While the pundits and politicians debate to what extent guns should be taken out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, there is a much more important debate being ignored. How can we, as a society, keep guns out of the hands of criminals?
In order to keep this conversation somewhere in the same zip code as Realityville, we need to agree, from this point on, there can be no certainty. Even in countries that have zero tolerance gun policies there are still gun-related crimes. Laws simply do not guarantee certainty.
The only certainty we can have when it comes to safety begins with personal responsibility and extends only as far as those around us who also take responsibility for their choices, actions and, most importantly, the consequences of same.
Even in the halcyon days so many of us like to remember, when any neighbor knew all the kids on the block and their parents. When those same neighbors could exact discipline without fear of prosecution, there were loopholes, cracks in the community fabric. We all had that one family in our neighborhood nobody quite trusted, whose judgment was more than a bit suspect.
We would likely sleep less soundly knowing they had guns. In fact, we may even assume New Years Eve might end up looking like this:
But, I think we can all agree that life is better when the majority of people take initiative and responsibility. So, amidst all this talk about which guns should or should not be banned and which firearms accessories are “unnecessary,” is anyone keeping track of how the “bad guys” get guns?
Yep. The Department of Justice.
They detail, where applicable, how each federal inmate came to acquire a gun. Remember when you read the following statistics that this is not “all people who own guns.” These are FEDERAL INMATES who were in possession of firearms. Felons. With guns. ALL of whom ended up in FEDERAL prison.
So, how did these federally official “bad guys” get those guns? As it turns out…in far too many cases…from average, law abiding citizens.
These statistics change year to year, but both the categories and the amounts are important to the conversation. No matter what year you attempt to chart, most guns get into the hands of felons due to persons who own them legally, either as willing or unwilling participants in the exchange.
Let’s do some subtraction…
Start with the largest: 35% from friends and family
These are friends and family of a felon. They know the person. They know he or she should not have a weapon. Seems to me that, since this group willingly aided and abetted a crime, that they should be held accountable. Instead of restricting the legal sale and purchase of firearms as a FIRST step, why not harshly penalize those who knowingly commit a crime? It clearly will not stop all criminals from getting guns, but it could drastically reduce the number of petty criminals, unattached delinquents and the like from acquiring weapons.
That leaves 65%
15% from a retail store
These numbers were factored in before Internet gun sales, so this is almost entirely brick & mortar sales. Seriously? Are the background checks that sloppy that FEDERAL felons can just roll in and buy a handgun? Retailers who skimp on due diligence in this way should have their business license permanently revoked. Are there ways around background checks? Sure. And storeowners should NOT be penalized if they do their jobs. But even if half of these purchases are stopped, that’s roughly an 8% reduction.
That leaves 57%
The one many people assume is bigger: 15% from a drug dealer
I don’t know that there is anything we can do about this one. The federal government has been arming dealers, terrorists and insurgent groups for decades to help them fight dealers we approved of less.
9% Fence or black market
This one comes down to successful prosecution and sentencing. If we make it more trouble than it’s worth, it might reduce this action. But that puts us in international waters. Too many holes in that net.
Still at 57%
9% Theft or burglary
Okay, I might take some heat for this one, but here’s the thing. When someone commits theft, particularly burglary, there should be very little room for latitude. With a caveat for extenuating circumstances such as “my ex hid my guns and changed the locks” or something similar, why don’t we propose harsher penalties for those who demean and damage other people like this. Say, life in prison to start.
I might be out of line speaking for all fathers here, but, if you come into my home to steal anything and endanger my family, you just forfeited your rights…ALL of them. There is no gray area. If these penalties, as a deterrent can stop someone from stealing a gun…at least more than once…is it safe to say we could reduce this figure by at least half? I think so.
That puts us at 52%
4% from pawnshops
This could go the same way as a retail store, harsh and unilateral penalties for first offenses. Or we could make it illegal for pawnshops to sell guns…period. I’m actually okay with that. Will that limit their rights? Of course. But they will still have plenty of guitars, stereos and power tools to sell. Want to sell guns? Open a gun shop.
That puts us at 48%
3% are borrowed
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that “borrowed” is code for stolen. Otherwise this number would be lumped in with “friends and family.” We’ll keep all of them, since these people are lying in the first place.
4% from Flea Markets or Gun Shows
These could be parking lot deals. Even if they’re not, this is, at best, a “gray” market situation. In this case, I would stipulate “no gun sales at flea markets” and no formal independent sales at gun shows. Only registered vendors doing proper background checks. So, split the difference here.
We’re now at 46%
This could be anything, so we’ll just leave it be.
With a mixture of personal responsibility, a bit of tweaking to current law and the strict enforcement of existing laws, it is possible to CUT GUN CRIME IN HALF.
We may not be able to depend on the federal or state government to follow through, and we know that local law enforcement has its hands full just dealing with the actionable crimes on a daily basis. But, fellow gun owner, you and I can do our part to take nearly HALF the illegal guns off the streets. Here are a few bullet points that I’m committing to and asking you to do the same:
- When not in use or being worn, keep your gun locked up.
- Never allow your children to have access to the combination or keys.
- Practice shooting, drawing and unlocking your weapon often.
- Never loan* your weapon to anyone, ever.
- Teach your children gun safety.
If you know a gun owner, please pass this along. The more of us who do this, the safer all of us will be. And, while you’re at it, call your local gun shop and thank them for carrying trigger locks and gun safes.
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*By “loan” I don’t mean shooting with someone and letting him or her use your gun. I mean allowing them to borrow your weapon for any period of time, taking it out of your sight.