Since the December 14th Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the dominant liberal media has been buzzing with commentators, activists, politicians, and celebrities calling for stringent gun control measures. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced a revision of the 1994 gun ban, which now includes virtually all popular handguns (in defiance of the Supreme Courts previous rulings) as well as “grenade launchers” and “rocket launchers” (which are already illegal to own). Michael Moore, the liberal version of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, has thrown in his two cents worth by trying to make gun ownership a racial issue, and CNN talking head Piers Morgan had called for a revision of the Second Amendment (as well as other sections of the U.S. Constitution and the Bible). Others have also jumped on the anti-gun band wagon like so many publicity hungry celebs busy muscling each other aside in order to get their five minutes of fame in front of the media’s cameras.
Naturally, the NRA and others on the right are trying to do their best to champion the Second Amendment’s guarantee of private gun ownership. In light of all the pro-gun and anti-gun hoopla, maybe it is time to tone it down a bit (or a lot!) and have a reasoned discussion on just how effective gun control really is.
In today’s news reports I have just read that Chicago has reached a total of 500 murders thus far this year. Of these homicides, all but 75 involved firearms. This is almost double the number of this year’s U.S. Troop casualties in Afghanistan as of December 6th! Amazing, especially when one considers that Afghanistan is a war zone and Chicago isn’t (or is it?). In addition to this horrendous number of homicides, Chicago has also experienced 2,640 non-fatal shootings as of December 19, 2012; and a total of 27, 982 violent crimes (including gun related crimes) thus far this year. The Chicago police department has stated that as of December 27, 2012 homicides were up 17 percent and shootings were up 11 percent over last year. By the way, in case you are now of the opinion that Chicago is a deadly city to live in, you should know that it did not make the FBI’s list of the 25 most dangerous cities of 2012. Yes, there are cities in America that are even more dangerous than Chicago!
In light of these shocking statistics from Chicago, one might come to the conclusion that Chicago must have some very lenient gun control laws. If so, however, one would be wrong. The fact is, Chicago has some very strict gun control laws. For example:
1. All residents of Chicago who wish to own a firearm are required to possess a “Firearm Owner’s Identification Card” or FOID (which is issued by the Illinois State Police) prior to owning a firearm in Chicago. Once the FOID application is submitted, the applicant must undergo an extensive background check which includes fingerprinting. If the FOID applicant has been convicted of a felony or an act of domestic violence, or is the subject of a protection order, or has been convicted of assault or battery, or has been a patient in a mental institution anytime during the five years preceding the application submission, or has been adjudicated as a mental defective, or is an illegal immigrant – the application is automatically denied and the applicant is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in the city of Chicago.
2. Once the applicant passes the process and receives an FOID, the applicant will be required to have a Chicago Firearm Permit, before being allowed to possess a firearm in the city of Chicago. These permits cost $100 and must be renewed every three years. Before being issued the permit, the applicant must successfully complete a training course that includes at least four hours of classroom training and one hour of range time.
3. Once the FOID and the Chicago Firearm Permit are issued, the applicant must register each and every firearm with the Chicago Police Department, at a one-time cost of $15 per gun (plus an additional $15 for the registration of a handgun), and an annual registration report must be filed each year with the Chicago Police Department. Concealed Carry Licenses are not issued in the state of Illinois, and Illinois does not recognize any CCL issued by any other state. Open carry is also illegal in Chicago (and in Illinois, unless actively hunting or in a fixed place of business and with the owners permission). Gun possession is permitted only inside a dwelling. Not in a garage or outbuilding, nor on the outside grounds of the property; and only one gun at a time may be kept in a usable state. All others must be locked and or disabled and stored in the dwelling. When a firearm is being transported, it must be unloaded and enclosed in a case.
4. Possession and or ownership of the following firearms are strictly prohibited in the city of Chicago: Any fully automatic weapon; any assault weapon whether fully automatic or semi-automatic; any magazine that can hold more than 12 rounds (10 rounds in Cook County outside of Chicago city limits); short barreled rifles and short barreled shotguns (historically accurate shirt barreled rifles are allowed if possessed for the purpose of historical reenactment by bona-fide members of a nationally recognized military reenactment organization). Chicago also prohibits the sale of firearms within the city limits.
And yet, in spite of these fairly stringent gun control laws, Chicago continues to experience thousands of gun related crimes each year. Clearly, Chicago’s gun control laws are not in the least bit effective.
Lest one may jump to the conclusion that Chicago’s horrendous crime rate involving firearms in spite of it strict gun control laws is nothing more than an anomaly, one need only take a look at the states of California, Alaska, Arizona, and Utah. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, California has the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Conversely, Alaska, Arizona and Utah have the most lenient gun control laws in the nation. Lenient almost to the extent of being non-existent.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2011, California experienced 459,940 firearm related murders, 16,211 robberies in which a firearm was used by the criminals, and 16,965 assaults with firearms. These add up to a grand total of 493, 116 firearms related crimes in the state with the strictest gun control laws in the country. On the other side of the coin, the three states with the most lenient gun control laws (Alaska, Arizona and Utah) experienced a COMBINED total of 23,585 gun related crimes in 2011. According to these stats from the FBI, in the states where a large percentage of the population are armed, there are less gun related crimes than in the state with the strictest gun control laws.
Clearly, gun control laws are simply ineffective at reducing gun related crimes. At best, they do nothing more than keep honest people honest as the saying goes. So what is the problem, the real problem I mean. It obviously isn’t the guns themselves, and banning them or restricting them (or bullets) has never worked in any country, state or city that this has been tried. Every time gun control laws are enacted, the only people affected are those who are law abiding, and who would not use their guns to break the law. The only people who use firearms in the commission of a crime, are criminals, and that is who gun control laws should be targeting. This is a multi-faceted issue, however, and any solution offered must be multi-faceted as well.
The first issue that should be addressed is the number of firearms in the United States. No, I do not mean the legally registered firearms, nor even the total number of firearms owned by law abiding citizens. That number, or at least an approximation, is readily available. These guns, however, are not part of the problem. The number I am referring to here is the number of illegal firearms in the United States, and that number is unknown. Regardless of what anyone tells you, regardless of how “informed” they claim to be, no one really knows just how many illegal firearms are in the United States.
These illegal firearms are in the hands of criminals. They are in the hands of sociopathic and psychopathic individuals. Individuals who do not register their guns, who do not abide by any gun control laws, and who never will. These are the guns and “gun owners” who should be targeted by gun control laws, and not law abiding citizens.
Thousands of firearms are reported stolen each year. These firearms end up in the hands of criminals who either sell them on the black market, or use them to commit crimes, or both. Thousands of legitimate gun owners die each year. Their guns are likely to be given away, sold, destroyed, or turned in to local law enforcement. There is no way to accurately know just how many guns this entails, and some of those guns will likely end up in the hands of criminals.
At this point, many liberal gun control advocates will posit that if all guns were removed from the law abiding citizenry, then their guns will not end up in the hands of criminals. While is true to some extent, what they do not take into account is the comparative number of guns that criminals illegally acquire from legitimate gun owners.
In a study done involving criminals who used a firearm in the commission of a crime, 37 percent stated that they could illegally obtain a gun in less than a week. Another 20 percent stated it would take only a day or less to obtain an illegal firearm on the black market. A 1997 survey of incarcerated felons who had committed a crime while using a firearm showed that fewer than 2 percent obtained their gun from a flea market or gun show. Clearly, regulating these venues would be pointless. Another 12 percent stated that they obtained their gun from either a retail outlet or a pawn shop. Again, the current regulations for these venues seems sufficient. A whopping 80 percent, however, stated they obtained the guns they used to commit crimes from illegal street sources. The black market. 80 PERCENT! And there is absolutely no possible way to regulate illegal street sales of firearms. There is no waiting period, no background check, and all you need to purchase a black market gun is money or some other valuable item with which to barter. And according to estimates the illegal gun market has quite a selection with an estimated three to four times as many unregistered guns in the United States as there are registered guns. In New York City alone, there are an estimated three million unregistered firearms (what say you to that Mayor Bloomberg?)
Is gun control needed? Absolutely, but there needs to be a common sense approach to gun control legislation, and not the knee jerk reactionary legislation that seems to follow tragedies such as Sandy Hook. I would offer the following as possible solutions to the gun control issue:
1. Secure the borders. With the immense amount of human smuggling and drug smuggling and terrorist smuggling occurring, it naturally follows that firearms are involved. Drug cartels have already entered the United States via our porous southern border and they have committed several crimes involving firearms in the United States. It is a safe bet to say that they did not head to the closest Walmart to purchase their guns. No, they brought them with them. This includes guns sold to the cartels through the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program. These guns have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the border. Effectively securing our borders and ports could substantially limit the number of firearms imported illegally into America.
2. Strengthen current sentencing laws. Homicides are not the only violent gun related crimes committed in America. Assault, rape, robbery, hijacking, home invasions, and kidnapping all often involve the use of at least one firearm. In fact, these other crimes combined account for more firearm related crimes than do homicides. In spite of this, often times the criminals who commit these crimes are allowed to plea bargain to a lesser charge, sometimes omitting weapons charges completely. This must change. If a firearm is used in the commission of any crime, the law should automatically prohibit any plea bargaining. If a firearm is used in the commission of any crime, the law should provide for a mandatory 20 year minimum sentence upon conviction and served consecutively – not concurrently – with any sentence arising from other charges related to the same crime, and without the possibility of parole. If the victim or victims of that crime are injured in any way through the use of that firearm, the mandatory minimum sentence should be doubled to 40 years without the possibility of parole. If the victim or victims die from the use of a firearm used in the commission of a crime, the minimum mandatory sentence should be life without the possibility of parole. All appeals for these convictions should be limited to three in a three year period following the initial conviction. After the three appeals in a three year period, all appeals are then exhausted unless undeniable and incontrovertible evidence as to the innocence of the person convicted can be submitted to the supreme court of the state within which the initial conviction occurred, at which point the supreme court of that state will make a final and unappealable decision regarding the initial firearm conviction.
3. Prison should be a deterrent. Which, of course, it currently is not. With television (sometimes big screen televisions), radio, computers, hobby shops, video games, carpeting, vending machines dispensing soda and snacks, specialty canteen items, and recreational opportunities that are better than many schools, health clubs and resorts; prison is nothing more than a vacation from life on the streets. In addition, prison is to the younger and more inexperienced inmate, a “crime college” where the younger inmate is schooled by the more experienced inmates in the finer points of criminal activity. How to make, market and distribute methamphetamine. How to avoid detection by home owners and law enforcement. How to elude and escape law enforcement. How to refine home invasion, robbery, theft, rape, murder and other criminal activities for the maximum benefit and minimum danger for the criminal. There should be no luxuries in prison. None. Prison is a warehouse for criminals to keep them off the streets and away from law abiding citizens. Nothing more. Rehabilitation only works if the inmate has a desire to be rehabilitated, and those programs should be available, but on a limited basis, and only for lower security inmates. By the way, I make these suggestions with almost 25 years experience working in level 3, 4, and 5 correctional facilities.
4. If an accidental injury occurs due to the improper handling, storage or transportation of a firearm, then the owner of that firearm is clearly too stupid to own a firearm, and their firearms should be immediately confiscated by law enforcement. The owner should then be banned from owning a firearm of any kind for a period of five years, and a 40 hour minimum firearms training course which includes all aspects firearm safety, must be successfully completed during each year of the owners firearms ban. This training course should be at the owner’s expense. This ban is a one time ban. If the owner has a second accidental injury after having his or her firearms returned, the ban then becomes a lifetime ban. If the owner cannot or will not successfully complete the above mentioned firearm training each year during the five year ban, the ban then becomes a lifetime ban.
5. Anyone convicted of a felony cannot own or possess a firearm of any kind. Ever. Anyone convicted of a violent misdemeanor cannot own or possess a firearm of any kind. Ever. Anyone who has been adjudicated as a mental defective cannot own or possess a firearm of any kind. Ever. All illegal immigrants are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm of any kind. Anyone who has been a patient in a mental institution for more than thirty days, or has been a patient in a mental institution due to a violent act, cannot own or possess any kind of firearm for a minimum of five years following their release from that mental institution.
6. Anyone who owns or possess a firearm of any kind, and who also has living in their home a person who has been adjudicated or diagnosed as a mental defective or as having a mental illness of any kind, must be required to store said firearms in a locked metal storage container, with all ammunition stored in a separate locked metal storage container. These containers must be kept locked at all times unless the firearm is in the process of being transported to another location, or if the firearm is needed for self defense and/or protection. One firearm may be kept loaded for the purpose of self defense and/or protection, but must be kept in a locked metal container separate from all other locked metal firearm / ammunition containers, until ready to use.
7. A national database should be maintained within every state, and open to all law enforcement agencies nationwide (including mobile law enforcement units), which contains the name, address and other identifying information of any and all individuals who are banned from owning or possessing any firearm of any kind. Medical and psychiatric professionals must be required to submit to their local law enforcement agency the name, address and other identifying information – including diagnosis, of any patient they have diagnosed as unfit or unable to own or possess any firearm of any kind, for the purpose of including that patient in the national database of individuals banned from owning or possessing any firearm of any kid. In other words, registering firearms will not keep anyone safe. Registering those who are banned from owning or possessing firearms may save many lives.
These are only suggestions, but suggestions I think are more common sense than the knee jerk, emotional reactionary gun control laws that are being suggested by the liberal left. Make no mistake, they will pass some form of gun control, and I am sure that it will be one more step toward a total gun ban for all law abiding citizens for I believe this is what they ultimately want. Common sense alone tells us this.
Sources: The list of information sources is quite lengthy, and can be found on the Independent Realist blog at: