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Common sense gun laws?

by Dennis L. Bosch Guest column | September 15, 2019 at 4:00 a.m.

We have all heard the plea and emotional responses to the recent mass shootings in Dayton and the two in Texas. The natural impulse of all of us with caring hearts is to take action. Some action, any action. However, taking action without knowing the exact problem is both wrong and a waste of time. The "Clown Club Ten" running for president all insist instant action can solve a complex and ill-defined problem and almost always misstate the current laws using these tragic events as a political club.

So, what are these common sense guns laws and more importantly are our current laws less than common sense? Let us explore our current laws before we go too far.

Every sale of any firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer must follow the same procedure. Each sale of any firearm, both long guns and handguns, must be recorded on ATF Form 4473 identifying the individual purchaser. These documents must be retained by the FFL dealer as well as records of sales from firearms manufacturers to FFL dealers.

Firearms transactions may only be done between residents of the same state as the FFL dealer. No one under 18 may purchase a firearm nor can illegal immigrants purchase a firearm. (Immigrants with a green card may purchase firearms following the same procedure as citizens.) Handgun sales require either a background check or a concealed carry permit. Sales are prohibited to felons or those with domestic violence convictions. Purchasing a long gun and signing Form 4473 indicating you can legally purchase one when you are not permitted by law is a felony. Background checks are also required for long gun purchases.

What are these so-called common-sense gun laws being proposed? They center around several topics: gun show loopholes, internet sales, universal backgrounds checks, and red flag laws.

Gun show loopholes are often cited as a problem. Sales at gun shows by FFL dealers account for the majority of sales/purchases; estimates are that 60 to 80 percent of gun show sales go through FFL dealers and must follow the same record-keeping and verification procedures as a sale at their store. Private individuals, however, may sell firearms at a gun show either to an FFL dealer or another private individual. This is no different from a private sale to someone in the state not selling at a gun show.

Sales from either a firearms manufacturer or from an FFL dealer are not permitted directly over the internet. Firearms may be ordered from a firearms manufacturer but must be sent to an FFL dealer in the buyers' home state and Form 4473 completed when taking possession at the FFL dealer.

Individuals may sell firearms over the internet or via local advertisements but can only sell to residents of the same state. There is no requirement that records of private sales are to be obtained or retained.

Universal background checks are viewed as a solution by many. Since all transaction through FFL dealers are background checked, the only transactions not employing background checks are those between individuals. This would require a massive database and would be virtually impossible to police. This list would also be the first step in creating a federal registry of gun ownership, something which would face fierce and valid opposition.

Red flag laws are another panacea for those flaying away at the gun control issue. Red flag laws would allow immediate removal of all guns from the possession of anyone who is deemed a threat to others or themselves. The complaint could come from a single person with a grudge and minimal support for the accusation would be required. These laws are a direct violation of the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution and offer far too many opportunities for abuse. Let me remind you of the unfounded accusations against the Stanley family here in Hot Springs as well as the gun confiscation used by civil authorities in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Further, removing firearms from a home where those firearms belong to someone other than the individual accused is not only a violation of the other party's due process rights but also of their Second Amendment rights. A much better solution is to employ existing laws to commit the individual to custodial care by the state while an assessment of their mental stability is determined. This is called removing the individual from the guns rather than the guns from the individual.

In examining the hysteria over guns, the thing we have not done is to dispassionately look closely at the gun deaths for a common set of characteristics.

First, do we have an epidemic of gun related deaths? Actually, the answer is no. Per FBI statistics, since 1950, murders have remained at 4.4 deaths per thousand. This covers all forms of weapons, including hand and long guns, knives and vehicles. Knives kill more people annually than long guns despite the ill-defined attempts to ban "assault rifles." The assault rifle ban from 1994 until 2004 had no effect on the murder rate nor on mass shootings.

Mass shootings, where three or more at killed, have numbered from one to 10 incidents annually since 1982. While other shootings occur with multiple injured or killed these are often domestic violence or gang-related shootings rather than racial, ethnic or work-related violence.

So, what is a common feature of those who commit these tragic and senseless mass shootings? First, every single one was a male and generally under the age of 45. We also know these individuals were infested with a hatred for a group of people and were convinced killing them was the answer to their hatred. Mental instability is clearly the problem since no rational person would consider murder a solution.

What we do not know is why this happened. Having examined a few of the articles on these individuals several things became apparent. First, illegal drug use was often documented; second, no mention of any church affiliation was recorded; and third, many came from single-parent homes and often even those living with both parents came from an apparently secular home. Despite some media accusations, no political objectives were espoused by these individuals even when racial or ethnic hatred was the reason.

The problem not only for these mass killings but all violent conflict in our society is the lack of moral and ethical training. Our government cannot legislate morality and expect immoral or morally lacking individuals to comply! Passing more laws where noncompliance is certain, is the definition of stupidity.

Dennis Bosch is a retired CPA, with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Business Administration and a Master's Degree in Accounting. He has served on the board of the Hot Springs Housing Commission as well three years as a Garland County Election Commissioner. He is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus charity efforts.

Editorial on 09/15/2019

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