Reading the newspapers would make one believe that efforts toward gun control have disappeared. With the silence out there, When I Googled gun-control articles for the past week, I found that Gov. Chris Christie has signed at least ten gun control bills passed by the New Jersey legislature. One measure disqualifies people on the federal terrorist watch list from buying guns and another requires certain mental health records to be sent to the instant background check system. A third increases penalties for certain gun-trafficking crimes. Now gun buyers and owners in New Jersey also have to be trained in firearms safety.
Other bills wait for him such as ones that ban sales of .50-caliber rifles and modernize the state’s gun buying system. Bipartisan support in the legislature passed the bills, and gun opponents didn’t go up in flames over the measures. Scott Bach, executive of the New Jersey Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said that his group opposed two of the bills bills but they were not the top priority.
Other lawmakers are trying to make their residents safer:
- Meridian (MS) has signed an ordinance restricting open carry of firearms on all city property.
- The Chicago City Council strengthened Chicago’s assault weapons ban and imposed sharply higher fines for gun crimes near schools and along “Safe Passage” routes.
- Arkansas school districts can’t use a little-known state law to employ teachers and staff as guards who can carry guns on campus, according to the state’s attorney general.
- A federal judge in Denver ruled in early July that he will not block the new Colorado state law that limits the size of ammunition magazines.
- Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced Friday that he will order hearings this fall on the state’s “stand your ground” law.
- The Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-1 to urge state lawmakers to repeal Michigan’s Self Defense Act of 2006, which is similar to Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law.
Guns are not initially illegal: they are manufactured and then sold in a licensed gun store to a person who passes a background check. Yet in 90 percent of gun crimes, the person with the gun is not the original buyer of the gun from a store. In one-third of the crimes, the gun was bought in a different state than the crime. The most common age of a criminal with a gun is 19, followed by 20, and then by 18, yet the legal age to purchase a handgun is 21. These statistics show that the vast majority of guns used in crimes came from illegal gun trafficking.
Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) have introduced a bill that now has 184 co-sponsors. According to Thompson, the measure is identical to the bipartisan agreement on background checks struck by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The bill would require background checks for all gun sales in commercial settings, including at gun shows, on the internet, and in classified ads even if the sellers are doing so privately. Private sellers would be required to conduct background checks through licensed dealers, using the same background check system already used for dealer sales. Licensed dealers would not see changes in the way that they have done their recordkeeping for over 40 years.
In addition, the bill would improve the federal background checks database (NICS) by helping states improve their reporting systems, requiring federal courts to submit records, and removing hurdles to the submission of critical mental health records. It would provide grants to improve automation and transmittal of mental-health records on the state level, make federal court information available to the NICS, and allow the NICS to have mental-health records otherwise protected by the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Thompson and King stated the following in a joint press release:
“Background checks are the first line of defense against criminals and the dangerously mentally ill getting guns. This bill is comprehensive, it is enforceable, it will save lives, and it will protect the rights of law abiding Americans to own guns. It’s time for Congress to act.”
Over 6.6 million guns are transferred each year through private transfers not subject to background checks. Almost 80 percent of criminals using handguns for crimes got these through private transfers. Background checks help save lives as shown by states requiring background checks for all handgun sales:
- Gun trafficking was 48 percent lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.
- The rate of women murdered by an intimate partner with a gun was 38 percent lower than in other states, while the rate murdered by other means was nearly identical.
- The firearm suicide rate was 49 percent lower than in other states, even though people committed suicide in other ways at almost precisely the same rate.
- Thirty-nine percent fewer law enforcement officers were shot to death with handguns.
Hopefully, the King-Thompson bill would close the loopholes that allow domestic violence abusers to easily get guns through existing private sales and transfers. Just the presence of a gun in a DV situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.
The day before Congress left for home last week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced a bill that addressed gun safety, mental health, and gun violence research. “The bill will prohibit the sale of gun kits like those used in the Santa Monica shootings,” Waxman said, referring the June 7 shooting in which 23-year-old John Zawahri shot and killed five people in the Pico neighborhood before he was killed in the Santa Monica (CA) College library.
The Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Act of 2013 would also “authorize additional research on serious mental illness, improve access to mental health services for all, and reinforce existing government authorities to carry out public health research on gun violence.” Although Zawarhi was denied the purchase of a gun because of his mental illness, he used a loophole in the law to buy a partially-completed gun that he put together himself. Waxman wants to close this loophole.
Chris Hayes reports that California’s strictest gun laws of any state may have caused drastic reductions in gun deaths. Gun violence in the state dropped 56 percent from 1993 to 2010, a time when the population expanded from 30 million to 37 million. Across the nation, gun violence dropped only 29.5 percent in the same period of time. At least 30 California gun laws include a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, requirements of safety design for handguns, and various steps to help law enforcement authorities get guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers.
Among all the industrialized nations, 80 percent of all firearms deaths occur in the United States.
Organizations trying to reduce this percentage:
Mayors Against Illegal Guns: a national, bipartisan coalition of mayors with over 1,000 mayors from 46 states who have been joined by citizens.
The Violence Policy Center: a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury through research, advocacy, education, and collaboration.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America: an advocacy group formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting with 100 chapters in 40 states.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence: a national public interest law center dedicated to preventing gun violence.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence: a coalition of religious, labor, and nonprofit organizations to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.
Ceasefire Oregon: a grassworks organization of people who want to prevent gun violence by advocating reasonable, effective gun laws.
The Brady Campaign: a group that works to create a safer America by reducing the number of gun deaths and injuries.
http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/ Americans for Responsible Solutions: an organization formed after the shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) to encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership.
These are just a few of the groups working in this area. Other organizations such as National Organization for Women are also committed to a safer life in the United States. And hopefully get the media back to the issue of gun control!