Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The Danger of Guns
Is it any wonder that when Americans read an article like the one that recently appeared in The New York Times entitled, Terror Suspects Buying Firearms, Report Finds (Source Archive) they applaud the language of Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey when he calls for "legislation to address the problem in part by requiring federal officials to keep records of gun purchases by terror suspects for a minimum of 10 years. Such records must now be destroyed within 24 hours as a result of a change ordered by Congress last year?"
Our reaction is a bit different. All of our households are part of the 35%. We have endured the bureaucracies enacted by old fossils like Sen. Lautenberg in the acquisition of our guns. Guns which by the way are in no way related to what your basic 18 year-old walks away with right out of basic training -- and let's not even talk about the armament terrorists seem to show up with from time to time . . . No, the guns we citizens are permitted to buy are single shot rifles and pistols which until very recently had a very limited magazine -- i.e., the number of bullets they can fire before reloading is required. The 18 year-old gets a fully automatic weapon with a 30-round magazine, hell, he can walk around with a bag of handgrenades which are not permitted to those he is sent to defend.
Anyway, sad as are armory is, we are required to complete the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccco, and Firearms (BATF) Form 4473 and subjected to an "instant" background check. Said "instant" check is the gun store clerk calling a central authority where computers whirl through every known criminal database to see if you are a felon or fugitive from justice. This usually involves a lot of foot tapping and staring like, "I didn't do anything" -- especially since questions 9b, 9c, and 9d on Form 4473 just asked if I did. Sometimes these calls are made from a speaker phone where the whole store can hear what is going on -- we suppose the clerk gets tired of holding the phone to his ear for the entire day, since it is his business to sell guns.
Just pause here a moment to look at BATF Form 4473. Since 65% of American households are unarmed, it is likely that you have never seen this form. Imagine your local terrorist filling it out. Pretty intimidating, isn't it? Actually, only if he reads English. Our research staff could not find any of these forms written in Arabic.
Anyway, you fill out the form, you pass the insta-check, you hand over your money and away you go. You're all set, right? Not exactly. You can only keep this gun in your house or tote it around under lock and key to go hunting or to a target range. You still can't carry it in the street where you are likely to be beaten, stabbed, shot at, and robbed. No, there on the street, you are still an unarmed citizen unless you want to endure another bureaucracy setup to provide -- the concealed weapon permit.
The concealed weapon permit is issued by the State where you reside. The procedures for getting one are quite tedious and can involve being finger-printed, taking classes on how not to shoot yourself in the foot, and, of course, many forms like BATF 4473 -- question: do mentally defective people know that they are mentally defective (question 9f)?
Should you brave through the paperwork, you will be granted your permit in 90 to 180 to 365 days later or not at all if you live in New York City. A gun in New York City? Why would you want that?
Looking back on all the forms we've completed over the past twenty years when we read a story like the one referenced above, we think, "When would the Federal or State governments EVER say that laws enacted to protect us were complete and total failures?" Total failures and collossal wastes of money, time, and -- in the gun clerk's case -- degradation in quality of life. Gun control activists always tout the fact that all this rigmarole stopped X-number of felons from buying guns -- but did it? Did the felon attempt to buy a gun; fail the insta-check; and go home? Or did he leave the store and go buy the gun some place else? Who could know?
This would have to suppose that every crime committed with a gun is the criminal's first since he will be barred from gun ownership once he is captured and convicted. This doesn't ring true to us. How about you?
We rehearse all this to ask, "Would it be so bad if we just did away with these laws?" Do we really need a bureaucrat sitting at 650 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. in Room 6450 classifying potato guns? Or, legions of BATF personnel presiding over these FAQs? [Note: None of this is written in Arabic.] All the while, suspected terrorists are walking into neighborhood gun stores and buying whatever they want, supposedly, successfully navigating this labyrinth of rules and regulations. Sen. Lautenberg thinks the net just needs a little tweaking. We would suggest that it is all just a waste of time and money.