President Obama, in what House Speaker Paul Ryan has called “a dangerous level of executive overreach,” today announced plans for a series of executive actions to implement stricter gun controls.
The President’s plan will expand requirements for firearms registration, even for guns purchased online or at gun shows. The government will also expand its definition of “gun dealers,” strengthening the role of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The President’s planned executive orders completely trample the provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which outlines who is required to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), and who is not required to have the license. The law clearly states who needs one:
“21) The term “engaged in the business” means — (A) as applied to a manufacturer of firearms, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the firearms manufactured;”
So by law, if a seller’s principal objective is livelihood AND profit, he will need an FFL. If he is a collector but not a professional gun dealer, no license will be required for legal transfer of firearms.
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Critics of this latest presidential usurpation of powers assigned by the Constitution to the legislative branch of government are rightfully concerned. Some fear that this is just another in a series of incremental steps to ban gun ownership, a blatant disregard for the Second Amendment. This whittling away of our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms threatens the rights of all Americans. These proposed restrictions may eventually make it harder for people to make informed purchases, for example, by going to a gunshow to compare 9mm or 45 ACP ammunition. It could be a foot in the door leading to more ridiculous bans. What’s next? Are we going to deprive our police of guns or access to adequate police duty gear? That would be a dark, dark day for our great nation.
Representing the other side, one of those who seemingly support the President’s illegal overreach is blogger Keith Michael Estrada, who directs his criticism toward Republican Constitutionalists in his Proper Nomenclature blog on Patheos. “My friends,” he writes,
“…we need to protect human lives – our gun culture, our gun fetish, is not pro-life. President Obama’s executive action may be imperfect, but it’s action: something we haven’t seen from the GOP.”
Estrada quotes Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire’s letter to U.S. Senators on gun control. Bishop Blaire, a liberal on social justice issues, represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when he said,
The provisions contained within S. 649 are a positive step in the right direction. We hope that this bill will provide Congress a foundation to continue to address the issue of gun violence in society.
As you consider S. 649, we ask you to support policies that:
? Require effective and enforceable universal background checks for all gun purchases; and,
? Establish a vigorous law that makes gun-trafficking a federal crime. In addition, as you consider amendments to S. 649, support provisions that:
? Limit civilian access to high-capacity ammunition magazines;
? Ban assault weapons.
Quoting the U.S. Bishops’ 2000 pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, Bishop Blaire added:
We support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns.
However, we believe that in the long run and with few exceptions (i.e., police officers, military use), handguns should be eliminated from our society. “Furthermore, the widespread use of handguns and automatic weapons in connection with drug commerce reinforces our repeated ‘call for effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from our society.'”
BUT WILL INCREASED RESTRICTIONS ACHIEVE THE DESIRED RESULT OF MAKING OUR NATION SAFER, as Estrada and the Bishops’ conference allege?
The independent website JustFacts offers a detailed statistical analysis. Here are a few of the points they make with regard to use of firearms:
Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. Of these, about 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms.
* A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 0.5% of households had members who had used a gun for defense during a situation in which they thought someone “almost certainly would have been killed” if they “had not used a gun for protection.” Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 162,000 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all “military service, police work, or work as a security guard.”
* Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.
* Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.
* A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 3.5% of households had members who had used a gun “for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere.” Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 1,029,615 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all “military service, police work, or work as a security guard.”
* A 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 498,000 times per year.
* A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:
- 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
- 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun”
- 69% personally knew other criminals who had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
In all, the facts do not support the Obama Administration’s assertion that reducing guns in American households would reduce crime and gun violence.
Check out JustFacts for much more information, and for detailed footnotes and resources to support these statistics.
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Now at the risk of making this a VERY long post, so long you’ll need to nap between paragraphs, I’m going to include some reflections I’d penned earlier on the subject.
I believe that guns–like books, and pencils, and power tools–have moral neutrality. Guns can be used for good (protecting one’s home, fending off an attacker, preventing a rape) or for evil (demanding a man’s wallet on the street). Similarly, pencils enable communication, or they poke out the eye of that kid you don’t like in math class. Power tools help in construction of a new shed, or–if you’re Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre–you use power tools to murder and maim others.
Personally, I dislike guns. I dislike the fact that they may sometimes be necessary. I have never fired one.
But I regard them as morally neutral and potentially helpful tools.
And if guns are not intrinsically bad, their presence in the pocket of a law-abiding citizen in a Catholic church should be no more concerning than, say, Girl Scout cookies, or old 78rpm records at the parish rummage sale, or the dunk tank at the parish festival. Like guns, all of these things are non-religious, but not irreligious; and excluding handguns, all of the other things have been welcomed without concern at Catholic churches, as fast as you can say “Bingo.”
Catholic parishes have offered dance classes, exercise classes, pottery classes, parenting classes, and every imaginable sort of self-help class. While not religious in nature (like a bible study), the classes bring together parishioners with common interests, and they provide an important service. Likewise, gun classes which equip the faithful to protect themselves are, in my estimation, No Big Deal.
To bring it out of the realm of fantasy, consider some recent church shootings which have made news headlines:
- In January 2015, one person was killed and another injured in a shooting in a United Methodist Church parking lot in Sepulveda, in the North Hills area near Los Angeles.
- In 2003, a man was shot to death just before the distribution of Holy Communion at St. Paul’s Albanian Catholic Church in Rochester, Michigan, while his children watched. Seven others were wounded in that attack.
In those and other cases, the presence of a single law-abiding citizen with a concealed carry permit might have saved lives. With that in mind, you might want to learn how to get your concealed carry license. If you are in Winconsin, for example, you could visit https://gunlawsuits.org/gun-laws/wisconsin/concealed-carry/. This is the easiest way of getting your license.
But the issue, frankly, isn’t just about safety. Words have meaning–and it seems that to the Obama Administration, as well as to well-meaning bishops and others who would seek greater restrictions on handguns, “guns” are bad. Ignoring the Second Amendment, before this latest action President Obama has previously initiated 23 executive actions and three presidential memoranda limiting handguns–purportedly to curb gun violence.
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On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man by the name of Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina during a weekly Bible study meeting and opened fire, killing six women and three men including the church’s pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney.
On June 18, President Obama spoke to the press about the Charleston church shooting, and used the opportunity to take a swing at opponents of gun control. “We don’t have all the facts,” he admitted to members of the media gathered in the White House Briefing Room,
“…but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
Well now, once again our great Uniter-in-Chief used a tragedy to advance his personal policy goal–in this case, disarming the American citizenry. “Let’s be clear,” he says, repeating the phrase which has been his hallmark and which, according to Language Monitor, came up 1,006 times in the first two years of his presidency,
“…At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
Way to go, Mister President: Instead of using your voice as America’s leader to present our nation in the best possible light, tell nations around the world that they’re all So Much Better Than We Are. Look at the warped behavior of one disturbed young man, and use your bully pulpit to criticize the majority of American citizens who obey the laws, and the majority of gun owners who never fire a weapon unlawfully.
Critics of the President’s policy are justifiably concerned that if he were successful in forcing people to give up their guns, it would be law-abiding citizens who would lose the protections guaranteed them by the Second Amendment. Those criminals who use guns illegally would just as easily acquire them illegally; only under harsher gun control laws, they would be unopposed by law-abiding citizens who would have no means of self-defense.
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Granted, President Obama has had to wrestle with the issue of gun violence before: In December 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and 6 adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama called it “the worst day of my presidency.” This is, according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller, the 14th statement the president has issued on a mass shooting since taking office. That such a thing should happen at all is a cause for mourning and for introspection.
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What did earlier U.S. Presidents believe about gun control?
President George H.W. Bush said,
“I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun. I believe in background checks. The best way to protect our citizens from guns is to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns.”
President John F. Kennedy was a member of the NRA and was known as an avid shooter of both shotguns and rifles. He was one of the early advocates of the M16/AR15 platform. It was believed that Kennedy owned two AR-15s, and that he kept one of them on his boat.
President Bill Clinton did, in fact, support some measures of gun control. His administration was known for enacting the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban. Even he, though, did not threaten to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
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And what about the other part of President’s claim? Are other “advanced countries” free from unlawful gun violence?
Umm…. No. A cursory check of the web brought up the following incidents:
ENGLAND – On August 19, 1987, a young man by the name of Michael Ryan murdered 16 people in the small market town of Hungerford, England. After being cornered by police, he committed suicide rather than face capture.
CANADA – On December 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine burst into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college. Once inside he building, he shot at women he encountered, killing nine of them before turning the gun on himself.
SCOTLAND – On March 13, 1996, a troubled 43-year-old man, Thomas Hamilton, killed 16 kindergarten children and their teacher in an elementary school in Dunblane. He then turned the gun on himself.
AUSTRALIA – On April 28, 1996, the seaside resort of Port Arthur in Tasmania was the site of 35 murders, when 29-year-old Martin Bryant burst into a cafeteria and opened fire, killing 20. As he drove away, he killed 15 others. Bryant was captured and imprisoned.
GERMANY – On April 26, 2002, a student who had been expelled, Robert Steinhaeuser, killed 13 teachers, two former classmates and a police officer before committing suicide.
FINLAND – On November 7, 2007, an 18-year-old high school student named Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed eight people in his school, after posting a warning on YouTube.
Also in Finland, on September 23, 2008, a 22-year-old man, Matti Saari, walked into a vocational college in Kauhajoki and opened fire, killing 10 people and burning their bodies with firebombs. He then shot himself in the head.
AZERBAIJAN – On April 30, 2009, Farda Gadyrov entered the prestigious Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in the capital city, Baku, and killed 12 people before turning the gun on himself. He was armed with an automatic pistol and clips.
NORWAY – On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 77 people in twin attacks: a bombing in downtown Oslo, and a shooting massacre at a youth camp outside the town. Breivik, who confessed to both attacks, was a self-styled anti-Muslim militant.
And locally? Just for comparison, I happened to note one recent weekend in June 2015, when Detroit saw an unusually large number of gun victims. I noted the stories:
- Few clues in “urban terrorist” shooting that left 1 dead, 12 wounded
- 1 killed, 1 injured in Greektown shooting
- Woman shot in the head while driving with family
- Cook shoots and kills robber at Detroit restaurant
- Mother, child shot following dispute between neighbors
- Teen girl shot in front of Five Guys restaurant in Greektown
- Police investigating 2 violent incidents along I-96
Gun control advocates: Please note that in just one of these incidents was the shooter the “good guy.” In that case (in the restaurant), the good guy shot and killed a robber.
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