“If you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns!” I hear this every time after a mass shooting. Pundits like to point out that whomever committed the atrocious deed would have obtained their weapons regardless of the legality. It’s so illogical of an argument I do a face-palm every time I hear it.
From the inception of the NICS (National Instant Criminal background check System) on November 30, 1998, to December 31, 2011, a total of 140,882,399 transactions have been processed. The NICS prohibits people from possessing guns if they were convicted of a felony, addicted to drugs, committed domestic violence or were involuntarily sent to a mental institution. Of these, the NICS has denied a total of 899,099 transactions. It’s not nearly enough to stem the illegal flow of weapons.
Prior to the late 1980’s it was very rare for a convicted Felon to be able to petition successfully their right to own a gun. It was then that the NRA began to heavily lobby Congress to permit States to dictate these reinstatements. This gradual pullback of what many Americans have assumed was a blanket prohibition against convicted Felons from owning guns has permitted thousands of Felons to have their gun ownership rights reinstated every year. And it’s gotten scant public notice.
After the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, President Bush signed a law to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It incentivized states to submit records of people legally barred under Federal Law from purchasing guns. The 2007 improvement act was supposed to speed development of the system by providing grants to states to help pay for hunting down records and setting up electronic databases. But Congress has handed out just a fraction of the grants allowed. Last year, $125 million was authorized under the law, but just $5 million was appropriated. More than half the states have not yet provided mental health records. The NRA has made it tougher for states to comply — by successfully lobbying for a provision in the 2007 law that requires an appeals process so the mentally ill can seek to have their gun rights restored. States must set that up before they can receive federal grants to help collect records! Federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Defense, also have been slow to submit relevant records. Meanwhile, as many as 2 million mental health records are not in the system.
The ATF published a study citing that straw purchases accounted for almost one-half of all illegal gun trafficking. Corresponding research points that nearly two-thirds of these straw purchases originated at only 1% of licensed firearms dealers. The results of these investigations demonstrate that ATF must vigorously enforce existing federal regulation of FFLs, and of all gun sellers at gun shows. For this to work effectively, ATF will need increased funding from Congress, as the agency currently lacks the resources and organizational structure to succeed in combatting illegal gun trafficking and ensuring that FFLs comply with federal law. The NRA has consistently lobbied Congress against additional funding for the ATF for greater enforcement of existing law.
More than 6 million gun sales are unscreened – those from gun transfers, “private” sellers, and purchases at gun shows or made online do not fall under the requirement. This is the “Gun Show Loophole.” Think about this for a minute. It’s insane.
Saying that gun control won’t stop a criminal from obtaining a gun is an illogical fallacy. You can’t take a sampling of one criminal and extrapolate it against a sampling size of millions of gun transactions.
We’re making it too easy for criminals and the mentally ill to buy a gun. I’m looking forward to the President’s Task Force recommendations tomorrow. This shouldn’t be so hard.