A challenge to the gun-rights lobby: What is to be done about gun sales to criminals and the mentally ill?

(Note: a reader pointed out that “gun-rights lobby” is a tendentious phrase, implying that people defending gun rights are a special-interest group. I agree. I should have said, “gun-rights defenders.”)

As a strong supporter of the right to own guns, especially for purposes of self-defense, I have always been very troubled by the ease with which persons with backgrounds of criminality or mental illness (think the Virginia Tech mass murderer Sueng Hui Cho) are able to buy guns in this country, and by the apparent indifference of gun-rights supporters to this problem. Among VFR readers are gun owners and gun experts who have a good understanding of the gun-control issue. I would be very interested to hear their reactions both to the below editorial in today’s New York Daily News about the online sales of guns to unqualified persons, and to the general phenomenon of gun sales to unqualified persons. Do they see a problem here, and, if so, what do they think ought to be done about it?

And here is the larger point in which I would frame the issue. We know what the left’s real agenda on guns is: they want a world in which there are no privately owned small firearms at all, a world in which the only entities that legally own guns are governments. As Richard Poe pointed out in his 2000 book, The Seven Myths of Gun Control, the vast majority of non-war-related violent deaths of civilians in the 20th century were carried out by governments that had a legal monopoly on the ownership of guns. And such a state monopoly on guns, carried out worldwide, is the left’s explicit goal. But what is the goal of the gun-rights lobby? Do they want a world in which everyone, including criminals and the insane, can readily purchase guns? Gun-rights advocates will say that this is a totally unfair suggestion on my part. But if it is unfair, then why hasn’t the gun-rights lobby been in the forefront of (a) identifying the terrible fact that guns are routinely legally sold to criminals and the mentally ill, and (b) advocating the passage and effective enforcement of laws that will prevent such sales?

Mayor Bloomberg rightly takes aim at online gun sales
Anonymous Internet cash business puts weapons in criminals’ hands, no questions asked
Thursday, December 15 2011, 4:10 AM

America’s bloodily lax regulation of gun sales is, in fact, meaningless, thanks to the Internet. Call it the Wild, Wild Web.

Mayor Bloomberg on Wednesday brought to light the astonishing fact that thousands of guns purchased in the U.S. are secured on e-commerce sites like craigslist.

Without the background checks that are supposed to weed out criminals and the mentally ill.

Without recordkeeping that enables law enforcement to trace weapons used in crimes.

Without anyone having to produce a shred of identification.

The guns used in the Virginia Tech massacre and other mass killings were bought online, as, surely, were untold additional weapons of criminal violence.

Bloomberg’s probers showed how easily bad guys desiring firearms can find eager sellers.

By one estimate, would-be gun buyers have more than 4,000 websites to choose from. City investigators focused on 10 that featured numerous dealers and offered a collective inventory of 25,000 guns.

Calling 125 of the merchants, probers made very clear that they could not pass background checks. No matter.

Seventy-seven dealers went ahead with the sales—even though it’s a felony to knowingly peddle a gun under those circumstances.

Among the weapons purchased by the investigators was a Ruger P95 9-mm.—the same type of handgun that killed Police Officer Peter Figoski.

The sites ranged from craigslist—where 82% of dealers made illegal sales, even though the website’s rules expressly ban gun ads—to specialty sites like Armslist (54%), Gunlistings (77%) and GlockTalk (78%).

According to Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, John Feinblatt, sellers on New York State-based sites asked about permits and cut off contact when they realized buyers were not legal. While this is heartening, many out-of-state vendors, especially those down South, had no such compunctions. Would you expect otherwise from gun traffickers based in an area that fuels the Iron Pipeline carrying firearms by road to New York’s underground?

Dealers who are in the business of selling guns must be federally licensed. But so-called private sellers—who are considered hobbyists, even if they are selling multiple firearms in violation of federal law—don’t have to be licensed and don’t have to conduct background checks. Still, hobbyist or not, no one is allowed to sell a gun when the buyer clearly isn’t qualified.

Bloomberg has turned his investigators’ evidence over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and is calling for the feds to conduct further undercover investigations. The agency must respond aggressively.

The mayor also wants Congress to require background checks for every gun purchase and for websites to better police their own sellers. In the best of times, those steps would be a tough sell in Washington. Now, amid a presidential race, the gun crazies are in full, insane command.

- end of initial entry -

Roger G. writes:

You wrote:

“But what is the goal of the gun-rights lobby? Do they want a world in which everyone, including criminals and the insane, can readily purchase guns?”

As you of course know, outlawing an activity is not the same as stopping the activity. What the gun lobby wants doesn’t matter. Whether they approve or not, criminals and the insane are always going to be able purchase guns readily. Locking up criminals and the insane is what works.

LA replies:

But what about someone like Sueng Cho whatever, who had not committed a crime and was not criminally insane, but who was clearly mentally troubled and dangerous and had no business owning a gun?

How would you stop someone like that from purchasing a gun? This is a very serious problem. It cannot just be blown off.

James N. writes:

Crazy people buying guns online:

Bad, definitely bad.

Also, as the Daily News editorial (eventually) points out, illegal. VERY illegal, in fact.

So, should there be more laws against doing what the laws already forbid? Or, should the governments of the world, the entities responsible for 99.99 percent of the carnage on the planet, be given even MORE power over the communications, movements, and transactions of their people?

Make no mistake, the power that would be required to step effectively between sellers determined to break the law and buyers determined to break the law would be power without limit. And it is power capable of great harm if exercised without discretion, which, as history teaches us, is a near certainty.

All of the things decried by the Daily News and Bloomidiot are already illegal, by multiple overlapping Federal, state, and local ordinances. [LA replies: That’s not answering my question. I’m not just asking about what laws should exist, but about how those laws are to be enforced. You’re suggesting that such laws cannot be enforced in a manner consonant with basic liberty. Therefore you are in effect against such laws. And therefore your position is that we can do nothing and should do nothing to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing a firearm.]

Here’s another take on the Bloomberg regime:

I am licensed to carry a concealed firearm in my home state and in 34 other states. I exercise this right whenever and wherever it is legal. I recently had the pleasure of visiting your fair city where, as you know, handguns are illegal without a permit, and where permits are not issued to non-residents. The penalty for a violation includes a mandatory prison sentence.

So, while strolling around Manhattan, coming into contact with many persons undoubtedly carrying illegal weapons, I was deprived of the most elementary right of self-defense while nothing was done about the predators around me.

I cannot buy a gun online, because that is illegal. Any purchases I make online must be delivered to a licensed dealer, who then conducts the required background checks. It is just not true that online (or offline) sales to unqualified persons are permitted, anywhere, under any circumstances.

Felons, of course, break the law. That’s how they get to be felons in the first place.

Bloomberg and his cohorts want to restrict and eventually prevent law-abiding persons from simple self-defense while doing nothing about lawbreaking. This is absurd.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

I don’t know about New York State, but in California one can’t buy a gun online without having it delivered to a licensed firearms dealer in the state of California. Moreover, there are a number of forms and written test to pass before one can take possession. Specifically the procedure is as follows:

All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process. California imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee. A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun. To buy a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age, and either (1) possess an HSC plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or (2) qualify for an HSC exemption.

As part of the DROS process, the buyer must present “clear evidence of identity and age” which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver’s License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.

If the buyer is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing to the firearms dealer with documentation that contains his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.

Purchasers of handguns are also required to provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a drivers license or other DMV-issued identification).

Note also that during the ten-day waiting period the personal information you gave to the dealer will be sent to the California Department of Justice, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. Any of these agencies can deny you permission to purchase a firearm. I suspect New York State is at least as stringent. One should also note there is no such thing as a “gun show loophole.”

If a criminal or a “mentally ill” person has no record, then of course he can buy a firearm. There is no cure for this other than to have anyone wishing to buy a firearm submit to a psychiatric examination. Even then the psychiatrist might fail to detect mental illness. BTW what is mental illness in the absence of observable organic brain disease? I’m inclined to agree with Thomas Szasz that “mental illness is a metaphor run amok. Let’s not forget that the Soviet Union imprisoned and punished dissidents using the (bogus) concept of “sluggish schizophrenia.” [LA replies: I again draw attention to the Virginia Tech mass murderer with the difficult to remember name, who had made threatening statements and clearly had mental problems that showed he was dangerous. That determination is not based on “organic brain disease,” but on his behavior. If Mr. Zarkov cannot envision any acceptable and viable legal procedure by which Sueng Hui Cho would have been stopped from buying deadly weapons, then he should come right out and say so.]

Daniel M. writes:

I believe the fact that criminals and the mentally ill are able to get guns is just sadly the price of a free society. I am more troubled that any moron with an IQ of 4 is able to get behind the wheel and share the roads with me, but once again, you could make a case that it too is the price of a free society.

James N. replies to LA:

As we discussed at the time of the Virginia Tech massacre, in any normal, healthy society Sueng Hui Cho would have been involuntarily incarcerated, either in a hospital or a jail.

One of the maleficent consequences of the regime of nondiscrimination is that crazy people are free to wander about and commit mayhem with no possibility of (proper) prior restraint.

The malpractice of society in this regard is, I suppose, an argument to restrict the liberty of all. Far better, however, to immobilize the crazies as every normal society has done throughout history, at least history prior to 1965.

LA replies:

I forget what exactly was the extent of Cho’s alarming behavior and what I said about it at the time, and will have to look it up. Here is the collection of VFR’s entries on the Virginia Tech Massacre.

But let’s say for the sake of discussion that Cho’s behavior did warrant his being locked up, in which case the question of his ability to buy firearms would not even have arisen.

That’s still leaves the question: what about people who have had mental problems involving threats of violence that were not so serious that they warranted the person being locked up? What about people with criminal violent records who have been released from prison? The drift of this discussion seems to be that we can have laws against such people buying guns, but cannot enforce such laws, since they will always be broken, and since even the attempt to enforce such laws seriously would be too draconian. Therefore, practically speaking, we have no choice but to allow evidently or potentially dangerous people to buy firearms.

LA continues:

Also, as I understand it from media coverage of the Cho case and others, in many such cases no laws were broken when gun dealers sold the guns to questionable persons who then used them for murders. Media coverage is generally sketchy on these points. But if in many cases the sale was legal, and was made by a dealer who was seeking to remain within the law, then it would seem that, contrary to what some have said in this thread, there is room for new laws that will cover those instances, as I said in the initial entry.

December 16

JC in Houston writes:

As a longtime gun collector and shooter I wanted to comment on the editorial. First of all, Bloomberg is a notorious antigun fanatic. The idea that anyone can just legally order a gun online is nonsense. Any interstate sale of a firearm must go through an Federal Firearms Licensed dealer. If I advertise on an online gun auction site for example, and a buyer from another state wishes to purchase it, he must find an FFL dealer to whom I can ship it. That dealer will then, as all FFL dealers are required to do, run the NCIS check for disqualifying criminal records. Sales between individuals who are residents of the same state are not subject to that requirement. Anyone buying from a licensed dealer must undergo the NCIS check. As for mentally ill individuals, one must have been adjudicated mentally ill or been involuntarily committed, for example, to be disqualified under federal law. The problem with background checks on these types of people is that there are no ready data bases where such information can be accessed, the records are kept haphazardly. As one with some experience in the criminal justice system and law enforcement (not as a criminal of course), I can say that the vast majority of guns used in crime are stolen, or sold from one thug to another, who could care less that they are breaking the law. Recently the biggest supplier of illegal guns has been Holder’s Justice Department, i.e. fast and furious.

LA replies:

I say again, since there had been complaints about Cho’s frightening behavior and speech, but he had not been officially designated mentally ill or involutarily committed, there would appear to be no way that the sale of weapons to him could have been denied.

J. in Brooklyn writes:

1. Criminals and the mentally ill with criminal intentions do not obey laws, including those restricting gun sales to them.

2. The number of murders a private criminal, or a small group of the same, or a genuine isolated insane person can commit is dwarfed by the number of murders a criminal government or one headed by an insane head of government can commit. Your original post proves this beyond cavil.

3. Denying the right of self-defense to the citizens in general puts them at the mercy of criminals, the insane. Virginia Tech some months before the 2007 massacre denied those with carry permits the right to be armed on its premises. See the account of Bradford B Wiles in the Roanoke Times of 2006, appended below.

Unarmed and vulnerable—Roanoke.com
Thursday, August 31, 2006 Bradford B. Wiles

On Aug. 21 at about 9:20 a.m., my graduate-level class was evacuated from the Squires Student Center. We were interrupted in class and not informed of anything other than the following words: “You need to get out of the building.”

Upon exiting the classroom, we were met at the doors leading outside by two armor-clad policemen with fully automatic weapons, plus their side arms. Once outside, there were several more officers with either fully automatic rifles and pump shotguns, and policemen running down the street, pistols drawn.

It was at this time that I realized that I had no viable means of protecting myself.

Please realize that I am licensed to carry a concealed handgun in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and do so on a regular basis. However, because I am a Virginia Tech student, I am prohibited from carrying at school because of Virginia Tech’s student policy, which makes possession of a handgun an expellable offense, but not a prosecutable crime.

I had entrusted my safety, and the safety of others to the police. In light of this, there are a few things I wish to point out.

First, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police.

Second, I considered bringing my gun with me to campus, but did not due to the obvious risk of losing my graduate career, which is ridiculous because had I been shot and killed, there would have been no graduate career for me anyway.

Third, and most important, I am trained and able to carry a concealed handgun almost anywhere in Virginia and other states that have reciprocity with Virginia, but cannot carry where I spend more time than anywhere else because, somehow, I become a threat to others when I cross from the town of Blacksburg onto Virginia Tech’s campus.

Of all of the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head that morning, the most overwhelming one was of helplessness.

That feeling of helplessness has been difficult to reconcile because I knew I would have been safer with a proper means to defend myself.

I would also like to point out that when I mentioned to a professor that I would feel safer with my gun, this is what she said to me, “I would feel safer if you had your gun.”

The policy that forbids students who are legally licensed to carry in Virginia needs to be changed.

I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun and urge you to work with me to allow my most basic right of self-defense, and eliminate my entrusting my safety and the safety of my classmates to the government.

This incident makes it clear that it is time that Virginia Tech and the commonwealth of Virginia let me take responsibility for my safety.

Brett A. writes:

The article is not clear on how the guns are delivered to the buyer. You cannot legally ship a firearm to anyone except a Federal Firearms Licensed individual or dealer, who is required by law to do a National Instant Criminal background check on anyone who is picking up a firearm shipped to the Federal Firearms Licensed individual. If the buyer is meeting in person with the seller then the situation is obviously different, but the article seems to imply these gun sellers are shipping the firearms, which is not legal.

Jack S. writes:

A few points about the so called online gun purchase loophole.

Online gun purchases made between a private party and a licensed dealer are strictly regulated and require the same procedures as an in store purchase. The firearm must be sent to a licensed dealer in the home state of the buyer who will then do the transfer in accordance with all state, federal and local laws. BATFE form 4473 must be filled out by which the buyer the buyer affirm that he is not a prohibited possessor.

Prohibited possessors include: convicted felons, persons adjudicated mentally incompetent, persons dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, habitual users of illegal drugs, medical marijuana users, illegal aliens, persons convicted of misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and persons who have ever been the subject of a domestic violence related restraining order (!) These last two points are recent additions. The buyer must provide a state issued ID and must be a resident of the state where the purchase is being made. The licensed dealer writes the information from the ID on the form 4473 and in many cases makes a copy of the ID. After this form is completed the licensed firearms dealer submits the buyer’s information to the NICS, the national instant check system, usually by means of calling local law enforcement or the FBI. If the buyer’s name comes up as a prohibited possessor no sale is made and the would-be buyer has committed a crime in merely attempting to make the purchase.

So in short there is no online gun purchase loophole. It is a complete lie invented by anti-gun fanatics. When they speak of purchases on Craigslist, these are private transactions between individuals who are not licensed firearms dealers. Such transactions are legal in most states; they are always illegal for interstate transactions unless they go through a licensed dealer in the home state of the buyer.

What Bloomberg and the Daily News editorial are arguing for is the banning of private sales of firearms. This is the same as the so-called gun show loophole. Firearms sales at a gun show require the same federally mandated procedures when the seller is a licensed dealer.

Face to face private transactions are legal in many states as long as the buyer is not known to be a prohibited possessor by the seller. There was recent sting operation conducted by New York City police at an upstate New York gun show at which an undercover cop “admitted” to a private seller that he probably couldn’t pass a background check and the seller sold the gun to him anyway. Local police departments are reportedly using the same sting techniques to entrap private sellers who list their guns on online classified ad websites like Craigslist.

With regard to your question as to how to keeps guns out of the hands of clinically insane but not yet adjudicated incompetent individuals, there are no laws that can instill goodness in the hearts of evil or deranged men. Such laws would be used to deny the law abiding of their God given right of self defense, which is one of the arguments and justifications that the Founders used in framing the Second Amendment.

LA replies:

I understand what you’re saying. And the bottom line remains that society has no way of preventing firearms being sold to someone like Sueng Hui Cho. From which it follows that the only way to protect society is widespread conceal and carry, including on college compuses such as Virginia Tech.

Mark P. writes:

The “mental case” exception to gun purchasing is just another red herring. Mentally ill people are not identifiably mentally ill right before they pick up a gun and right after they kill somebody. Their mental illness was probably known by dozens of people and institutions years before the fateful event. What was done then? Nothing, because social permissiveness runs rampant at all levels.

In other words, the government and the liberals do not really care if a crazy person picks up a gun and kills somebody because they did not care when the crazy person was doing other crazy things before the nutjob escalated. Mental illness is just another convenient ploy to hang their anti-gun agenda. It is another ploy to ignore or call it for what it really is.

Ferg writes:

One of the many problems that arises with this is that what two or more people do in private may be legal or illegal, but it can not be prevented by the simple fact that it is private. What happens online is to some extent private and thus not possible to control. How are you going to observe and prevent any of the millions of transactions that take place on the Net every day? The article states that most of what is happening here is already illegal. Are we to make it “double secret” illegal? If we do, so what? Some days ago a man threw a hand grenade into the midst of a bunch of people in Belgium. Hand grenades are virtually universally illegal, but this guy got one some where. How come he wasn’t stopped? Britain made the ownership and possession of handguns illegal back during the nineties. Since then the availability of handguns on the underground market has if anything gone up. Ask yourself this, and ask your mayor too. How come the Virginia Tech type shootings never happened in the Forties and Fifties when the purchase of guns by mail was legal for all with no background checks needed? And up until 1968 this included items that are now considered explosive devices and artillery. In other words, what does the availability of weapons have to do with their illegal use?

Ron K. writes:

Gun laws and voting requirements should be, to borrow a term from the EU, “harmonized.” Make “em tough, leave “em lax … just make sure they’re the same.

Nothing would clarify the general issue more quickly than this. You’d have the ACLU working for gun rights and the NRA for voting rights—albeit both indirectly.

However, most gun arguments are about blacks, not quacks. I’m not sure how this would play out with crazy people. (Which way do they vote?) But the ACLU and other groups seem loath to keep anyone out of the polls.

Two further points: People will argue that voting is a right, and gun possession is not. But this is the reverse of the view in Blackstone’s day.

Also, you say you support “the right to own guns, especially for purposes of self-defense.” This is a weak stance. We should be arguing from duty, not rights, civil rather than self defense. The rapid progress in concealed-carry law reform is largely due to focusing on the prevention of massacres. [LA replies: Yes, I agree.]

In most demographically divisive issues, there is an adult side and a child side—adult/child, white/nonwhite, man/woman, American/Mexican, etc. The child will always argue from rights, and often win, but the adult will get nowhere until he argues from duty.

Stewart W. writes:

I apologize in advance for the length of this response, but I thought the best response to your question was to break down each of the vectors here.

First, you ask “What is the goal of the gun-rights lobby?” Obviously, a full treatment of this topic has filled many volumes, but I can attempt to summarize. Among the serious gun-rights people, the saying is, “Any man too dangerous to be trusted with a firearm is too dangerous to be trusted without a guardian.” This really tries to remove the tool from the debate, saying that you should instead focus on keeping people incarcerated, or in mental institutions, if you are that worried about them. Many of these gun-rights advocates are actively lobbying to reduce the restrictions on firearms ownership by felons, especially since the current laws don’t say “convicted of a violent felony,” but rather “convicted of any felony, or even just accused of domestic violence,” which standard seems clearly too strict, in my view.

The other half of the “too dangerous” set, as you point out, are the mentally ill. Here, the law currently states that someone adjudicated mentally ill is not allowed to own or legally purchase a firearm. As you point out, that may get most of them, but some, like Cho, slip through that net, because they haven’t yet been so adjudicated. However, how do you draw that line? Does it merely depend on somebody’s suspicion that you are crazy? To whom do you report your suspicions? Can you do so anonymously? What other basic civil liberties do you lose in the event of an anonymous accusation of craziness? The bottom line, from a gun-rights perspective, in a free society under the rule of law, a certain number of “Chos” are the unavoidable consequence of liberty.

The proper response to Cho is really two-fold. First, bring back mental institutions, and reinvigorate the process of legally declaring people insane, so that more such people are caught and given the help they need, or at least, removed from a position of doing harm to themselves or others. Second, for those that still slip through the cracks, it isn’t a matter of preventing the shooting, but rather stopping the lunatic before it has a chance to turn into a “mass shooting.” In almost every mass shooting case, the killer was stopped by a gun, either his own (fearing the imminent arrival of other people with guns), or somebody else. In other words, if even one person at Virginia Tech had been in a position to shoot back, they might have been able to stop Cho before he got as far as he did, or at least “pin him down” or distract him from his task while waiting for help to arrive. If you examine the records, almost all of the mass shootings of the last 50+ years have been in so-called “gun-free zones,” where the assailant knew that most or all of his victims would be unarmed. There have never been any mass shootings at police stations, gun shows or stores, or any similar venues. Even the Fort Hood shooting took place in a venue where ordinary soldiers and officers were prohibited from carrying loaded weaponry.

Thus, the answer to people like Cho is to strengthen the detection and enforcement of an insanity declaration, and to have more responsible adults armed, to stop the lunatics that still make it through the system. It is not to add further restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms, because such attempts invariable cast too-wide a net, and are generally only effective at stopping the law-abiding and sane.

Finally, in this article, Bloomberg attacks the private sale of firearms, wanting all such sales to be subject to government documentation and control. I note the first bit of mendacity is when they refer to people selling on Craigslist as “dealers,” when in fact, they were almost certainly just private sellers. I would be willing to bet that almost nobody who had a Federal Firearms License (FFL) would have sold them a gun under such circumstances. So, OK, he found seventy-seven private people willing to make an illegal firearms sale to another private person who claimed to be unable to legally own firearms. And how many people could he find that would be willing to make an illegal narcotics sale? The point is, it’s already illegal to sell firearms to prohibited persons, and trying to make it more illegal only serves the interests of those that want all private gun ownership banned. As the gun-rights people point out, we already have 20,000 gun laws on the books, and it still hasn’t stopped the illegal sale of guns. Furthermore, from a principled standpoint, how many restrictions should be placed on legal items, and furthermore, the only items for which there is a specifically-enumerated right in the Constitution?

Again, I apologize for the length of the response, but as you realize, this is a very complicated topic. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those “gun-rights” people, as you may have already guessed.:-)

Randy writes:

Having successfully lobbied against progressive right, and leftist anti-gun legislation in Utah since 1993, I have seen nearly every iteration of Bloomberg’s weak and projecting arguments. The new argument he presents is based entirely upon a lie. Yes, I believe it is possible that if his “crack team” of callers were to reach out to 125 dealers, they might find one that would be willing to turn a blind eye to a straw purchase, but I do not believe that any legitimate businessman who has jumped through the hoops of Uncle Sambo’s FFL application and fee process would knowingly risk their livelihood over the potential profits of one, or even ten guns. Problem is, logic dictates that people claiming to be dealers on Craig’s list are more than likely not, and those that are would hang up the phone with a disclaimer about their legal responsibilities for selling guns. I suspect there are a number of FFL dealers who might use Craig’s list, and other web sales options as vehicles to promote their legal wares.

There is also something suspect about someone who lies about their intent to a professed gun dealer about a gun purchase. I suspect that Form 4473 and the government has some stipulation about gun purchases that define Bloomberg’s actions as a Federal Crime.

Only someone with a specific political agenda could make up a story so profoundly untrue, as that provided by Bloomberg and his team. Mr. Bloomberg and his ilk are all projecting what they know would be their own mentally unstable behavior if they ever laid their hands on a loaded weapon. They cannot imagine that there are people out there who are mentally stable and competent when in the possession of a firearm, and know themselves to be a threat without anything that resembles self-control.

Compare and contrast the difference in behavior at the lowest levels of human interaction using modern day civil protests.

The Tea Party is in general a very pro 2nd Amendment group, several of which carry at rallies around the U.S.; how many acts of violence have been committed (even fist fights) at these rallies? ZERO. Plus, when Tea Party protesters leave a yard, stadium, city center, they always leave it in more pristine condition than when they arrived. I.e. they carry out their own trash, as well as the trash of others, and probably have service projects to paint and restore parks as a part of their rally.

When you look at the way the Occupiers, Million Man March, Rainbow PUSH, PETA, Equal rights groups, Eco Terrorists (Greenpeace, Global Warming diluted, etc), Human rights groups, an others act, the outcome and the participants are always the same. They turn the earth (I was going to say salt the earth), cover it in waste (human excrement and trash), they almost always have some act of violence (rape, beating, shooting) that occurs, and they always want something special for themselves at the expense or rights of others. These protests are filled with adult children, Democrats and Progressives, which in my mind are synonymous.

I was going to comment on the lack of clear and immediate punitive action against perpetrators of acts of random or even premeditated violence, but since our government is not listening and does not care, it would be little more than a typing exercise.

Paul M. writes:

If you can stand one more comment on the subject…

I knew a man who was once an internationally competitive shooter. After the breakup of his marriage, however, he fell into depression and alcoholism. Despite our attempts at intervention, he refused to seek medical help because he didn’t want “them” to take away his guns. Ironically, he eventually used one of those guns to end his own life.

December 17

Jack S. writes:

I think at the motive at the heart of gun control enthusiasts is to ensure that everyone is dependent on and at the mercy of government for his very survival. Just as with Obamacare where the goal was not to provide universal health care but to create dependence on government for one of the most basic needs, gun control activists don’t really care about gun violence victims. Look at the lengths to which the same activists will go to excuse the perpetrators of violence performed by members of one of their pet groups. Look at Carolyn McCarthy who made a very nice career for herself fighting gun rights; such a person would never think that importing racist mass murderers from Jamaica and unleashing them on disarmed New York commuters is a bad idea. They are passionately against the idea that an individual might be able to act independently to protect himself rather than having to ask a policeman or a government functionary for help. They don’t care that help will arrive too late or that the courts have ruled that police have no legal duty to protect specific individuals. In fact in cases such as Virginia Tech, Columbine, and the 1984 San Diego McDonald’s shooting, police arrived at the scene of ongoing mass shootings only to set up perimeters and barricade themselves behind cover while helpless victims continued to be massacred. In any of those cases one or several armed men present among the victims might have stopped the action long before it became a massacre.

Paul K. writes:

Ferg wrote:

“How come the Virginia Tech type shootings never happened in the Forties and Fifties when the purchase of guns by mail was legal for all with no background checks needed?”

Actually, there were a fair number of mass killings in the late 1940s and early 1950s attributed to troubled World War II veterans, as I learned when researching newspaper archives. The number of casualties were not in the same league as Cho’s, rarely exceeding a half dozen, but the phenomenon existed.

I am also surprised that several people mentioned firearms sold through Craigslist. Firearms sales are explicitly prohibited from Craigslist. The terms of use bans “Weapons and related items, including firearms, switchblade knives, martial arts weapons, scopes, silencers, ammunition, pellet/BB guns, tear gas or stun guns.”

Ferg writes:

You wrote:

“I understand what you’re saying. And the bottom line remains that society has no way of preventing firearms being sold to someone like Cho. From which it follows that the only way to protect society is widespread conceal and carry, including on college campuses such as Virginia Tech.”

All I can say is that given today’s culture and or multi-culture what you say is the only choice. Nothing else will work. This is not 1950 America any longer.

Bill Carpenter writes:

Great discussion on gun rights. It exposes the difficulty conservatives have in thinking outside the liberal box. Our conservatism is primarily right-liberal, so when we resign ourselves to the trade-offs necessary to maintain a “free society,” we are thinking primarily of protecting individual rights from the intrusions of government. But as traditionalists, we should be able to see beyond right-liberalism. Your initial question I believe is premised on the belief that natural law permits human communities to defend themselves against outbreaks of violence at the hands of mentally unstable persons and criminals. That natural law point of departure is appropriate. It does not exclude or diminish the communal nature of human existence in favor of the liberal exaggeration of its individual nature, and it does not assume that government is the only means of regulating behavior.

I think we need to revisit the mechanisms of collective responsibility that our ancestors used to maintain order. For example, a society can regard each individual as belonging to a household or body of households, which are held responsible for the misconduct of any of their members. That provides incentives to non-governmental actors to prevent wrongdoing by their relatives and other dependents. There is also the institution of outlawry, which withdraws the protection of the community from a transgressor, permitting non-governmental actors to deal with him as occasion permits. It may be that parents, relatives, and neighbors should no longer be permitted to shift the risk that one of their own is unacceptably dangerous on to society as a whole. Families may have to be permitted to restrain dangerous individuals, or in some cases formally renounce responsibility. A practice of requiring not only references but sureties for many kinds of transactions—employment, education, major purchases, marriage, and so on—could develop as a non-governmental response to the ever-increasing mobility, anonymity and diversity of our society.

Self-defense is a fundamental right under natural law, but communities also have a fundamental right to self-defense. A disarmed utopia policed by armed angels is not an option. A helpless populace herded by armed agents of political entities and preyed on by armed criminals is not a desirable option. An armed populace that suppresses threatening individuals is the best we can do. Rather than delegate all prevention and punishment of crime to government, we could empower other communities such as families to prevent and punish offenses, and incentivize prevention and punishment by imposing liability when communities fail in their obligation to other communities.

We may prefer right-liberal individualism, but it doesn’t seem sustainable in our diverse society.

A reader writes:

I own many guns. Last year I voluntarily checked in to a psychiatric hospital due to severe depression. I take medications to this day that help me tremendously. I thought about suicide constantly when I was severely depressed. There are much cleaner and safer ways to take your life which I won’t advertise but someone will find a way with or without a gun.

I never considered hurting anyone during this time.

I purchased a new rifle for my son for Christmas recently. I was relieved to find out that I could, since I would not lie on the government form. You are only prevented by law from owning or carrying if you have been forced to have psychiatric treatment by a judge or other authority. A person diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, like me, is not forbidden to own, purchase, or carry a firearm. I will leave it up to others whether or not that is a good thing. For me it is because I know I am not psychotic, which is, of course, a different diagnosis.

I haven’t read all of your commenters, but I do think online sales and other background-check-free methods should be controlled or done away with. The gun rights defenders, whom I appreciate, use the same arguments as the abortion crowd. Any restriction is a violation and will lead to greater restrictions eventually leading to the outlaw of guns. This is just not necessarily true and not rational is some instances.

There are already so many guns in the hands of American citizens. If a government crackdown did occur it would likely lead to some serious consequences for the government.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 15, 2011 04:39 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):