Common Sense Gun Laws

The state of US federal gun laws has led to many unanswered questions. This has given room to a number of common-sense laws and public safety agenda from gun advocates. They believe that these laws will help get dangerous firearms out of the hands of criminals and evil-minded people.

Some of these agenda are a cry to adjust exploited loopholes in these laws, while others want the reinstating of some of the laws that have worked in past times.

These laws include the following:

Background Checks

Universal background checks require that almost all firearm transactions in the US be recorded and go through a National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the NICS. This would close the private sale loophole because gun shows or private sales of guns don’t actually stick to the same laws as the public seller, which makes no sense.

Common sense gun law public agenda requires that every seller is on one page in terms of background checks. This will make sure that across all states everybody adheres to the same background check.

On October 1st, 2015, an Oregon community college student opened fire on campus, killing 9 people, and injuring many more. Media reports have described the gunman as mentally unstable. Yet he had passed federal background checks necessary to purchase firearms, and even possessed 14 guns.

So do background checks really work? Before 1994, federal law didn’t require gun dealers to run background checks, and many people just lied about their eligibility to own a firearm. But after an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, Congress passed legislation requiring federal background checks. These checks are completed using an FBI database.

Factors that can disqualify a gun buyer include: being a convicted criminal or a fugitive, using illegal drugs, mental illness, illegal immigrant, being dishonorably discharged from the army, and renouncing US citizenship.

Since 1998, the FBI has processed more than 200 million applications and denied only about a million of them. But with so many high-profile mass shootings in the past few decades, many are saying that current background checks aren’t doing enough. One major problem is that private parties are still able to sell firearms without doing any background checks on a buyer. This is known as the “gun show loophole”.

To combat this type of potentially dangerous sale, the common-sense gun law agenda has expressed support for a Universal Background Check. This would force all gun sales, public and private, to include a mandatory background check.

Another drawback to the current system is that background checks don’t check too deeply into mental competence. Before the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, a state judge had previously deemed the shooter as mentally ill, yet he still passed two background checks and was about to purchase guns legally. Pertinent information, like medical histories or records of erratic behavior, can be inaccessible to federal authorities.

Also while background checks may keep guns out of the hands of some criminal or mentally unstable individuals, they are still widely accessible through the black market and theft, or simply available to purchase from a relative or friend.

Although federal checks do serve a purpose, they are not nearly comprehensive enough to filter out every dangerous gun buyer. Unfortunately, stricter background checks are thought to be violations of privacy, as well as the second Amendment. Whether Americans are willing to forgo their love of guns and privacy in exchange for fewer gun deaths is yet to be seen.

Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban

Another common-sense law is to reinstate the assault weapons ban that ended federally in 2004. Despite the overwhelming majority of people wanting a ban against assault weapons and rifles, Congress did not renew it and they left it up to each state to basically ban assault weapons. Eventually, only seven states have enforced a ban on assault weapons, California being one of them

If this law is passed it will model on the assault weapons ban which was in place from 1994 to 2004.

The biggest problem Congress was facing is that there’s no technical definition of an assault weapon and it was just an invented term. In a lot of ways, Congress invented Automatic weapons which have been strictly regulated since the 1930s. But these are firearms where when you press the trigger it fires continuously. But then there are semi-automatic weapons that reload automatically.

Since Congress wasn’t going to ban all of them, they tried to just focus on what they saw as the most dangerous weapons. And they define 19 different models and certain features on the guns. The military-type features were illegal to manufacture or sell for civilian use, with one exception, any weapons that were already in existence in private hands. The private seller could also own and resell them.

Another part was that these high-capacity magazines that could hold large numbers of rounds were also technically banned. However, a lot of gun manufacturers actually ramped up production before the law took hold. So there was basically not plenty of what Congress defines as assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in the country by the time the law took effect. This is one of the significant loopholes of this law.

These loopholes that were exploited are some of the reasons that the law did not do very well. Also, the assault weapons that Congress banned were only responsible for a small number of gun crimes. To begin with, most crimes are committed with guns that weren’t banned.

Although the number of casualties from mass shootings did seem to go down when the ban was in effect, this was 10 years ago, 1994 to 2004, and they were fairly rare events. So it’s very hard to tell whether that was just a blip or whether it was actually an effect of the assault weapon ban.

If the ban had more loopholes and it didn’t seem to significantly change gun violence, what then is the argument for reinstating as one of the common-sense gun laws? One argument that you hear from gun control advocates is that it’s possible to keep tightening these loopholes.

For instance, when the first ban was in effect, gun manufacturers could often make minor tweaks to existing guns and there would be essentially guns that were just as powerful but perfectly legal.

One thing that gun control advocates could point to is Australia which actually did a much more sweeping version of this ban. They had a school shooting in 1996 and after that, there was high support for gun control laws. To change this, what the government did was ban all semi-automatic long guns, basically rifles and shotguns. They paired that with a buyback program where the government actually bought back weapons from people who already had those that were banned. This solution seems to have been very effective to the problem. Although a buyback program would be much more expensive in the US because there are more than 200 million guns out there in private hands and there is no public support. Australia also has the benefit of being an island nation with no Second Amendment.

Social Security Gun Ban

Another agenda of the common-sense gun law is to enforce the law that Obama put in place when he was in office. The law denied the mentally ill from actually purchasing guns. The Obama rule required that the Social Security Administration submit records of mentally disabled people to the National instant criminal background check system and then the FBI database was used to determine whether someone can buy a firearm under the 1993 Brady bill.

Somehow, Congress got rid of this law saying that it is too cumbersome and if someone has mental disabilities, just because the Social Security Administration said that they’re on disability doesn’t mean they can’t buy a gun.

The rule that was being proposed would require the Social Security Administration to add about 75,000 people currently on disability to support the national background check database and deny them gun purchases.

It was focused narrowly on disabled individuals who require a trustee for personable management. These individuals suffer from things like dementia, schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, and other problems. They need help to an extent that they are unable to manage their own financial affairs and other basic personal tasks.

Getting access to weapons also prevents people adjudicated as mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. The common-sense gun law agenda says that it is absurd for people who are not mentally competent enough to take care of their personal finances, or themselves as an individual, now having access to guns.

They argue that even those who are absolutist on the Second Amendment will agree that a person who is not developed enough or mentally stable enough to take care of themselves should not be able to purchase a gun. But people who believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution on every other issue feel flexible enough with the Second Amendment to make exceptions.