Good start

Obama wants to close the private-sale loophole and limit military-style weaponry.

Obama wants background checks for all gun buyers (closing the private-sale loophole) and limits on military-style weapons and high-capacity clips. Add enhanced crime-gun tracing, modernizing ATF data management, tougher penalties for gun trafficking, a waiting period for gun buyers (with an emergency override for those under active threat), and a monthly limit on any individual’s volume of guns purchased (with an emergency override for those under active threat), and you’d have a pretty good proposal that didn’t burden the right to keep and bear arms.

Update In response to comments, the override provision has been moved to where it should have been, qualifying the waiting period rather than the purchase limit.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

38 thoughts on “Good start”

  1. A good start, I agree.

    But what does this mean, and when would it possibly be used: “with an emergency override for those under active threat”?

    I’m trying to imagine a scenario where I’ve bought my allotment of three guns (or whatever) for the month. Suddenly, I’m under some active threat that would nonetheless give me time to run down to the gun store and purchase more guns. Maybe my imagination isn’t broad enough, but what is that active threat?

    1. Also, what use of additional guns does this adult under reasonable threat make? I mean, I understand there are relevant practical differences between handguns and long guns; there might even conceivably be differences between different handguns. The person under thread might want a gun at home and a gun at work, or a long gun at home and a concealable handgun for when they go out. But where do you stop? What is the threat-averting purpose of the fourth or fifth gun? After all, any situation where you’d use more than one gun to defend yourself isn’t a “threat”; it’s a small-scale war. And if there is a threat that requires the rapid acquisition of a half-dozen guns, are the guns really the answer? That sounds like one heck of a threat; couldn’t the authorities do something?

      1. Consider this the equivalent of the abortion ban exemptions for “rape or incest”. You say it to sound reasonable. Because, really, when you think about what is involved in verifying if a pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest, so in reality these exemptions will never be granted.

        I think the “under active threat” is put in there to deflect arguments that all these criminal-hugging socialist gun control librulz won’t acknowledge that our guns are to protect our family from marauding hordes of escaped prisoners, and also Democratic administrations.

        Not that this will make the laws more palatable to gun nuts and gun manufacturers, who will still resist this tyranny with all the strength that Jesus gives them. But it’s taking away a talking point.

        1. The “under active threat” thing is there to placate the people who use spouses and children killed by an ex as posters to prevent reasonable controls. Might not be necessary if courts hadn’t found that the police actually have no duty to protect citizens who call them for help…

  2. We should go way beyond ALL gun sales having background checks. We should assign liability to every gun, and every owner is saddled with that until the gun is terminated by being turned into authorities for destruction. So, sales become risky, as you don’t sell the liability – it sticks with you, making you responsible for letting that gun go.
    We should make EVERY sale of semi-auto guns illegal. This will shut down the churning market. It will immediately reduce the value of every semi-auto out there in existence. Since I don’t believe pasty-white young adult men have good links to an underground gun market, they will not be able to find many guns. Even their parents guns will be locked up pretty tight, since they are responsible even after a burglary! The only way out of liability for stolen guns is immediate proff of safe lockup that was thwarted by thieves. Guns lying around, under your pillow, etc, will bring you life-long liability.

    1. Even further, it would make sense to require under law that all existing guns be registered, in the same way that we require even classic or older cars to be registered. And periodic re-registration should be required, to make sure that guns have not changed hands illegally.

      The argument from the Right, I can already predict, will be that then only criminals will have unregistered guns. But isn’t that sort of the point–that law abiding citizens and their guns can be identified, whereas illegal or unregistered guns will create a criminal offense?

    2. I admire the intention but I don’t think all of this would be constitutional. For example, the under the pillow part might be problematic. I think it was in the Heller case that Justice Scalia went on and on about the right to self-defense… and since that was the main rationale, IIRC, then I don’t think one could pass a law that prevented people from having accessible weapons in their homes. If you have to unlock it while someone breaks in, how useful could it be? Though even here, there might be ways to improve safety, such as some kind of bioidentity lock. But I don’t think you could make people keep their guns locked up when they’re home. (Now, maybe there could be a rule that when you leave the house, you’ve got to lock it up. We could all agree on that, surely.)(Ha! Watch someone disagree.)

      And we could still probably nail people for negligence in many situations, afterwards.

      I certainly agree they shouldn’t be left where youngsters can get at them. I’m just saying that there will be a limit to how safe we can make the owners be. It is like in a torts class. Guns are designed to kill people, so they will never be completely safe. Liability is after the fact (though still useful.)

      1. I’m a realist. And I’ve been around. Hot prowls, when burgulers come into occupied homes ( robbers, not burgulers) are quite rare. And the fear this society has isn’t about gang shootings (which I really don’t care about as long as they are accurate and only hit each (volunteer) other). It’s about the crazies that are normal within our society until the moment they’re not.
        So, yeah, have your legal gun unlocked while you’re home. The invader who may get it (why? If you are the tough guy defending home? ) while you’re at home, OR while in approved lockup, will inherit liability or absolve legal owner in a very formal and investigated manner.

        1. “Hot prowls, when burgulers come into occupied homes ( robbers, not burgulers) are quite rare.”

          Think this might have something to do with the risk of getting shot by the occupants?

          1. Partly, but mainly it’s that burglars (as opposed to home invaders) don’t want to be charged with burglary of an inhabited dwelling which carries a truly draconian punishment in many states. Neither do most burglars want to have a confrontation where they might have to hurt the resident or even have to control a resident. Most burglars don’t want the serious heat and they don’t want a witness to identify them at trial.

            For example, in New Orleans when I was working there, the crime lab didn’t respond to most burglaries or property crimes and the uniforms in the district car usually took the report and maybe detectives came out a day or two later. Burglary of an inhabited dwelling was an altogether different matter. Crime lab and detectives came right away. The bosses in the police and DA’s office wanted results. Prosecutors took those cases very seriously. Most criminals are capable of a simply costs benefit analysis. In general, once an intruder knows there’s somebody in the house he almost always leaves as quickly as he can.

            There are outliers, of course. And many ordinary burglaries have degenerated into brutal murders (sometimes of whole families). But in most of the situations I saw where there was contact between a normal burglar and a resident, having a gun in the house wouldn’t have made any difference. I was involved in several opportunistic rapes both in New Orleans and Los Angeles and in each instance the burglar didn’t know the victim was in the house and had her under control in seconds after coming into contact with her. In one case, the burglar was leaving the house, saw the victim sleeping and woke her and raped her. All the rape victims were almost in shock when they saw the burglars; it was so unexpected that they just couldn’t react. None of these people would have had time to get a gun.

          2. Do you think the fact that carjackings are much rarer than thefts of unoccupied cars is due to the risk of getting shot by the driver?

      2. I think there was a fundamental shift in Constitutional analysis caused by Rehnquist which hopefully reached it zenith in Bush v. Gore. There really isn’t any such thing as “Constitutional law,” so it’s naive and foolish to worry about such an abstract notion as constitutionality. The only thing that matters is the extent to which the court, as a political branch, is prepared assert its power and gamble with its future.

        If there’s enough public pressure to good pass gun control laws, I doubt the court would dare to overturn it (particularly if the public’s wrath would be directed towards Republicans). I say don’t worry about the dammed judges. Let’s pass the laws we want and then see if they’ve got the stomach for a knockdown, drag-out fight with sixty or seventy percent of the American people. My guess is they’ll back down just as with the ACA. As the always incisive Mr. Dooley said:”No matther whether th’ constitution follows h’ flag or not, th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns.”

  3. If EVERY sale of semi-autos were illegal, the surprise would cause any resultant black market among people who were legal and now wish to be illegal to be hasty and not very smooth. Should be easy pickings for ATF narks.
    I bet we can identify misfits through their efforts to find theses guns – since they start from pasty-white gameBoys and try to delve into the underground. Heck, I bet criminal gun sellers would turn in (anonymously) most of their encounters with these losers!

    1. Also, these weapons would be much less popular with criminals. I would say that even those criminals who might still carry a gun wouldn’t want to be caught with one that would automatically get them sent to federal court and then, very likely, land them in federal prison for a long time when a “legal” gun with fewer bullets wouldn’t. Maybe at the margins of the drug trade where if you get ripped off, you die. But on the whole I doubt most criminals would touch illegal weapons.

  4. I don’t think Obama wants very much to happen. He’s announced a blue ribbon commission, for goodness’ sake. He has about as much interest in making something happen here as he has demonstrated for his Simpson-Bowles blue ribbon commission.

    1. Obama has a practical reason for not wanting this to happen. He is attempting to strengthen our economy for the long term, to keep Democrats elected, and maybe to do something about climate change. Though gun regulation suddenly feels very urgent, it could ultimately be at the expense of longer term (and much broader) goals.

      1. I hope you’re right but I haven’t seen any signs of this kind of activity. I certainly haven’t seen him doing squat about climate change. Quite the contrary, in fact. And if he cuts social security, you can bet that every Republican in the country will be running hard against the evil Democrats who “cut your social security”. And justifiably so.

        1. Yup. I see a poor negotiator, and pulling the bow back to shoot himself in the foot. If this is ‘winning’ for the other party, might as well sharpen the pitchforks now. The only consolation is the speed of destruction is much slower than Rmoney. Dubya tee eff?

    1. In what way do you mean Richard?

      Here is the lede from the Wikipedia:

      The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (often called Bowles-Simpson/Simpson-Bowles from the names of co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles; or NCFRR) is a Presidential Commission created in 2010 by President Barack Obama to identify “…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.”

      And then further down:

      The original proposal for a commission came from bipartisan legislation that would have required Congress to vote on its recommendations as presented, without any amendment. In January 2010, that bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 53–46, when six Republicans who had co-sponsored it nevertheless voted against it.[5] Thereafter, Obama established the Commission by Executive Order 13531

      By the way, I am not interested in a “gotcha”. I researched this because my own memory was fading a bit on the subject.

  5. I disagree. It isn’t a good start on preventing these kinds of massacres. It’s nothing at all. Registration of military style weapons and high capacity magazines sounds good but it’s obviously the functional equivalent of doing nothing. The guns and magazines used in this most recent school shooting didn’t even belong to the shooter. They were bought by the shooter’s mother who could have passed any background check and filled out the forms to own the high-capacity magazines. She herself is now beyond the reach of the law, having been murdered with one of her own handguns by her son.

    Nothing that’s been proposed would have made the slightest difference in this case or in any other similar rampage killing over the past decade. As far as I’m aware, all the shooters either obtained their weapons legally and could have passed a background check or used weapons owned by people who could easily have passed a background check, to which they enjoyed trusted access.

    What is the point of registering high capacity magazine instead of simply banning them and removing them from society? All of these rampage killers ended up either dead or serving life sentences and they all (except for the D.C. Snipers) seem to have understood that this would be the inevitable outcome once they began killing. In what way would men who set out understanding that they will soon be either dead or imprisoned for life possibility be deterred by the penalty for failing to register their high capacity magazines?

    What would make a difference?

    1. Removing military style guns from our society by making them illegal and having long prison sentences for anyone who possesses or sells them. From this point forward, only a handful of these weapons would be introduced into civil society and every year some would be removed until eventually the number remaining would be statistically insignificant.

    2. Removing high-capacity magazines by prohibiting them and requiring that arms makers replace them with magazines with a maximum capacity of between six and ten rounds. Again, very severe penalties for possession after the date required for mandatory exchanges and even more severe penalties for those who sell them to another person.

    3. Banning ammunition which would be prohibited for military use under international law. Again, manufacturers would be obligated to exchange lawful ammunition for illegal rounds. After a time, the possession or sale of illegal ammunition would carry a severe punishment.

    This are the minimum first steps necessary to prevent these rampage shootings in the future. They would probably have been effective in preventing most of the rampage shootings during the past decade or, at a minimum, of significantly limiting the carnage. This is what we need to be pushing for at this time.

    1. Leaving aside the obvious political barriers to your ideas, it is my understanding that there may be a major issue with your #3:

      3. Banning ammunition which would be prohibited for military use under international law.

      I don’t know its status under international law, but I think I heard someplace that the military uses non-fragmenting bullets out of concerns that include humane infliction of wounds, compared to the much larger and more dangerous wounds inflicted with hollow-point or fragmenting bullets. Meanwhile, one of the safety issues with guns is people firing through walls – which is harder to do with a fragmenting or a hollow-point bullet. The two imperatives wind up pointing in opposite directions.

      1. In the first place, civilian loads should be much, much lighter than either law enforcement or military ammunition. There should also be significant limitations on the types and calibers available for civilian use. Some of the stuff that’s on the market is completely insane and there’s no legitimate need for it.

        It’s true that the reasons you give are why a lot of police departments use hollow points and I see no reason why they shouldn’t continue to do so. Obviously, nobody wants the police to return fire on a murder suspect and have the bullet go through his body and kill somebody down the hall. That’s not a problem with shotguns (a superior home defense weapon) or with a sufficiently lite load such as would be appropriate for civilian use.

        I’m simply suggesting a starting point for language to prohibit civilian possession of hollow points and similar bullets. My purpose isn’t to extend international or humanitarian law but merely to develop language to outlaw this type of ammunition. If there’s better or more precise language that would get the job done, well, I’m in favor of that.

        There is no reason why this kind of ammo or weaponry should be available for civilian use. We need to remove it from our society as quickly and completely as possible.

        1. “In the first place, civilian loads should be much, much lighter than either law enforcement or military ammunition.”

          Because a moose is so much easier to kill than a person, don’tcha know.

  6. “What is the point of registering high capacity magazine instead of simply banning them and removing them from society?”

    The fact that “high capacity” magazines are remarkably common, and so you’d be converting tens of millions of Americans into criminals overnight? Not that registering them is anything but a non-starter, either.

    On the plus side, our politics would be kind of fun with the NRA having 30 million members…

    1. A grace period could solve that problem–one year to register a high capacity magazine, and a ban on all new magazines.

      My car is registered to an individual. A gun should be too.

      1. Nobody wants to confiscate your car. Plenty of people want to confiscate my guns. I’ve been hearing from them a lot over the last few days.

        A grace period would do nothing, the law wouldn’t be complied with.

        Does Obama want a unicorn with a pink bow, too? He’s more likely to get it.

        1. The utility of a gun is to kill. Period. Of course people want to confiscate them and, at least in the case of the guns that have no utility beyond mass murder, I agree.

        2. The law is the law, Brett. Are you saying that if the law required you to turn in your high-capacity magazine you’d become a criminal in order to hold on to them? Would you shoot it out with the police? Would you use your family as human shields like Randy Weaver did at Ruby Ridge? Do you only feel obligated to obey the laws you like or are you simply above the law because you’re a conservative?

          If people don’t want to obey the law, well, the law has guns too. Lots of them. Let’s see who wins.

          1. Yes, only if I couldn’t avoid it, you’re a suck up to government employed murderers, constitution is highest law of the land. In that order.

        3. I also love how in any argument with the gun-obsessed, whatever proposals are levelled at them, their only response is: that would do nothing.

          Extensive background checks? “That would do nothing.”
          Ban on high-capacity magazines? “That would do nothing.”
          Waiting period? “That would do nothing.”
          Close the gun show loophole? “That would do nothing.”
          Ban on assault rifles and military-grade weapons? “That would do nothing.”
          Require registration of guns? “That would do nothing.”
          Etc etc ad nauseum.

          And all of these regulations bundled together? “That would do nothing.”

          These people simply don’t care. They don’t care about reducing violence, they don’t care about mass killings, they don’t care about reducing the number of guns in circulation. They offer no solutions, because they don’t believe a problem exists. For these reasons, we should ignore them, enact laws against their non-hunting guns, and confiscate them where necessary.

          1. The only solution is more guns – teachers with gun, receptionists with guns, ad infinitum.

          2. Also, the only “government tryanny” they’re willing to stand up to, ever, is gun laws. When faced with actual examples of government tyranny – to pick two from the 20th century, the internment of the Japanese and the Jim Crow South – not only did they NOT stand up, in both cases they actively and willingly aided abetted. (In the latter case, primarily by terrorizing blacks and murdering civil rights workers.)

        4. Nobody wants to confiscate your car.

          You’d better tell your moron buddies in the anti-Agenda 21 crowd that.

    2. And I think our side is more than willing to go up against the NRA and the culture of conservative white-man survivalist violence that it creates.

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