Prevention and Law Enforcement

Prevention and Law Enforcement

 By James C. Whiteside


               Abstract:  Adequate prevention and law enforcement are undermined and often prevented by gun lobby prohibitions on tracking perpetrators.  Deliberately underfunded and inadequately staffed agencies allow proliferation of gun possession nationwide.  The effort is to create a cultural norm of gun possession to support gun sales.  The effort of dissembling and irresponsibility on gun ownership reaches to the Supreme Court.  Of 22,000 guns purchased by unqualified buyers, no federal data exists on how many were used in crime or assaults.  Obtaining that information is prohibited.  Background checks are required mostly by licensed dealers excluding 40% of sellers.  Advances in gun technology are ignored or buried under silence.


               The absurdities of prevention and compliance in regard to the use of guns are abundant and pervasive.  The effort by the gun lobby has been to twist logic, text, and history in order to protect itself against reasonable regulation.  There is no “reasonable” regulation as far as the gun lobby is concerned.  All buyers must be allowed purchases unless the authorities can produce evidence that their backgrounds are not culturally compliant, normal and safe and they haven’t been previously denied.  Even then the lobby in some states has secured permission for persons failing these conditions, to re-apply to have their applications reinstated.  The onus is on the government rather than the citizen to prove himself in matters of lethal force.

               The effort is to make gun owning a cultural norm for as many guns as the owner wants regardless of any circumstance of need.  The result is a permanent, unrestricted market for gun sales for wants without purpose or need.  The following list of the social absurdities involved in gun regulation are not complete but reveal the profound absence of any discipline or purpose by the gun lobby  in regards to gun ownership other than the continuation of expanding profits.

               Background Checks--FBI data for background checks is defective because of gaps in the data states refuse or fail to submit.  Effective detection becomes dependent on in which state the purchaser submits his application.  The reason for the laxity is that submission is voluntary.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the federal government cannot force states to submit records. One result was in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass murder, the gunman was able to purchase his weapons to kill 32 people and wound 17 because a state judge’s ruling of his mental illness was not sent to the FBI.[i]

               It was Printz v. United States (1997) where Justice Antonin Scalia writing the majority opinion ruled that the overall structure of the Constitution implied that Congress may not direct State officials: “The Framers explicitly chose a Constitution that confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not states.”[ii]  An amazing conclusion considering that the whole purpose of the Constitutional Convention was to bring some coherent governmental control to the country because of the lack of such by the separate States under the Articles of Confederation.  This is a perfect example of how law can be “parsed” to get a preferred outcome in bold faced opposition to common sense or historical meaning.

               Although the data collection system numbers have increased to 1.2 million in 2011, it reflects the efforts of only 12 states.  Thirty states were not making non-criminal records available to the database such as positive drug tests for people on probation.  Since 2005, 22,162 firearms, including 3,000 in 2012 were bought by people later determined to have been unqualified because of criminal or mental histories.  It isn’t clear how many were used in criminal acts because authorities are prohibited from tracking such information!    In addition, recovery of the weapons by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was neither swift nor complete because the agency is so understaffed and recovery is not judged to be a priority.[iii]  That restriction in staffing and funding by Congress was, of course, due to gun lobby pressure.

               In addition, the ruling absurdity is that if the FBI cannot clear a buyer in three days the sale can proceed anyway.  In other words if the system is known to be failing it is not required to fail safe but to fail absolutely, permissively and dangerously.

               Such checks also apply only to licensed dealers not the private sellers judged to account for an estimated 40% of sales.  A system wide effort to get the states to comply was complicated by a key concession made to the N.R.A. in negotiations.  That single concession set up a dodge whereby only states eligible to share data with the feds were those which had set up procedures allowing people to petition to get their gun purchasing right restored.  This and other provisions were set up to insure more effective lobbying at the state level.  All others which could have been taken and still can be taken by executive order continue to be set back because of a “political atmosphere …deeply hostile to new gun control steps.”[iv]

               Technology--Nicholas Kristof has listed a number of preventive efforts which would be of some help in gun control: limit gun purchasers to one a month to impede gun traffickers.  Make serial numbers harder to file off.  Ban high-capacity magazines, finance gun buybacks.  Require solid background checks even for private gun sales; require micro stamping so that bullet casings can be traced.  Mandate that guns be stored in gun safes or with trigger locks. [v]

               Technology has now arisen able to make guns “smart.”  To limit their use to no other hands but their registered owners.   Biometrics and grip pattern detection can sense the registered owner of a gun and allow only that person to fire it.  That would take care of some of the problems of gun misuse but would have little effect on suicides or husbands shooting their spouses or defective gun registration.  Nick Bilton of the New York Times telephoned several gun manufacturers and the N.R.A. on smart gun utilization.  None responded.

               Wired magazine in 2002 revealed the N.R.A. thinking on the subject. “Mere mention of ‘smart gun’ technology elicited seers and snickers faster than a speeding bullet,” the writer said.  Trigger Smart, an Irish company has patented a smart gun system that electronically disables guns so equipped in “safe zones” near schools.   Robert McNamara, the company’s founder has had a discouraging effort attempting to interest manufacturers.  One manufacturer complained that if one gun shot a kid without the technology, the public would then demand that technology in all guns.[vi]   Really?  How awful.


To Next Section            |          Back to Table of Contents

[i] Michael S. Schmidt  & Charlie Savage.  “Gaps in F.B.I. Data Undercut Background Checks for Guns.” The New York Times, Dec. 21, 2012.  A1

[ii] Infoplease. Printz v. United States (1997)

[iii] Michael S. Schmidt  & Charlie Savage. Opus cit.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Nicholas D. Kristof. “Looking for Lesson In Newtown.” The New York Times, Dec. 2012

[vi] Nick Bilton.  Smart Guns Can’t Kill In the Wrong Hands.  The New York Times, Jan 7, 2013.