A reader of my first post, Can we toughen gun regulations without threatening the 2nd Amendment rights of United States Citizens-, commented that it would be helpful to see more data relating to how gun-related violence has either increased with the population, or decreased over the past several years. That seemed like a pertinent question, and so I’ve done some research and come up with some numbers and charts that I found interesting – and also unexpected in many cases.
First, and perhaps most unexpectedly, it appears that individual gun ownership has gone down, even as gun sales have surged upwards. That is to say, although the United States boasts enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country, the number of households that actually have guns is at its lowest point in over 40 years.
Gun sales, on the other hand, have increased on a regular basis. The graph below from a Wonkblog article in the Washington Post indicates that, on average, there were more than 8 guns per gun-owning household in 2013.
That does not mean each household has eight guns. The majority of urban households may have only one or two guns, while in rural areas, it might be more common to see a greater number of firearms due to more opportunity to hunt, more family members living on the same property, and the need for better protection due to the solitary nature of rural life. Inner-cities might also contain a disproportionate number of guns per household, depending on the particular neighborhood. Gun collectors could also account for a higher than usual amount of weaponry. Statistics are hard to come by, because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (see previous post) forbids the government from having a database, or national registry of gun ownership.
Nevertheless, The United States has a higher per-capita gun ratio than any European country, as well as other countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/small-arms-survey-countries-with-the-most-guns-1.3392204.
According to the United States Census Bureau, our population has been growing at a steady pace for the last century. The following chart shows the growth rate from 1980 to July of 2016.
In the next chart, with combined statistics from the CDC, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and www.gunviolencearchive.org, we see a peak in firearm deaths in the early 1990s and then a sharp decline in the late 1990s, where the level has remained. Although not proof of the effectiveness of these laws, the figures suggest The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was enacted in 1993, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 may have played a part in the reduction of gun violence.
This chart shows the number of mass shootings that have occurred during the same time period. Notice that prior to 2006 there were only 4 years out of 23 that had mass shootings 3 or more times. In the last 10 years, only 1 year (2010) had less than 3 mass shootings. Each segment is a singular shooting incident.
This could indicate that easier access to high capacity firearms and ammunition, due to a loosening of gun regulations, has led to more fatalities. (This chart does not include the most recent shooting where Dallas police officers were targeted on July 7th, 2016. Five officers died and another 7 were injured, as well as 2 civilians, by sniper fire.) As shown in the Firearm Deaths graph, in 2004 a ban on assault weapons was not renewed by congress, and assault-type weapons seem to be the weapon of choice for most mass shooters.
This next chart gives a fairly recent look at the gun deaths by state. It also shows that both suicides and murders were on the decline as far back as the mid ‘90s. During that period there were stricter gun regulations. Of course, there are other factors to consider, too. The economy, for one thing, can play a big part in violence and suicide rates.
To round out the facts, this last chart shows the number of non-fatal gunshot injuries, as well as the related deaths in mass shootings over the 30 years between 1982 and 2012.
If the totality of all this data is any indication, then one might have to say that although population growth has increased at a steady rate, singular homicides have dropped substantially while mass shootings have increased exponentially, even though overall gun ownership itself is down.
[Special note] There is no data to deny or support concern that the News Media or Social Media play any particular role in the amount of gun violence, but some people suggest that media attention could be a contributing factor, just as some suggest that violence on television or in movies, and the violent nature of modern video games could be a contributor. But these ideas are just speculation – and possibly food for thought in a future conversation.
CAN WE toughen gun regulations without threatening the 2nd Amendment rights of United States Citizens?
This article is dedicated to the 49 people who lost their lives to gun violence in Orlando, Florida in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, and to those who survived, but have received physical, mental and emotional scars, and to the families and friends of all these people.
For the sake of this article, the word “weapon” refers only to hand guns, shot guns and rifles, although weapons in general refers to a large range of items, such as knives, clubs, and bombs, to name only a few.
Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Is it possible to make Federal laws that will not infringe on the rights of legal gun owners?
Currently, machine guns cannot legally be purchased if manufactured after 1986. Felons are not allowed to own guns (with some state exceptions), and in many states, known victims of mental illness are not allowed to own guns. Therefore, it is possible to make common sense laws and regulations that still respect the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms. Most people think each state should make their own rules. As of now, we have a combination of state and federal regulations that cover gun usage and ownership. Some are on the fringes of irresponsible, while others are not seriously enforced.
A look at the Federal Regulations that have been enacted in the past 50 years.
1968 The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 is passed, which becomes the primary federal law regulating firearms. It prohibits all convicted felons, drug users and the mentally ill from buying guns; raises the age to purchase handguns from a federally licensed dealer to 21; and expands the licensing requirements to more gun dealers and requires more detailed record-keeping.
1986 Prompted by complaints that the federal government has been abusing its power to enforce gun laws, Congress passes the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. The law limits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from inspecting gun dealers more than once a year, with follow-up inspections allowed only if multiple violations are found. An amendment is also passed banning civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. Weapons made and registered before that date are not affected. The law specifically forbids the government from creating a national registry of gun ownership.
1993 The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (Also called the Brady Bill) mandates background checks of gun buyers in order to prevent sales to people prohibited under the 1968 legislation. Checks would eventually occur through a new system, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), maintained by the FBI. But records of such checks cannot be preserved because federal law (1986) prohibits the creation of a national registry of gun ownership. Sales by unlicensed private sellers who are not engaged in gun dealing as a business are not subject to the checks under federal law, though checks are required by some states.
1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 produces a 10-year federal ban on the manufacture of new semi-automatic assault weapons. The law specifies 19 weapons that have the features of assault rifles, including the AR-15, certain versions of the AK-47, the TEC-9, the MAC-10 and the Uzi, several of which had become the preferred weapon of violent drug gangs. The act also bans large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds. The law does not apply to weapons that were already in legal possession, and there are easy ways to adapt new weapons to avoid the prohibitions.
2004 The 10-year sunset provision of the assault weapons ban runs its course, and the law is not renewed by Congress. Repeated efforts to renew the ban fail. – Washington Post, December 22, 2012
NOTE: Ref: Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, Amends the National Firearms Act to include within the definition of “machinegun” any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for use in converting a weapon to a machinegun. (Current law includes only a “combination of parts” within such definition.) https://www.congress.gov/bill/99th-congress/senate-bill/49
What is left of the Brady Bill?
Not much. In 2013, a plan to expand background checks failed. Fifty-four senators were for it, 46 were against — and it couldn’t pass without a 60-vote threshold. Only 56 senators voted yes on the Brady bill. The background checks bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), would have required checks on all commercial gun sales, [including gun shows,] and was a part of the big federal push on gun violence policy after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. –Washington Post, February 12, 2014
Now, for the purposes of this conversation, let’s compare buying and registering a vehicle to buying and registering a firearm.
- We have to have a driver’s license to drive a car, a truck or even a motorcycle. If we want to drive a semi, we have to get a commercial license (CDL). We should have to have a license to be a gun owner (because like a car or truck, a gun used recklessly can be lethal.) NOTE: Some states do require a license to own a gun. Ex: Illinois.
- If we own a car, it has to be registered and licensed. When we sell that car privately, we have to sign the back of the registration and put the name of the new owner on it, then send that into the MVD. Car dealers are required to provide the information on every vehicle they take in trade, and every vehicle they sell. When we buy a gun, we should have to register it. If we sell a gun, we should have to send in the paperwork for that gun, with the new purchaser’s name. Private sellers should be exempt from doing a background check.
- If we get caught driving without a license, we have to pay a fine and get a license. If we don’t comply but continue to drive, we can end up in jail. We should be fined if found in possession of a firearm without a license to carry one, and be required to get a license within a limited time or relinquish the gun.
- If we get caught driving an unregistered car we get fined and must license the vehicle. If we don’t, that vehicle can be taken away from us. If caught in possession of an unregistered firearm, we should have a limited time to get it registered. Once cited, if we don’t comply within the given time we should be compelled to surrender it.
Do these rules stop people from stealing a car? No, but they let the police know that it IS a stolen car, and the driver gets to go to jail for driving a stolen car. Then the car is returned to the owner. If they don’t want it back, it is either destroyed or sold properly. They also give us a better way to report that a car was stolen, and more hope of getting it back.
Does this stop people from driving negligently or driving under the influence, or breaking other rules of the road? No, but it helps the police find the people who don’t follow the rules. If the penalties are stiff enough it does make most people think a bit before doing something stupid. They learn to use a designated driver or call a cab, or slow down.
If an accident occurs, the licenses and registrations make it possible to hold the drivers responsible. Even though it is an “accident”, drivers are responsible and punished for injuring or taking another person’s life if their actions caused the accident. We can buy insurance to help with the expenses incurred if we’re in an accident. (Maybe an optional insurance should be available to gun owners?)
When we go to get a driver’s license, we have to pass a written test, and also a driving test. Shouldn’t a gun license require the licensee to know gun safety measures? (Written test) Safety tests could be given at certified gun ranges where there is an instructor who can issue a gun training certificate after training is completed, or verify that the person has sufficient training, (military, law enforcement, etc.) If this law was the standard throughout the United States, people who have a license in one state could transfer it if they move to a new state, just as they do with a vehicle.
The NRA offers good safety training for gun users of all ages. I am not a supporter of the NRA when it comes to politics, but do see the need for training. While looking at the NRA website, I read several comments from new gun owners who suggested that taking more than a beginner’s class should be considered before becoming a gun owner. Going to a range and being shown different types of guns and how they shoot would help a buyer decide which is best for him or her. There are also private gun ranges in most cities that offer a variety of classes in gun handling and safety instructions.
Who should be allowed to have Military Weaponry? Common sense says; Military personnel, some law enforcement divisions, licensed gun ranges, licensed dealers and manufacturers and certain collectors. General citizenry should not have these kinds of equipment for personal use. They can’t be used for hunting, and they are overkill for self-defense. If a person is a gun collector, they should be licensed as such, and have every piece that they own licensed independently. One idea could be to form 2 levels of licensed collectors; Standard, or Level 1, which would include antiques, standard non-military pistols and rifles, and semi-automatic rifles used in hunting. (BB or pellet guns probably do not need to be included.) Level 2 would allow ownership of military style weapons.
What actually constitutes an “Assault” Weapon?
A true “assault” weapon refers to fully automatic. Fully automatic means when you pull the trigger, the gun fires until you release it or run out of ammunition. Examples would be Uzis or Machine guns. There are rifles with 2-shot and 3-shot (or more) trigger bursts, also considered automatic in some states. AK-47s can be either fully automatic or semi-automatic. When an uneducated mass-media says “assault rifle” one can generally assume they mean the AR-15 or the military M16, and similar weapons. The AR-15 is a fairly common hunting rifle and the preferred rifle for many coyote and small game hunters. Even with a 30 round clip, squeezing the trigger does not shoot 30 rounds. You can shoot just one shot per pull of the trigger as with any other hunting firearm. Semi-automatic means the shells are automatically ejected and the next round is chambered for firing. Most hunters fire only once or twice at any single target. In 2015, CNN announced that semi-automatic AK-47s will soon be manufactured in the U.S. as a way around the law that disallows the sale of the Kalashnikov AK-47 manufactured in Russia. More information regarding AK-47 rifles can be found at the following website, explaining California’s latest laws: https://www.revealnews.org/article/despite-ban-thousands-of-assault-weapons-remain-legal-in-california/
Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to make a few simple changes and turn a legal semi-automatic weapon into an assault-style weapon. There are Federal laws against certain configurations that would change any firearm into a fully automatic weapon, as noted at the beginning of this article, referencing the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.
This is the Ruger10/22 with a traditional wood stock. This is actually a beginner’s rifle and is a great semi-auto rifle for training. It’s a very low power rifle.
The following picture shows the stock from a rifle similar to the first picture with all of the parts removed, the parts which were removed from the original rifle, the tools needed to take it down like this and put it back together, Instructions for changing the stock and the same rifle in a thumb-hole stock. Thumb-hole stocks are sometimes listed as something which would make a weapon an “assault rifle”. The stock has a hole in it for your thumb to go through which gives you a better grip and more control of the weapon. It has also had a scope added to it.
In this next picture, the rifle has been modified to include an adjustable military style composite stock, and a larger capacity magazine has been added to the rifle. This is still exactly the same rifle. It just does not need to be reloaded as often. This stock is adjustable for length and has a pistol grip. Both of these are among the things which are used to classify a rifle as an “assault rifle”, however, this is not a fully automatic firearm.
Shotguns are not generally considered assault weapons. Modifications can change that status, however.
The most common shotgun is the 12ga (gauge), which has a considerable kick. With the right load (ammo) it can take any North American game, can be used for home defense and for target shooting. Shotguns are often used to shoot disks thrown through the air or rolled along the ground to simulate birds and small game. Common competitions include Skeet, Trap and Sporting Clays. Contrary to popular belief, (and the pictures I have here) all shotguns are not double-barreled.
Perhaps a mention of ammunition might be in order. Putting the wrong ammunition in a firearm can lead to devastating injury, or even death, to the user. Certain types of ammunition are more lethal than others. Hollow-points, for instance, cause great internal damage and would probably be unsatisfactory for hunting, as they can render the meat useless, however as a self-defense tool, they might stop someone faster.
Below is a helpful chart showing what type of ammunition is best used for the type of game being hunted, and therefore might help to determine which kind of gun would be best for the new buyer.
It might be a reasonable plan to require gun owners to obtain a “gun training” certificate or card, as mentioned earlier, which would also be required to purchase ammunition. That could thwart attempts to obtain ammo for stolen guns.
Pistols are not usually considered assault weapons or hunting weapons. (Again, modifications can alter that status.) There are hundreds of styles of handguns, some of the most common being .22 wheel (or cylinder) pistols, Glock 9mm semi-automatics, and Derringers. They can be used for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game, but generally hunters prefer a rifle for better accuracy. Most handguns are used for personal protection or sporting/target practice. There are several types of ammunition that can be adapted to handguns, and even the guns themselves can be modified to some degree, but with too much enrichment, they become unwieldy and awkward to carry. There are different kinds of permits in different states. Some states allow concealed-carry, where others only allow open-carry. For open-carry, handguns can be holstered as long as the holster and gun are visible.
One of the biggest problems we see today are toy guns that look almost identical to a real handgun. Children are – by nature – inquisitive, impulsive, and immature. When they see something that looks like a toy, their first response is to pick it up and play with it. It DOES NOT MATTER how often they have been told not to touch a gun. Children accidentally shoot themselves, other people, or are accidentally shot by others, with far too much frequency. Publicly reported incidents involving children 14 and under killed in an unintentional shootings in the twelve months following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School were used in one study. Reports of unintentional shooting deaths were obtained from subscription-based news databases and publicly available news reports. Over half involved a loaded handgun that was unsecured. 24% involved loaded, unsecured rifles. 19% were unidentified.
‘Parents underestimate the extent to which their children know where their household guns are stored and the frequency with which children handle household guns unsupervised. A Harvard survey of children in gun-owning households found that more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons. Thirty-nine percent of parents who thought their child was unaware of the location of the household’s gun were contradicted by their children, and one of every five parents who believed their child had not handled the gun was mistaken.’ See the following website to read the entire article: http://everytownresearch.org/reports/innocents_lost/#foot_note_anchor_10
This information goes to the point that gun safety classes should be mandatory before a gun purchase can be completed. Safety classes teach the importance of keeping guns unloaded and locked away, especially if there are other people in the household. They also teach safe handling of weapons, and how to maintain them so that they work efficiently, with less chance of malfunction. Firearm safety is often taught with non-working firearms, and never with loaded firearms.
Argument: Government wants registration so they can take guns away.
Have guns ever been illegally seized by law enforcement in the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes,” though it has been infrequent and under extreme circumstances for the most part. Looking back over the last 30 years or so, here are a few examples.
Chicago Not strictly an incident of gun confiscation abuse – in 2015, confiscation of illegal guns brought in 3,470 firearms in 6 months. Although Illinois has strict gun laws, surrounding states don’t require background checks or registration, and many guns show up in Chicago from out of state. Guns will be confiscated when found to be unregistered. http://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/chicago-police-have-been-seizing-an-illegal-gun-every-75-minutes-this-year/ .
California didn’t originally include the SKS (a Soviet semi-automatic carbine) in a registration law of 1989, then deciding after the registration period was closed that they needed to be registered, declared a second ‘grace period’ for registration. Several years later, they decided that the SKSs registered during the grace period were illegal because the grace period was illegal. Some cities and counties sent law enforcement to the listed addresses demanding surrender of the firearm. Because there was the legal option of removing the gun from the state of CA, and these officers had no warrants, smart gun owners turned them away with the claim ‘I gave it to a relative in Oregon (or whatever)’ but many were seized with no compensation. Cities and counties later on offered compensation for anyone who had a receipt, but the police weren’t giving out receipts, only a few people who demanded them had them.
At the time, the SKS was the most common weapon in the hands of Korean Shop Owners who used them to defend themselves and their businesses when the LA riots happened. https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/zastava
Also in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005: Police went house-to-house, confiscating any gun they could find, supposedly to lower the risk for rescuers, and to keep desperate people from robbing each other. http://reason.com/archives/2005/09/10/defenseless-on-the-bayou
These and other examples warn us that wording must be very clear in any new legislation. If we’re to ask gun manufacturers, gun enthusiasts and the NRA to accept a more aligned version of gun regulations, then it’s going to be necessary to include complete protection from any violation of the rights provided to all citizens by the Second Amendment.
One step in that direction would be to require that a receipt be given for any licensed gun that is confiscated for any reason, (excluding caches of guns recovered from gun runners or drug houses,) and add that requirement to any new bill written regarding gun regulations.
To return to the analogy of motorized vehicle licensing and registration; the first automobile license plate was issued in 1903 in Massachusetts. By the 1920s, all states had some form of vehicle registration. Driver’s licenses took a bit longer. It wasn’t until 1959 that the last state (N. Dakota) begin requiring a Driver’s License. Speed limits are set by states and municipalities, with one exception. From 1987 through December 8, 1995, a federal law banned speed limits above 65 MPH nationwide.
The safety standards for motorized vehicles are set by federal regulations as determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. In 1966, passage of the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act authorized the federal government to set and regulate standards for motor vehicles and highways, a mechanism necessary for effective prevention [of injuries and deaths.]. The Highway Safety Act resulted in the national adoption of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, while the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act led to the national adoption of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Many changes in both vehicle and highway design followed this mandate. Vehicles (agent of injury) were built with new safety features, including head rests, energy-absorbing steering wheels, shatter-resistant windshields, and safety belts. Roads (environment) were improved by better delineation of curves (edge and center line stripes and reflectors), use of breakaway sign and utility poles, improved illumination, addition of barriers separating oncoming traffic lanes, and guardrails. The results were rapid. By 1970, motor-vehicle-related death rates were decreasing by both the public health measure (deaths per 100,000 population) and the traffic safety indicator (deaths per VMT – Vehicle miles traveled).
Changes in driver and passenger (host) behavior also have reduced motor-vehicle crashes and injuries. Enactment and enforcement of traffic safety laws, reinforced by public education, have led to safer behavior choices. Examples include enforcement of laws against driving while intoxicated (DWI) and underage drinking, and enforcement of seat belt, child safety seat, and motorcycle helmet use laws. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Traffic_and_Motor_Vehicle_Safety_Act
Despite registration of motor vehicles, there are no known cases of government confiscation of legally registered vehicles, except in felony actions such as the arrest of drug dealers, human smugglers, etc., where all possessions are held, and upon conviction, are sold at public auctions.
GunViolence.org reports that 53 people have died in mass shooting incidents in the first 100 days of 2016. In addition, ABC reported that 17 police officers have been shot and killed nationally during the same time period. These numbers do not reflect accidental shootings, domestic violence killings, suicides, or shootings involving less than 4 people. 33,000 people in the United States are killed annually by guns. Another 100,000+ a year sustain gunshot wounds. These often lead to life-altering injuries. It’s time to start looking at a realistic solution to shut down the violence, while still protecting our constitutional rights.
If the Federal Government, through Congress, would set fair and reasonable regulations as guidelines for the states, thousands of lives could be saved every year, just as fair and reasonable laws set for motor vehicles, highways, and implementation of those laws have done.