first published on March 2, 2018 by Matt Silvey
(Disclaimer: this piece is my opinion and my opinion only. It does not represent any other member of the Full30 team.)
Let me start by saying something that I should not need to say, but thanks to those who seek to ban guns, doing so has become necessary lest I be accused of wanting more kids to die.
I abhor school shootings, mass shootings, and murder in general. I have spent my entire professional life fighting crime and doing everything I can to prevent instances like that from happening, and when they do, I have done my best to ensure that justice was served. I have personally had to inform people of the deaths of loved ones. I know the difficulty involved with these situations, much more so than most people. No one should ever have to deal with the loss of a loved one to murder, and most especially not the loss of a child.
Furthermore, I absolutely want to see these incidents decrease. In fact, not only has the general murder rate dropped over the last several decades, but despite what many think, the rate of these school shootings has been fairly flat over that same time frame, and schools are actually safer than they were 30 years ago. School shootings are in fact not becoming more frequent as many people think. It is just the media coverage of the incidents lasts much longer, thus the time between news stories has lessened giving the appearance of an increase.
Still, all of us, gun rights advocates such as myself and many of the people calling for more gun control, want the same thing. We want our kids to be safe in school, and we want to be safe in our work places. We want murder rates continue to decrease. We ALL want the same thing. Our disagreement is not in the goal, but rather it lies in how to get there.
Having spent more than 20 years in law enforcement, and having spent my entire life around guns, I have a fair amount more expertise in both subjects than many of those calling for legislation, no matter which side of the aisle they are on, so I would like to take a little time and address some of the specific proposals.
If you disagree with me, I strongly encourage you to call me out (in a polite, respectful manner) on the point with which you disagree so we can discuss it. Pointing fingers, accusatory comments and name calling do none of us any good, no matter which side is doing the pointing.
Universal Background Checks – You know, since “90% of Americans” want them. I keep hearing that number but I have no idea where they came up with it. In theory, I am all for universal background checks, but only in theory. In reality, there are problems.
First, what exactly is a “universal background check?” That innocuous term means that every transfer of every gun, whether it is sale by a licensed gun dealer to a customer, a private party sale to another private party, or a grandpa giving his grandson his old hunting rifle, must have a background check completed. This means that no matter what type of transfer it is, the involved parties must have a licensed gun dealer process the transaction. This is the case in California, where I live, right now. If my father (a law abiding American with no criminal history) wants to give me (a law abiding American who is an actively employed cop) a gun, we both have to go to a gun dealer, fill out the Form 4473, and pay a transfer fee. The cheapest fee in my area for completing this transaction that I have found is $75, some of which goes to the state because of the DROS fees that they charge dealers.
As a cop, I am all for anything we can do to make it harder for bad guys (legally prohibited persons, criminals, crazies, etc.) to get guns. I am willing to sacrifice an extra 10-30 minutes of my life to do so. Some would call this an infringement, and it is, but in my personal opinion, it is a very minor one that I am willing to deal with, IF this would work.
The problem is, universal background checks would not work. The ONLY way for “universal background checks” to work, the only way to possibly enforce them (in other words, to catch the people who are intent on selling guns to bad guys) is for the government to know and track every gun that every single person owns, in other words, a national gun registry. Without knowing who owns what, there is no way to say who sold what gun to whom. If you can’t say who sold what gun to whom, you have no way to ensure that all sales go through the “universal background checks.”
As a cop and as a person who is well aware of world history, I am vehemently opposed to any gun registry, let alone a national one. It is for that reason that I am absolutely opposed to the idea of mandatory “universal background checks” as they are being proposed.
I do have a proposal that would allow anyone who wants to ensure that they are not selling a gun to a prohibited person, but one that does not require a gun registry, nor would it even be possible to create a registry from the system. Since the previously proposed “universal background checks,” absent a national gun registry, would only be used by persons intent on obeying the law, my proposal would cover that same crowd but without forcing them to pay the state exorbitant fees nor would they be held hostage by gun dealers who are tired of processing gun transfers for people who aren’t buying anything from them. Why not have a publicly accessible website that a private person who is selling a gun to another private person could access and with a set amount of information (similar to what is on the form 4473) could run the person through the website, without supplying an information about what type of firearm is being sold or how many, and it would merely tell the seller whether or not the buyer can legally purchase a firearm. Am I missing a downside to this?
Raising Long Gun Purchase Age to 21 – To be frank, this is just plain stupid, and unconstitutional. Name me one other constitutionally protected right that you would even just slightly dream of making a legal adult wait three years before they could exercise it.
If an 18 year old is considered a legal adult, if they are old enough to serve in the military, to give their life for their country, if they are old enough to vote and determine who runs this country, then they are old enough to purchase a firearm. In fact, I would argue they are old enough to legally purchase a handgun as well as a rifle. Last I checked, the bill of rights did not include age exclusions.
Oddly enough, the political left has been talking about lowering the voting age to 16, but at the same time, they apparently think those very same people are not responsible enough to own a gun until they are 21? This makes absolutely zero sense, either you are a responsible adult or you aren’t.
“Bump Stock” Bans – Or more precisely, “rate of fire increasing product bans” are totally unjustified. One a$$hole in the history of ever misused a bump fire stock to commit violent crime. Many folks, including me, would argue, and can supply ample evidence, that a decent shooter could have inflicted as much, if not more damage with a bolt action rifle, while firing far fewer rounds, which would have made locating him even more difficult.
Prior to that incident in Las Vegas, no one other than gun people even knew what a bump stock was. As soon as word got out that the suspect had used one, the anti-gun movement had a new boogeyman, and the completely inaccurate information began to flow. People are under the misguided impression that bump stocks turn your gun into a full-auto making it more deadly, which they absolutely do not. In fact, I do not know a single firearms expert who would choose to employ one in a tactical situation over a standard semi-auto rifle otherwise equally equipped. They are nothing more than a gimmick, a novelty item, a range toy.
So, if they are worthless, why the opposition? Because the legislation (HR 3999) that is supposedly aimed at making them illegal is very broad and specifically outlaws any firearms device that is designed to increase the rate of fire. Here is the actual, important verbiage for those who doubt me.
“(a) Prohibition.—Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(aa) It shall be unlawful for any person—
“(1) in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, to manufacture, possess, or transfer any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun; or
“(2) to manufacture, possess, or transfer any such part or combination of parts that have been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”
First problem is that a semi-auto weapon does not have a set rate of fire, so how can you possibly determine what constitutes increasing the fire rate? I am a well-trained, very practiced shooter and as such, my “rate of fire” is much faster than, say, my wife’s. That said, comparing me to a fast shooter, someone such as Jerry Miculek, makes me look like a slow novice. The rate of fire of a semi-auto weapon is solely a function of the shooter, not the weapon, and that is even true with weapons that are equipped with bump stocks. Second, the currently proposed legislation is so loosely worded that it can also be interpreted to include things such as a precision trigger, a short reset trigger, a muzzle brake or compensator, a recoil reducing stock, and just about anything that could conceivably be argued as a part that allows the shooter to fire their weapon faster.
I am absolutely opposed to the banning of bump stocks, but I do not speak for everyone. Sadly, many firearms owners are willing to sell them (and the people who own them) out to the anti-gunners, much like some hunters our there are willing to sell out AR-15’s and their owners. Just because you do not like or use a product is not a good reason to sell them out. What goes around, comes around. Next time it might be you, might not. But you can rest assured that eventually it will indeed be you. Besides, as we all acknowledge, banning bump stocks will accomplish absolutely nothing other than placating the anti-gunners, which will just give them more ammo the next time. “Banning bump stocks did nothing so now we must ban ___________.”
“Assault Weapons” Ban – Been there, done that. This is nothing new and has been rehashed multiple times since the national ban that was in place from 1994-2004 expired. That previous ban has been proven to be a failure at reducing the murder rate for a number of reasons, but the most important reason it did nothing is that “assault weapons” are statistically irrelevant when it comes to crime.
The category of “assault weapon” is on that is completely made up by politicians and anti-gunners. The things they chose that define what constitutes an “assault weapon” are nothing more than mostly cosmetic features that neither make a rifle more or less deadly than any other rifle. Fewer people die every year at the barrel of a rifle, which includes all “assault weapons”, than die to a suspect armed with only hands and feet (unarmed suspect).
California has had an “assault weapon” ban since before the 1994 national ban, but just a few days ago they proposed a revision to that ban. They now want to redefine the term “assault weapon” to include ALL semi-auto centerfire rifles that have a “detachable” magazine. I put detachable in quotes because last year, California saw fit to redefine that term to mean a magazine that can be removed without needing to disassemble the receiver. The proposed redefinition would essentially outlaw every single semi-auto centerfire rifle made, including your hunting rifle. Wake up Fudds (Fudd is a derogatory term for hunters who support “assault weapons” bans), your hunting rifle is about to become that thing you support banning.
I absolutely do not support an “assault weapons” ban. Evidence shows they are ineffective at lowering crime rates or murder rates, including school shootings, and as California is proving, it is just used as another incremental step to banning all firearms.
Magazine Capacity Limits – Pick your capacity, this is also nothing new. Magazine capacity bans have been in effect in many states for a very long time, and just like the “assault weapons” bans, they have proven ineffective at lowering murder rates and have failed to prevent mass shootings. In fact, the most deadly school shooting in American history was carried out using artificially limited capacity 10 round magazines.
Let me just say this, even if we were to assume that just because a law was passed limiting the magazine capacity to a set number, and assuming the suspect who plans on murdering people decides to obey that particular law, they will just buy as many magazines as they think they will need as they plan and prepare for their evil act. But you know who won’t have as many bullets as they want? The law abiding, concealed carrier who is now at a disadvantage by having their ammo carrying capability artificially limited. You just handicapped the good guy while doing nothing to stop the bad guy. Well played!
Arming Teachers – I am all for this, so long as the teacher is doing it voluntarily and can pass a standardized training requirement and meet a set qualification procedure. One of the truths about mass shootings is that the suspect keeps shooting until one of two things happen, they run out of bullets or they are engaged by an armed good guy. Why not put armed good guys in the schools?
The biggest negative I can see with this is if we tried to force, or even encourage teachers who were not fully mentally invested in this plan to participate. I’ve seen what happens with cop recruits (and coworkers) who do not fully invest themselves in firearms training. It creates, at the minimum, a not well trained person, and at worst, it creates an unsafe person who should not be handling a gun, let alone attempting to use one to protect kids at a school. The teachers would have to be mentally and physically prepared for this extra responsibility. If they are, then I fully support this.
I would take this one step beyond arming the teachers. This country has thousands upon thousands of military veterans in need of work, men and women who signed on the line to give their life for their country, and you damn well know they would do the same for our kids. The could fill all sorts of roles in the school beyond just being an armed deterrent. Schools employ all sorts of people aside from teachers and these vets could easily take on some of those other jobs. Hell, we could even help them to become teachers themselves if they so choose.
Conclusion – I do not remotely think that these proposals are the only options that exist. In fact, I would argue, as I did, that most of these proposals are a complete waste of time and would accomplish nothing, at least if the real goal is enhanced public safety. However, sadly, these are the proposals that not only receive the most public attention, but all the proposals (except for arming teachers) are the only proposals that are ever pushed by the anti-gun organizations or by most liberal politicians.
If I neglected to mention a proposal that is getting serious attention, please feel free to point that out to me. I freely admit I may have missed one as the proposals often sound like a broken record and I’ve become numb to the noise.