Nel's New Day

January 12, 2013

A Letter about Gun Control to Rep. Kurt Schrader

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:29 PM
Tags: , , , ,

schraderThis past week Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) cited the two usual myths of providing safety for people in the United States through gun control: (1) there are already unenforced laws on the books that would take care of the problems; and (2) “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I take particular offense at his ill-conceived statements because he is the representative from my Congressional district and purports to be a Democrat.

Here is my response to Rep. Schrader:

After Vice-President Joe Biden met with a number of groups from pro-control victims and public health officials to the NRA, he released these seven points for reform that will be presented to President Obama next Tuesday. It is to be noted that none of these are existing laws and therefore cannot be enforced.

  • Close the so-called gun show loophole. Congress passed a law in 1986 that allows people to buy firearms at any of the thousands of gun shows without licensing, background checks, waiting periods, and reporting sales to authorities. Today, 40 percent of gun sales annually across the county occur at gun shows, and by some estimates 80 percent of weapons used in crimes are bought at gun shows.
  • Require universal background checks for gun buyers.
  • Improve background check database. The second and third points are connected. Although Congress has passed various laws to bar felons, the mentally ill, and drug addicts from owning guns and instituted a federal system of background checks and a five-day waiting period, three-quarters of the states refuse to share information about felons and the mentally ill with federal authorities. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to comply with the reporting requirement. Even after a 2007 law creating federally administered grants for states to send information to the Justice Department, only a dozen states account for most of the data six years later. Nineteen states have each submitted less than 100 mental health records to the FBI database, and another 19 states have policies allowing someone who has been found to be mentally ill in court to get a gun.
  • Limit high-capacity bullet magazines.  In 1934, when Congress passed the first federal gun-control law, they severely taxed machine guns because gangsters used these for the worst mass killings at that time. Modern semi-automatic weapons fed by high-capacity bullet clips are as deadly as machine guns.
  • Allow federal research on gun violence.
  • Remove gag orders on federal agencies that collect gun data. Like the background check hurdles, these two proposals are intertwined. Starting in 1996, the NRA lobbied Republicans in Congress to restrict key federal agencies’ ability to conduct research on gun-related violence. Not car accidents, just gun-related violence. In 2003 Congress barred the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing data in its records that traced gun sales. The result is no information on what kind of weapons are used to kill most people, how many weapons are trafficked, does gang warfare use firearms, are guns used in crimes legally purchased—none of that information is available because of the 2003 law.
  • Target purveyors of violence as a cultural norm. For decades the NRA has been encouraging people to fight government with armed insurrection, an attitude particularly notable since the most recent shooting. Two years ago Sharron Angle, Nevada’s candidate for U.S. Senate, used the Second Amendment as a talking point for retribution if people didn’t like government’s actions. Media accounts showed that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooter in Arizona was obsessed by this Constitutional “by-any-means-necessary” fantasy. Trained Marine veteran Joshua Boston claimed that he would not obey a law to register his guns because he might have to fight “against a government that had overstepped its boundaries.”

One more excellent idea, again that the NRA opposes, is the requirement for “smart guns” that can be shot only by their owners. One alternative is a fingerprint key on the trigger, and another is a magnetic ring. The trigger has a magnetic block that doesn’t allow it to be pulled back unless the shooter is wearing the matching ring for the gun. That system usually has an override function as well; once the ring is ready to fire (wearing the right ring) you can disable the ring function, allowing anyone to fire.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology is also working on a Dynamic Grip Recognition technology, which would track the owner’s hand size, strength and grip style. This system has a 90% recognition rate or higher. New Jersey already has a law that future handguns be “smart guns,” but all the states need to require this for effectiveness.

Although laws are currently being enforced, they are weak, and SCOTUS has said that states are not required to comply with federal mandates. Federal law and the laws of most states allow anyone who can pass a Brady Act record check to walk into a gun store and leave with as many guns as they can pay for. The guns are not registered, and purchasers don’t need a license. Because the Brady Act covers only federally licensed firearms dealers, purchasers who are not licensed dealers can legally resell or transfer ownership without doing a record check and without reporting or registering the change of ownership.

Some states limit aspects of this essentially open market. A Pennsylvania law channels resales through licensed dealers, but provisions inserted at the NRA’s behest make the law nearly impossible to enforce. Because owners don’t have to register guns or report transfers of ownership or thefts, law enforcement cannot identify who owns a particular gun. Federally licensed firearms dealers must report large-quantity sales to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT), but authorities can do nothing unless they monitor the purchasers and catch them doing something illegal, which requires an inordinate expenditure of time and resources.

People actually oppose NRA’s positions of no licensing, no registering, no background checks. An example is Wisconsin where almost two-thirds of the voters oppose the legislators in their determination to pass a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons in public places. Even gun owners want gun control: 82 percent support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun.

Rep. Schrader, I realize that the NRA gave a higher contribution to your campaign than to the one GOP representative in the state, but I ask you to look at Vice President Biden’s points and seriously consider them. In response to your comments, (1) laws have to exist for them to be enforced; and (2) if people have to have guns in order to kill other people. Those who voted for you want to feel safe, and that doesn’t mean keeping an armed guard on every school, business, mall, street, mall, etc. It means legal management of weapons.

Please support your constituents instead of the conservative GOP who wants to continue the Russian roulette of our lives. If you can’t, then I would suggest that you change your affiliation to Republican, because that is what your policies currently reflect.

1 Comment »

  1. What about also re-enacting the Brady Bill ban on assault weapons?

    Like

    Comment by Central Oregon Coast NOW — January 12, 2013 @ 7:50 PM | Reply


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