What’s wrong with this picture?

About a third of the voters support closing the private sale loophole but also oppose stricter gun control.

1. Nineteen out of twenty poll respondents support “a background check on anyone attempting to purchase a gun in order to determine whether the prospective buyer has been convicted of a felony.” (CNN/ORC)

2. About a third of the guns sold in this country are sold in private transactions (i.e., the seller isn’t a licensed gun dealer) and therefore require no background checks. Closing that loophole would be a major tightening of gun control laws.

3. More than four in ten respondents oppose “stricter gun control laws.” (ABC/WaPo)

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

47 thoughts on “What’s wrong with this picture?”

  1. “has been convicted of a felony” == criminal == black.

    “More than four in ten respondents oppose “stricter gun control laws.” ” == laws understood to affect white people

    Any white person who commits a crime with a gun is obviously some kind of tree-hugging liberal, ya know.

    [‘Question: why would we restrict gun sales to people with ancient marijuana convictions*? Is it for the same reason we restrict their right to vote? For that matter, why are guys who live up in the hills with their sister-wives and run around in camo all the time normal, and the previously mentioned persons with marijuana convictions and no other issues abby normal?’]

    * Full disclosure: no, I don’t have one of those, thank you.

  2. Nothing wrong.

    Lots of people don’t consider background checks to be “gun control.” They are not obviously incorrect, it seems to me.

  3. Background checks are part of the national consensus on gun control and have been for years. The vast majority of NRA members, if not the NRA itself, support them. The big thing that made them palatable to most folks was the fact that they’ve been decoupled from waiting periods.

    1. The vast majority of NRA members, if although not the NRA itself, support them.

      Fixed it for you.

  4. Decoupled from waiting periods AND registration; By law the NICS may not retain any record of the passed transactions beyond a short period. This was initially challenged by the Clinton administration, which attempted to retain the records anyway, but in the end the law was enforced as written. (Clinton also had a remarkably annoying record of shutting the system down for “maintenance” during the big weekend gun shows, which strangely ceased being necessary after Bush took office.)

    The chief objection to requiring NICS checks during private sales, is that you have to be a gun dealer to initiate the check. Were some provision to be made for private sellers to use the system, I see no real problem with running all sales through it. Though I am of the opinion that the system architecture could be better set up to assure the non-recording clause is actually complied with.

    1. What’s wrong with a non-recording clause? My car is registered and recorded under my name, as is my house. It seems logical that we should do the same for guns.

        1. Without prior registration, confiscation of firearms is impossibly difficult, requiring naked imposition of police state levels of control. With registration, it can be targeted against specific owners, having little or no impact on non-owners.

          Gun controllers have a history, both in the US and abroad, of asking for registration while promising never to confiscate, and then using the list to guide confiscation efforts. Gun owners would, thus, be mad to trust such assurances.

          This makes agreeing to registration the practical equivalent of submitting to confiscation, a complete non-starter. Compliance rates for registration laws, among otherwise law abiding gun owners, have historically been in the single digits since this fact became public knowledge.

          You agree to have your car registered, because you have no reason to suppose this will be followed by your car being confiscated.

          1. Gun controllers have a history, both in the US and abroad, of asking for registration while promising never to confiscate, and then using the list to guide confiscation efforts. Gun owners would, thus, be mad to trust such assurances.

            Brett the word “confiscate” only appears three times in this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States

            Perhaps you should write a paragraph illustrating the history?

          2. Conservatives live in a world where if some moderate policy step is taken, it automatically means that the Worst and Most Drastic Version of that policy will be the eventual result.

            Registration of guns will automatically lead to confiscation. Slightly higher taxes on the wealthy will eventually lead to confiscation of all wealth. Etc.

            No. We have to resist these slippery slope logical fallacies wherever they are spewed. Brett demands frequently that we read what he’s actually saying, but then commits these slippery slope fallacies left and right.

          3. Koreyel, while I occasionally use Wikipedia myself, I’d never be so silly as to suppose the fact that something wasn’t mentioned in it meant it never happened. Especially on a controversial subject, given the editing wars.

            Maybe you should try a site more specific to the topic, like guncite?

          4. Gun controllers have a history, both in the US and abroad, of asking for registration while promising never to confiscate, and then using the list to guide confiscation efforts. Gun owners would, thus, be mad to trust such assurances.

            (1) What “gun controllers” do in other countries is irrelevant. Different laws and different cultural standards make the comparison irrelevant (if not impossible). Do you really think a U.S. Federal Court would permit confiscation on the basis of registration? [Hint: If you answered yes to that question, please see your neuropsychiatrist to adjust your anti-psychotic medication dosage.]

            (2) Please point to an example of registration being used for confiscation in the United States.

        2. That’s easy. Recording the transactions will make it possible for the UN, or someone, to fly in and grab all the guns. Probably they have to do that before seizing all the golf courses. Now do you see?

          1. When registered guns were confiscated in NYC in the 1960’s, it was not carried out by the UN. When registered guns were confiscated in California in 1999, it was not carried out by the UN. When Australia confiscated registered guns in 1996, it was not carried out by the UN. When New Zealand confiscated registered guns in 1974, it was not carried out by the UN.

            You may be abysmally ignorant of history in this regard. This doesn’t make events you’re ignorant of non-existent, or America’s gun owners equally ignorant.

          2. I’m talking about the gun confiscation. Paying compensation for something doesn’t mean it hasn’t been confiscated, “Gun buybacks” generally refer to voluntary programs, which this wasn’t. It was a confiscation.

          3. “Abysmally ignorant” sounds like pretty strong language for something that at worst reflect lack of widespread knowledge of something that only gun enthusiasts ought to be expected to know or care about. Why wouldn’t the 4th amendment apply to seizures (or confiscations if you prefer) of guns and require due process? Should we really accept that we can’t expect law abiding gun owners to register their weapons because they anticipate a violation of their 4th amendment rights as well? And therefore we shouldn’t require the weapons to registered at all? I don’t really understand this argument at all, please can you elaborate?

          4. Whatever, Brett. Since that buyback in 1996, the only notable mass murder in Australia was the killing of two people at a university in 2002.

            Hell, in America, that happened twice just this morning. Thank you gun lobby: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/dalton-williams-killed-shot-south-dakota-paintball_n_2334653.html

            I’d sacrifice your right to own a tool whose only utility is mass murder in order to gain some modicum of security for the rest of us.

          5. Curious, if you’re going to insist that gun confiscations never happen, and dismiss the idea on that basis, rather than stating you don’t know of any, that promotes you from “ignorant” to abysmally ignorant. It’s the difference between “not knowing”, and “knowing what’s not so”.

          6. Brett,

            Gun registration is virtually universal outside the United States.

            You cite four examples, two of them 40-50 years old. In what sense does “knowledge of history” mean drawing conclusions from some isolated incidents and ignoring all else? I’d call it paranoia.

          7. Call it paranoia if you like, while I disagree given some of the things that have happened in the US during my life, the point I was making was that NICS was widely accepted in part because it was designed to NOT be registration.

            Registration is practically universal outside the US? Yeah, so’s political censorship. Maybe you want to live down to the mean, but I LIKE being an outlier on civil liberties.

          8. I have no problem at all with the government requiring you to prove that you own at least one suitable weapon. Insisting on knowing about all the weapons you own, though, really has very little utility except for efforts to take them away, which is the exact opposite of what the 2nd amendment is about.

          9. Brett Bellmore said:
            December 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm

            I’m talking about the gun confiscation. Paying compensation for something doesn’t mean it hasn’t been confiscated, “Gun buybacks” generally refer to voluntary programs, which this wasn’t. It was a confiscation.

            Mr. Bellmore, if compensation was involved, then what took place was not a confiscation, the very definition of which precludes payment of compensation. I believe the term you were looking for would be “expropriation.”

          10. So, you’d stop claiming gun owners were “paranoid” if they simply expresse a fear of ‘expropriation’ instead of ‘confiscation’? Who knew this particular point of contention was so easily resolved? But you’re equally inaccurate calling the expropriation a “buy-back”; Can’t buy anything “back” you didn’t sell in the first place, after all…

      1. In many ways it’s as though you prefer fantasy to actually confronting what I’m saying.

      2. In many ways, the Onion is a satirical newspaper meant to be taken lightly (though with a kernel of truth…)

      3. i know the onion is satire. so what does that make brett when he sounds so much like them?

        if brett wants to continue to make the argument that pretty much all gun control is an illegal intrusion into the rights of gun owners and that nothing any of us has proposed, no matter how small the step, can possibly pass constitutional muster then i also want him to own the tens of thousands of deaths each year caused by the inanimate objects he appears to worship. in many ways it’s as though brett prefers the fantasy of being able to say anything he wants to say without regard for logic or reality and would rather end the conversation than admit he might possibly have been wrong.

  5. Note that Brett – amid all the bluster – has to agree that felons should not be, as they are now, able to acquire weapons without background checks in private sales (at gun shows or elsewhere).

    Note also that when the NRA’s allies were in power, no move was made to repair that obvious problem, and that any legislator who proposed doing so would have faced a pitiless campaign accusing him of wanting to confiscate all guns.

    And note finally that Brett doesn’t really give a damn how many people get promoted from “felon” to “murderer” as a result: the blood of the victims is if less than no interest to him, or he’d be actively calling for closing the loophole instead of merely conceding the point before going back to spinning fantasies about gun confiscation.

    To Brett and his allies, this is all Red Team-Blue Team horseplay, and all they want is for the Blue Team to lose.

    1. Well-stated.

      And I need to get this down somewhere for myself, and somebody else might get something out of it…

      Here’s how I deal with them when I can’t just roll my eyes any more:

      1. Stay on-topic when countering one of these specimens. Don’t get distracted as it will confuse any persuadables; they’re out there, and there are more of them than one might think. (Some who appear antagonistic at the outset might actually be persuadable. It happens, have patience to start.)

      2. Contrarians’ favorite tactics are misdirection, misrepresentation, and flinging rote non-sequitors like a monkey flings its own turds. Openly call them on it so any persuadables don’t take it for a well thought-out analysis. It’s kind of like someone’s having said that Newt Gingrich is a dumb person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. Regarding misrepresentation, I’m a bit forgiving: first time just means they need it stated differently, second time gets them called lazy, third time gets them called a liar.

      3. Stick to the dictionary. Just because they cheapen words doesn’t mean you have to get sucked into evoking emotions with syllables. Those that have more stuff memorized are usually better about this, but they’ll get more even rigid when shown incorrect; it seems to depend on whether the person is an engineer, and that is a blanket swipe based on my observations of “plural anecdotes.” (In fairness, it seems to depend on whether the person wanted to learn engineering or whether they just wanted to study a field that they thought would be a shortcut to omniscience.)

      4. Preempt them. If one follows a subject, then you know the well-worn counter lines. Going one step ahead can get them to bargaining with themselves in the best cases. Persuadables can start to turn with this, too.

      5. Challenge him/her to explain your arguments. The protagonist knows his/her values and chains of argument, but so many times the antagonist doesn’t get it. Being a contrarian is easiest with simple, discrete facts, and complexity can be too difficult to construct a narrative around. It’s like the process of getting a criminal to implicate himself; a lot of lies are difficult to keep in order.

      6. Some are simply inexhaustible, and you have work in the morning. Their not being able to paraphrase your own argument is a legitimate reason to fully disengage. Some people are just attention whores.

      7. Don’t undermine yourself by holding yourself to a lower standard.

      These contrarians have a great anthem, though. It’s even fast, loud, and stupid. Too perfect.

    2. Note that I identified the problem here as the fact that only gun dealers are allowed to use the NICS system. Change that, and it would be reasonable to require NICS checks for private sales. So, let’s change that, and deprive private sellers of the “I didn’t know!” excuse.

      But instead you obsess over the fact that I noted that the NICS system was fairly well accepted because it was specifically mandated it not be used for registration.

      And became outraged when I, on request, explained why gun owners object to registration.

      And started practically frothing at the lips when I pointed out that, yes, there HAVE been firearms confiscations following registration, even here in the US. This is a fact, you RBC types aren’t suppose to react this way to facts.

      This pattern of reaction doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you want registration so that you can confiscate guns.

      Yes, when the NRA was in a position to do so, it didn’t push to have private sellers permitted to use NICS. That’s because we don’t see a whole lot of utility in regulating legal sales when there’s a substantial black market. We don’t indulge in this magical thinking that passing a law equals that law’s goal being achieved. And because we had more important fish to fry than modestly inconveniencing criminals.

      But your side didn’t push it, either. And this was right up your side’s alley. I’d say that’s because you don’t really want to fix problems, just use them as an excuse to cut back on this right. But, hey, that’s only based on several decades of observing gun controllers in action, why should I pay attention to my experience?

      You want to fix this hole? You’ve got more clout with the administration than I do, that’s for sure: Ask them to extend use of NICS to private sellers.

      1. the definitions for the words “obsess,” “outraged,” and the phrase “frothing at the lips” seem oddly unrecognizable given the context of the sentences in which you used them. pray tell me sir, what dictionary do you use?

    3. “Note that Brett – amid all the bluster – has to agree that felons should not be, as they are now, able to acquire weapons without background checks in private sales (at gun shows or elsewhere).”

      I agreed to nothing of the sort, as you omitted the word “legally”. Nothing within the range of possible to implement policy would make it impossible for felons to acquire weapons without background checks in private sales. All we can do is make that illegal. Buying cocaine is generally illegal, to, but people manage to do it somehow anyway.

      In fact, that’s a major point of mine that keeps getting blown off. Stop pretending that making something illegal means it doesn’t happen anymore! Often making something illegal has very little impact on how often it happens. One presumes that criminals have a fairly inelastic demand for the tools of their trade, and a black market in firearms already exists.

      It may be worth it to take actions to make getting a gun a little more inconvenient for felons, but the fact that it IS ‘inconvenience’ we’re talking about, not impossibility, seriously limits the benefit you can rationally attribute to the policy in any cost-benefit analysis.

  6. “To Brett and his allies, this is all Red Team-Blue Team horseplay, and all they want is for the Blue Team to lose.”

    Yes and no. Possibly amongst the saner, more cynical of the tribe but here in TX it’s full-on anti-(liberal)government paranoia. We’re talking lawyers, plumbers, legislators, men, women…it’s a very robust, very intensely focused underground of serious gun freaks, nuts, fanatics. Really, truly, frothing at the mouth. They believe all the John Birch style distortions; they build fortified bunker-style basements (which can perused in the catalogs at a certain chain of lock-and-key stores, installed complete with wood paneling, fireplace, and hardwood gun display cases) specifically for the storage of firearms. Some other examples: one gentleman in Houston who had a spring loaded compartment built into the arm of his recliner that “popped” a 9mm into his hand at the touch of a button (defend your home and kill the bad guys from the comfort of your easy chair!); a home (with three children, natch) with guns hidden throughout the house (in case you’re the victim of a home invasion or kidnapping attempt – no matter what room they put you in, you’re armed to the teeth. this is not a joke.); the gentleman from whom I bought my .45 who insisted on meeting in a largely deserted parking lot, parked in an empty corner with multiple exit options (again, I kid you not). How about the ever helpful gents at Cabela’s who manage to slip in 17 references to “bad guys” in a single sentence? Who very seriously and with ominous gravity lecture anyone who’ll listen (that is, anyone gun shopping) on the near inevitability of serious bodily harm or probable DEATH if you let a “bad guy” get closer than 17 feet, i.e., too close to ‘defend’ one’s self? (“I had to shoot, your honor. He was seventeen feet away. My life was in grave danger.”) Who never fail to slip in a quick reference (if one happens to be looking at a smaller caliber weapon) to the drug addict who took nine bullets and still killed a police officer. (“Now the .50 caliber, that’s stopping power.”) And that’s just my anecdotal meanderings through this particular America. We have to get some kind of sane regulation and assault weapon/high capacity clip ban, and fast. That said, these folks are not going down w/o some kind of blowback. Don’t know what/how, but you can count on it.

    1. Oh, look! Nine in ten in favor of armed guards at schools. Eight in ten in favor of more mental health efforts. Eight in ten in favor of less violence on TV, movies, and in video games. Then, yes, six in ten for gun bans. Six in ten for armed teachers. Six in ten in favor of the media leaving the perpetrators anonymous instead of giving them the notoriety the sought.

      I don’t think polls in the moment of hysteria are a good basis for public policy, but if they were, the suggestions you folks are aghast at are more popular than the ones you like…

  7. “More than four in ten respondents oppose “stricter gun control laws.”–mark kleiman, original poster.

    “That would be 6 in 10 would welcome restrictions on buying guns.”–tan, commenter.

    “Then, yes, six in ten for gun bans.”–brett bellmore, commenter

    one of these things is different from the others, one of these things is not the same.

  8. Instead of requiring a background check for gun buyers, it’d actually be easier politically to look at the telescope from the other way– 1. Make it a federal requirement for any gun seller (or transferor) to physically inspect buyer’s driver’s license ; but only after (2) The state DMV begin marking driver’s license of those ineligible to buy a gun, in the same way a license will note if the driver’s an organ donor or has a vision restriction. While the license is valid and the driver later becomes disqualification (say, convicted of a felony and given probation), the judge could order his clerk to punch a hole in the license or just suspend it until its updated. Whether with a new license with a new red flag (or with the old license with a hole punched in it), the seller would be committing a crime if he doesn’t check and even more serious crime if he checks and still sells the gun after seeing a red flag. This would be expensive, and the states would expect Uncle Sam to pick up every dime. But there’s really no other way up this mountain. Let’s see, we’re spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan, I wonder how many months early we’d have to withdraw to pay for this :o)

    As for any gun laws beyond that, first, Uncle Sam will have to set the table. Requiring every high school student to pass a marksmanship class to graduate would certainly help. Even better would be creating a federal concealed carry law for revolvers (let’s be blunt, 6 shots is enough to ambush a crazed gunman but not enough to wipe out a classroom). Tell gun owners if they pass a gun safety class and don’t get their driver’s license red flagged, they can carry their wheel gun basically anywhere in America If they want to take their gun to the top of the Statute of Liberty or just wantto walk around Times Square with a comforting piece of steel under their shirt, there’s nothing Mayor Bloomberg can do to stop you because this is America. Offer gun owners THAT pleasure (and no, I’ve never owned a gun) and the gun control lobby might have a prayer of getting some gun safety laws passed. Otherwise, its a fool’s errand.

    1. Sounds like a good starting point for a compromise, and likely to arrive soon by FF&C lawsuits anyway, so no real cost in pursing it. One little quibble: There’s a reason that revolvers are unpopular compared to semi-automatic pistols for concealed carry: The presence of a “cylinder” inherently makes them less concealable.

      Will go over like a lead brick, though; Gun controllers don’t want compromise, they want another click on the ratchet.

  9. Brett Bellmore says:
    December 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    In many ways it’s as though you prefer fantasy to actually confronting what I’m saying.

    Mr. Bellmore, you’d be wise to heed your own advice.

Comments are closed.