Nel's New Day

January 26, 2015

Universal Background Checks Necessary for Gun Safety

The local Ceasefire Oregon chapter organized a gun buy-back earlier this month. Despite naysayers from the gun non-legislation people, it was deemed a success with 138 weapons unwanted and possibly dangerous weapons turned into the police chief in my small coastal town. Fox network saw the video about the event and asked to do a story with the focus on people who said that they would gather outside the event and buy guns.

Publicity about the event brought the trollers who objected to background checks for private gun sales. The Central Coast Ceasefire Oregon Steering Committee responded to one of these complaints with stated concerns in italics:

Bob, thank you for your thoughtful response to the NOW BLOG.

Comment 1: How about starting to find common ground by not using insulting terms like “the gun lobby” to describe people who don’t support the agenda of even more restrictive laws? We aren’t a monolithic block, we aren’t a paid group of people, and we aren’t one organized group. Yet gun control advocates continue to paint us all with one wide brush.

Ceasefire Oregon uses the term “gun lobby” when we are addressing the organizations that actually lobby legislators about firearms-related issues. There is indeed a vast, well-financed, well-organized, and focused gun lobby. Nationally, the NRA, the NRA-ILA, and the Gun Owners of America lead it. In Oregon, the best known gun lobby is the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF).

We try to use the term “gun owners” when referring to those who own firearms or enjoy firearms, but are not lobbyists. We don’t always use the term “gun owners” because we know that the vast majority of gun owners actually agree with the goals of Ceasefire Oregon.

Gun violence prevention advocates, such as the members of Ceasefire Oregon, are not a monolithic block, a paid group of people, or one organized group, either. Our unifying issue is “gun violence prevention” not gun control. We prefer the terms “gun safety” or “gun violence prevention” to describe our work.

Bob, have you an alternative to the name “gun lobby”?

Comment 2: How do you address the fact that most firearms used by criminals already evade existing [background check] laws regarding sales and very little prosecution is taking place regarding those laws? The administration’s own National Institute of Justice reports shows [sic] that most firearms are purchased on the “secondary” market; people eligible for legal purchases are illegally selling firearms to criminals.

Tragically, some gun sellers will sell guns without performing a background check first. Criminals use the private sale loophole to bypass a background check. A background check law will hold a gun seller criminally liable if the seller does not perform a background check and the purchaser was actually prohibited from buying a gun. Few people are willing to put their liberty at risk just to sell a gun to a criminal.

The state of Oregon recognized that prosecutions of those who violate Oregon’s limited background check law were inadequate.

“Effective Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 8:00am, the Oregon State Police (OSP) will be revising the procedures related to violations of state law involving persons attempting to purchase or transfer a firearm that are denied, due to a state or federal disqualifier. This revision will include enforcement action involving persons attempting an unlawful firearms transfer through a licensed firearm dealer, during a voluntary private party check, or at a gun show.”

In addition, national law enforcement agencies and the families of those lost to gun violence are taking on the “Bad Apple Gun Dealers.” (Ninety percent of crime guns can be traced back to just 5% of gun dealers.) Here is further background information.

Please correct us if we are wrong, but by your “secondary market” reference, are you referring to straw purchases whereby one person buys weapons with the intent to sell the weapons to a prohibited person? If so, straw purchases are already illegal. This information is clearly laid out in ATF Form 4473 that is filled out when selling and purchasing a firearm.

The United States could greatly reduce straw purchases and gun trafficking by limiting gun purchases to one gun per month. California, Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia already limit gun purchases to one gun in a 30-day period.

Of greatest significance to us is the fact that universal backgrounds checks have proven to deter felons, mentally ill, those caught in the passion of anger, and those caught in the despair of suicide.

Comment 3: So how will requiring background checks for “all sales” address [straw purchases]? Do you really expect criminals to stop paying friends and family to buy firearms for them? Why should I and others like me who already own firearms have to go through yet another check? Or why should I have to go through a check when I buy a firearm from someone I know from work or the range?

We have no expectations of criminals. We do, however, think that family and friends will not want to face criminal charges for supplying weapons to criminals. In addition, we think very few family and friends want to arm criminals.

We believe the truth is that criminals buy guns and a responsible gun owner does not want a criminal to have a gun. Performing a background check as a seller also protects the seller from providing a criminal with a gun.

A universal background check is a minor inconvenience of being a good citizen and caring for the overall safety of the country. Requiring only one background check per lifetime (or for a limited period of time) ignores the fact that people change over time. Maybe you did not know that your friend from work or the range was a felon or had been adjudicated mentally ill at the time of sale or vice versa? Having consistent regulations is a safeguard. We all know there some gun owners who should not have possession of guns.

Two million prohibited people have been blocked from purchasing a gun since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

Bob, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

Comment Four: Do you mean safe storage laws like Washington D.C. had? Do you mean if a firearm is stolen, the owner will be penalized and criminalized unless that owner can prove the firearm was stored in an ‘approved’ vault?

We are sure you agree that responsible gun owners have control over their weapons. Weapons should always be stored safely or kept under control on the gun owner’s person.

Smart gun technology can greatly reduce the risk of stolen guns being used in crimes as well as reduce the risk of suicide by gunshot.

With great rights come great responsibilities. If you choose to bring a gun into your home and community, you must be responsible for it.

Comment 5: The area of mental health is an area where we can make great strides, but we should proceed cautiously. So far most of the proposals call for anyone seeking help for just about any condition or situation to loose [sic] their right to keep and bear arms. That is unacceptable and will probably keep people from seeking help.

The United States needs to do a much better job of taking care of our mentally ill citizens and those who seek mental health help. Part of that help is to prevent those who would injure themselves or others from accessing firearms. However, we are unaware of any proposal of the breadth you describe.

Again, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

A speaker from Ceasefire Oregon at tomorrow night’s local NOW meeting will most likely bring out more trolls, especially after recent articles about proposed state legislation for more complete background checks. Last year, neighboring Washington state became the 17th state to extend background checks past the federal standard for only licensed gun dealers. Oregon now has a chance for the same opportunity after last fall’s election increased the number of Democrats in the state government. Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski plans to introduce a bill that requires background checks for criminal history and mental history before private gun sales. Excluded would be sales among family members, inheritances and antique guns.

Private gun sales accounted for about 40 percent of all purchases 20 years ago; this percentage has probably increased since then because of sales on the Internet. Law enforcement officials have said that a record of ownership for sales would help them solve crimes. States with universal background checks have lower rates of police killed with handguns, fewer women shot by their intimate partners, and lower rates of suicides with firearms.

January 1, 2013

Make a Difference

“To do nothing in the face of continuous assaults on our children is to be complicit in these assaults. There may not be a single-cure-all for the violence in our nation; however, we must start the process and begin the deeper and longer conversations that need to take place. Politics be damned. It’s time for Congress to act.”—Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

On December 14, 2012, most of the people in the United States went into shock after a young man killed his mother, himself, six adult educators, and 20 children—ages six and seven—at an elementary school in a somewhat affluent area just 60 miles from New York City. The tragedy led to declarations of making sure that this never happens again with the hardcore gun owners determined to protect their arsenals until their dying breaths.

We have many disastrous events like this every year, each one followed by the NRA declaring that “this is not the day” to discuss gun control efforts and accusing anyone who wants changes of protecting people from gun deaths of “politicizing” the situation. Sadly, the so-called “fiscal cliff” has taken over the media while the GOP stalls in any attempt to solve the problem. Last night, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill of 89-8, but the House puts off any decision. They keep saying it’s closer but making no decision which keeps them from having to deal with any other problems in the United States.

The death of 28 people is jarring, but the public has ignored the fact that at least 372 people have died from gun deaths since December 14. I say “at least” because the U.S. has no formal way to report these numbers. The last time that statistics for the gun deaths in the country was 2009.

Last summer, the anonymous creator of the Twitter feed @GunDeaths starting trying to compile statistics on gun deaths by tweeting every reported death that he found . Inspired by the Aurora (CO) shootings and wanting to call daily attention to the toll that guns take, he is now partnering with Slate who provides an interactive feature, “Gun Deaths in America Since Newtown.” Clicking on this website allows you to put a name, age, place of death, and age of each person.

One of these 372 tragedies happened three days after Christmas in North Carolina. A man shot his 12-year-old nephew in a hunting accident when the uncle tried to reload his 12-gauge shotgun and accidentally discharged it, fatally wounding James Lee Parker in the chest. James’ great-uncle, who was not present at the death, told television news, “[James] loved to hunt and he died that way. I believe that’s the way he would want to go if he was going to go. I guess God had plans for him and he’s up in heaven now.”

In Bennettville (SC) an 8-year-old boy was accidentally killed by a “family member” when he was visiting his father. Ten-year-old Alfreddie Gipson died on Christmas Day after he and his 12-year-old brother found a gun in a bedroom of their North Memphis (TN) home on Christmas Day.

In Logan County (OK) 3-year-old Ryder Rozier found a gun while he was visiting his uncle, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, and died after shooting himself in the head. This happened the day after the shootings at the Connecticut elementary school.

Gun lovers who fight any kind of gun control claim that only criminals cause gun deaths. What about 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj who fatally shot himself in the head while his father was watching him learn to shoot a 9-mm Micro Uzi machine gun in 2008. His father, the medical director of a hospital emergency department, said that his son “was comfortable with guns” and that they “avoided” larger machine guns.

The advertising for a two-day event at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club stated that the $5 entry fee was waived for children under age 16 and there was “no age limit or licenses required to shoot machine guns.” If the child had parental consent and a licensed instructor, there was no minimum age for firing machine guns. And spare me the argument that this doesn’t happen very often. We don’t know.

I will write more to write about gun control—idiotic reasons and solutions from NRA leaders, denials from the public, etc. To finish today, however, I wanted to publish an email that I received one week ago from my friend Taylor in Portland (OR):

“Today I became a member of Ceasefire Oregon, a grassroots organization founded in 1994. It is dedicated to enacting laws in Oregon that will ensure the safe and responsible use of firearms through both its advocacy efforts and educational programs. Serendipitously, Ceasefire Oregon volunteers had meetings scheduled with Oregon state legislators on December 14th seeking sponsors for a bill to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons. Fifteen legislators signed on immediately. The organization will be meeting with these and other legislators to craft the bill for the 2013 legislative session. Senator Ginny Burdick, a leader in the fight against assault weapons, has already prepared legislation to ban the over-sized ammunition magazines that make these weapons so dangerous and deadly.

“The execution of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 14th has been a wake-up call for me as it has been for countless others. The call to action by Connecticut’s own U.S. Representative, John Larson, was the second event that got my attention that dreadful day. He said, “To do nothing in the face of continuous assaults on our children is to be complicit in those assaults.” He went on to say, “There may not be a single cure-all for the violence in our nation, however we must start the process and begin the deeper and longer conversations that need to take place.  Politics be damned . . . It’s time for members of Congress to act . . . .” This guy truly got my attention! And it’s time to heed the call.

“If you are not familiar with or are not already a member of Ceasefire Oregon, I’m asking you to look at its website: http://www.ceasefireoregon.org. I think you’ll agree that its mission is definitely a step in the right direction. Of course, if I had my druthers, I would eliminate ALL guns from our land, but unfortunately such a single-remedy approach is a tad unrealistic. However, we can at least get started with a ban on all “weapons of war,” high-capacity clips, watch list loopholes, and mandatory background checks for ALL gun sales! Let’s help to continue the good work of organizations like Ceasefire Oregon. I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m ready to pitch in. Please join me in seeking this or your own way to advocate for a return to sanity.”

This is the time of the year that many people make resolutions—lose weight, get a better job, etc. My resolution for the year is to make a difference in the world. It’s easier than you might think. Find a group to join that has similar values and get others to join. Change comes one heart at a time, and everyone can do it.

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