Thursday, January 17, 2013

Would banning high capacity magazines and requiring universal background checks be a good start to stricter gun control?

Let’s consider this scenario.  If you limit the magazine size of a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to 10 rounds (perhaps even 7 like the latest New York law requires) have you basically reduced the firearm to what many typical rifles are capable of shooting?  In checking an Outdoor Life recommendation of the best 2012 hunting rifles, I found the Ruger American Rifle with a 5-round capacity including a magazine.  I don’t know how typical or popular this rifle is with hunters but it seems to have received the recommendation of a major hunting magazine.
The American Hunter
I don’t think any gun control advocate out there favors taking away a hunter’s right to enjoy his sport, and anyway, assault rifles aren’t the biggest problem in gun violence, handguns are.  According to the FBI, in 2011, 6,220 people were killed by handguns, 323 by rifles.  But it was the sheer horror of the brutal killing of 20 children ages 6 and 7 by a shooter using his mother’s assault rifle with a 30-round magazine that has brought the gun control issue to the forefront.  The question is, would that Bushmaster AR-15 revert to the same capability as the Ruger reduced to a 10-round or less capacity?

Unfortunately, the universal background check would not have prevented Adam Lanza from killing these little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but it could have prevented Jared Loughner from getting the weapon he used to kill 6 and injuring 13 in Tucson in Jan. of 2011, including former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.  What must be done in parallel with requiring these background checks is to make the reporting of felons and the mentally ill to the appropriate databases mandatory by law enforcement and all states.  Common sense?  Yes, but one of the biggest shortfalls in maintaining gun control.

The New York Times reported, “All federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks through the computerized databases that comprise the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS).  But the requirement does not cover guns that are sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows and in other private sales, which account for about 40 percent of gun purchases in the country.”  The  National Instant Criminal Background Check System reports 16,808,538 requests for firearm background checks in 2012 with 976,255 denials.
The latter means that 15,832,283 permits were issued in 2012, which also means that 6,332,913 gun purchases could have been made—based on the 40%--without background checks.  Even if a fraction of this figure resulted in guns ending up in the wrong hands, is it any wonder why guns deaths in the U.S. are so high?  According to a CNN article, the FBI says more than a million people failed background checks to buy guns in the last 14 years because of drug use or mental health issues.  Congressional approval is required for universal background checks but other moves need only executive actions.

Some of the President’s proposals are not given much chance of making it through a Republican House because of gun lobbyists, namely the National Rifle Assn. (NRA).  This organization claims to have added around 250,000 new members to its already 4.2 million.  An NRA spokesman says the numbers are those who are passionate about 2nd Amendment rights, a claim that is really getting old.  What the NRA spokesperson didn’t say about that 250,000 is the fact that 74% of them support background checks.  The Frank Luntz poll of NRA members also found that 75% want more restrictions on concealed carry.
If the President gets better background checks plus a ban on high capacity magazines, we can wait until 2014 and a more progressive House and Senate to add more to the list.  Here’s my want list on gun control from an earlier January post:

1. Ban all assault or assault-type weapons

2. Ban all high-capacity magazines over 5 rounds

3. Close gun show loophole

4. Background checks for all gun purchases

5. Mandatory training for anyone owning a gun

6. Mandatory state reporting of the mentally ill

It’s like a Christmas list.  You just keep asking for what you want until you get it.  The NRA should be on notice that the gun control advocates won’t give up this time.

Tell you congressional representatives what you want done about gun control;  Senate here; House of Representatives here.

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