We had a thriving conversation going yesterday on how to stop gun violence in America. The prevalent opinion was to just pass another law, and good things would soon happen. I say don't waste your time and energy or get your hopes up that this will have any meaningful affect on gun violence. So what will?
I remember hearing of a program a few years ago somewhere on the east coast (in Virginia, I believe) that was aimed squarely at this problem. The police were authorized at the time of a traffic stop, if the driver was a prior felon, to search his/her vehicle to look for firearms they were prohibited to have. It was wildly successful. As the weeks and months wore on, lots of bad guys were ACTUALLY SENT BACK TO PRISON and their guns confiscated and destroyed. Local crime plummeted, and soon other bad guys got the word and disposed of their guns in order to avoid the same fate.
Yea! Keep up the good work, right? No. Word came down that the prison was too full of these returning felons and they couldn't take any more. It cost a fortune to incarcerate a prisoner, and the taxpayers couldn't afford the bill. So the program was terminated, and I would imagine things eventually returned to the way they were. (On a side note, didn't President Obama just order the release of thousands of non-violent inmates from federal prisons? See the problem?)
For any law to work it must be complied with, either voluntarily or by threat of enforcement. Most people pay their taxes, and for the few who don't, the Feds will step in and enforce it with threat of jail time if necessary. The same with gun laws. Most people buys guns legally, following the law. But for the few who don't....it's apparently more than "a few"....there is really no widespread enforcement. The bad guys aren't afraid of getting caught, and the profit incentive to sell guns illegally is enormous.
So to those who place their faith in passing new gun laws, this is why I say you're chasing a windmill. If you want to see a meaningful decrease in gun violence, find those ineligible to own guns yet are in possession, and LOCK THEM UP! It's gonna be expensive, but it will work. Then we can have the debate over incarceration vs rehabilitation.
I don't think many people who are not gun owners fully understand the requirements for purchasing a firearm through a federally licensed firearms dealer (the normal route).
A one page "Yes" or "No" questionnaire must be filled out, and the dealer then sends the data on to the FBI for validation. Their National Instant Criminal Background Check System quickly (?) checks the name of the prospective buyer against federal and state criminal records to see if he/she is disqualified from buying a gun.
So what is a disqualifier? You can not buy a gun if you have been convicted of a felony, or if you have a warrant out for your arrest, or have used drugs within the past year (honors system?), or were ever committed involuntarily to a mental institution or were ruled to be mentally incompetent by a judge, are living in the US illegally, have been convicted of domestic violence or have a domestic-violence-related restraining order against you, have been dishonorably discharged from the military, or have renounced your US citizenship. Run afoul of any of those, and it's "no gun for you!"
But what if one or more of these disqualifiers applies to you, but you still want a gun? You can try buying from an individual without a check so long as the seller reasonably believes the buyer is law abiding and will not use the gun in the commission of a crime. This sounds rather loosie-goosie (Southern term) to me.
So lets just tighten this up, you might say. Yes, that's an option, but you'll be working against a very powerful sellers profit motive, and you'll just drive more buyers right into the hands of the scum bags who live and work in the shadows. "Pssst....Hey buddy. Wanna buy a gun?" THIS is the secret back door to gun ownership that we can't seem to get a handle on.
Most of these cash only, no questions asked, firearms are stolen. Have you ever had one of those door-to-door salesmen try to sell you their new miracle cleaner? They will want to come into your home and clean your sink or counters or floor to show you how great their stuff is, but in reality what they're doing is discretely looking around your house to see if you have any telltale signs that guns might be present, like hunters trophies on the wall. Our local police have told me this is an organized crime activity that moves from town to town for several weeks at a time. If your home looks like a promising target, someone will come back a week or so later and break in and get your guns.
Home burglars today are looking first and foremost for firearms, followed by electronics such as laptops and tablets. (TV's are out...it's hard to walk out with a 65" flat screen.) Firearms are easy to carry, bring top dollar on the underground market, and have lots of willing buyers. Organized crime has long been involved in this illegal gun trade, and just as with their drug trafficking, they are very hard to catch in the act.
Unless we can somehow get a handle on these back door transactions, we'll continue to experience gun violence. We already have numerous laws on the books that in theory should shut down this trade, but they obviously haven't worked. That's why I say to those who want to enact yet more (unenforceable) laws, have at it, but don't kid yourself into thinking they will make any appreciable difference. I hope I'm wrong, but people who should know (law enforcement) have told me that we'll just be spinning our wheels.