people who could be dangerous and stupid while driving. Most people follow those laws as it turns out. These laws save lives and also cut down on litigation, insurance and health care costs. The same is true of current gun laws. They are there for all to follow and if a gun owner is law abiding, then there will not be problems. But for those who could be stupid and dangerous with their guns and their rights, the rest of us need some public safety measures to keep us all safe. And that is all this is about in spite of what the gun rights extremists like to claim about the agenda of passing stronger gun laws.
So it appears that some laws have not been enforced. The thing is, many in the gun rights community say that the denied background checks are false positives and not actual prohibited purchasers who try to buy the guns. This new effort may just prove that wrong. If people are arrested immediately, they will know that continuing to try this route to getting a gun won’t work and we can save lives. More from the article:
So what does the gun lobby have to say about enforcing the laws already on the books? From the article:
The National Rifle Association has never officially endorsed a “lie and try” policy, though in the past, the gun group has called on the federal government to address the low prosecution rate for prohibited persons who attempt to buy firearms. Shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, the gun lobby’s representatives asked the White House’s gun violence prevention task force to enforce federal laws that make it illegal to lie on a gun background check form.
“This is a program that I believe is largely something people on both sides of the aisle support,” says Scott Price, the Pennsylvania State Police major. “Even the NRA has always been a proponent of enforcing the laws that are on the books.”
Time will tell if this is true. The gun lobby opposes pretty much any measure that would make it very difficult for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them anyway. It’s hard to know what to make of that inconsistency in thought. Unless it’s more about profit than about saving lives.
Unfortunately, sending these cases to the ATF for further action is difficult, according to the article. Not many cases get prosecuted. But if we remember that, at the behest of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby, Congress has denied funding to hire more ATF agents so they can do their jobs properly and efficiently then we can understand what is happening
Shouldn’t we be enforcing laws that clearly state that loaded guns cannot be carried in carry-on luggage on planes?
What’s the penalty for doing the same stupid thing twice? Shouldn’t this man’s permit to carry be pulled? If not, why not? If he is this careless with his gun, why do we know he is safe at all with it? From the article:
So it looks like he will be prosecuted and they expect it could be a misdemeanor. And then what? Here’s a law that clearly needs enforcement. The TSA is finding more and more loaded guns in carry-on luggage now than ever before? Why? Because more people are carrying guns around and therefore there are more potentially dangerous and stupid people with guns around in public. Given that, let’s hope that offenders and repeat offenders like the Pastor in the article are prosecuted and held responsible for violating the law.
What if the law to take guns away from known domestic abusers worked as it should? What if we enforced it better? A man in Maryland urned his guns over to law enforcement but kept one and that one was used in a shooting spree in Maryland that left 3 dead and 3 injured. From the article:
Two months earlier, according to local authorities, he had surrendered at least 10 guns under a judge’s order issued after Tordil’s wife accused him of physically and sexually abusing his family.
But Tordil, a Federal Protective Service officer, kept at least one weapon when he handed in the rest of his arsenal: a .40-caliber Glock he allegedly used to carry out the shootings on May 4 and 5.
Tordil bought the gun legally in Las Vegas in 2014, said State’s Attorney John McCarthy at a hearing on Monday where Tordil was denied bond.
Tordil kept the weapon by exploiting a weakness in state and federal laws designed to keep domestic abusers from using weapons: Local law enforcement had no way of knowing he owned it.
A “weakness if state and federal laws” has left a senseless tragedy that devastated several families. When it comes to deadly weapons owned by people who shouldn’t have them, there should be no weaknesses in the law. Why was there a weakness in the law? From the article:
Maryland has a handgun registry. But Nevada, where Tordil purchased the Glock, does not. Nor is there a federal registry of firearms, the spectre of which the National Rifle Association and its allies have used to knock down a range of legislation.
David Cheplak is a spokesman for the Baltimore Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which traced the gun, found in Tordil’s car, to a federally licensed dealer in Las Vegas. He said that if Tordil had bought the weapon in Maryland, he would have been required to register it there with state police.
Ah- registration of guns would have saved lives. And before you gun rights folks wet your pants about the mere suggestion of gun registration, maybe you ought to think about why it might be important for saving lives. It has nothing to do with the government taking YOUR guns away. It is to make sure we know if dangerous people have guns so we can save lives. I am raising it because we may need to have this conversation given cases like the one in Maryland. It is doubtful that anything like that can happen given the fears of gun rights advocates. But it could be helpful to talk about the fears and the implications in a civil manner. I’m just saying….
More from the article about the laws:
Maryland has a relatively robust law aimed at alleged domestic abusers. The authority to require suspects to give up guns has “enormous benefits for victims of domestic violence,” Taylor says, but is limited by the lack of a totally effective gun registry.
If Gladys Tordil or other family members had known of the extra gun Tordil kept, or if a record existed, then the sheriff’s office could have obtained a warrant from the judge and confiscated it as long as the protective order was still in effect.
But authorities had to rely on the word of a man accused of threatening to kill his wife that he was giving up his means to do so. That left Tordil free to stay armed and murder Gladys Tordil and two others.
So our laws rely on the abuser or the offender to be honest and say how many guns they have? Or to check on a form when purchasing a firearm that you are not adjudicated mentally ill, a felon or a domestic abuser? That is why we need to do background checks on all gun sales so that can be checked out by authorities. Lives depend on our getting guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. Stronger laws can do that.
Just to throw in another thought, what should we think when Uber drivers in Austin, Texas threaten to pull their business because of a new law requiring universal background checks on all drivers? Uber drivers are not always safe and law abiding as we see from the article:
Uber’s explosive growth has been met with concern about safety in many places where it has disrupted the existing order of transportation services, especially as incidents involving passengers being assaulted by drivers have been publicized. In 2014, Uber unilaterally decided to increase scrutiny in background checks for drivers, requiring all new and existing partners to undergo federal and county background checks. But those checks are not always effective. That was at least true in the case of John Dalton: an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who went on a killing spree in February while on the job. Dalton passed a background check because he had no criminal record. Uber does not collect fingerprints for drivers, or even require any face-to-face meeting before they are permitted to start accepting fares with its app.
Public safety is too important to let some people slip through the cracks. Lives depend on our getting this right.
I’m sure I don’t have to mention the irony of requiring universal background checks on Uber drivers but not on all gun sales.
So let’s enforce the laws on the books and make sure we are funding the efforts to do so. And then let’s pass stronger gun laws that are simple and direct so that it’s very clear what’s in the law. When that happens everyone will understand what the law means and what can be done to stop some from getting guns and make us all safer. In the end, that is the bottom line. Laws can change our dangerous gun culture. Changing the gun culture can lead to better laws to prevent gun injuries and deaths. That should be supported by everyone who cares about saving lives.