Let’s talk about guns, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.

gun

Gun Control. The very utterance of the words may cause you to respond emphatically, “YES!” or “NO!” depending where your ideals and opinions fall. Especially in the wake of national tragedy, everyone becomes eager to share their feelings.  It’s incredibly easy to become emotionally charged when both lives and freedoms are at stake, but statistics are the key to helping us understand where the problem lies, and how to fix it. Lots of words are clickable in this article, because I’ve spent  a great deal of time reading statistics and articles related to this issue before writing this. I hope these links are as eye-opening for you as they were for me.

Here are the facts:

  1. We have a problem in our country and world with people dying at the hands of other people.
  2. Most of the people dying by homicide are dying by guns.
  3. The majority of those guns are acquired illegally.
  4. There are a lot of guns in our country.
  5. Simply talking or arguing about the problem doesn’t get us closer to a solution.

Many gun proponents make the claim that criminals will get their hands on guns regardless of their difficulty to acquire. Not only is this true, it is the case today. Even if no gun laws or regulations are changed, even now, few homicides are committed by a person who legally acquired the gun used to commit the murder. Criminals know how to get past the rules currently in place and know other ways to get their guns. Here is a really excellent article about that, if you’re interested.

So, rather than talking about how we can take guns from people who are playing by the rules, let’s instead get really serious about the GREAT MANY people who are not following the rules and thus increasing the ability of the wrong people to get guns and kill people.

  1. We need to stop “straw purchases”. This is where a person with no criminal record purchases a gun for someone who pays them to do so. How can we stop these? A. If two people walk in to buy a gun together, both need to be legally able to purchase one. When Eric pays for wine at Total Wine, I get carded too, even though I’m not buying any alcohol. That’s because it is possible that he could be buying that alcohol for an underage person. It should be the same with guns. “But Miriam, then the person with the criminal record just won’t come in to the shop.” You’re right, so B. we need to be harsher about prosecuting those who are caught purchasing guns for those unable to. If they’re willing to put legal guns in the hands of murderers for money, they’ll need to be ready for incredibly harsh consequences if caught.
  2. There are a large number of Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) who are doing shady business on the side because of the huge amount of money that is to be made in illegally peddling guns. Here’s a quote from the previously mentioned article: “According to a recent ATF report, there is a significant diversion to the illegal gun market from FFLs. The report states that “of the 120,370 crime guns that were traced to purchases from the FFLs then in business, 27.7 % of these firearms were seized by law enforcement in connection with a crime within two years of the original sale. This rapid `time to crime’ of a gun purchased from an FFL is a strong indicator that the initial seller or purchaser may have been engaged in unlawful activity.”

Can we all agree that these FFLs doing this need to stop immediately?! How do we stop them? Well, first, we monitor them more closely, then we punish them harshly when they do it.

Using the most recent compiled data available by the ATF (US Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives), there were 780 ATF field agents employed in 2014. Their jobs were to enforce federal law regarding possession of firearms, drug trafficking, the use of explosives, and the sale of ammunition. Wow. Can you say “heavy job description”? This little group of agents is trying to juggle guns, drugs, explosives and ammunition under their tiny team. That is a lot of hats to wear. I’d imagine it’s slightly more complicated than the families who successfully run the donut shop/Chinese food restaurant/cleaners I’ve seen around town.

Now, this team of 780 is responsible for checking in on the practices and firearm sales of around 141,116 federally licensed firearm dealers. A little calculator action reveals that if these agents split up these dealers evenly for investigation, each would be responsible for 180 licensed firearm dealers. There is simply no way to closely manage the activities of gun dealers when these numbers are so lopsided. ATF agents are so vastly outnumbered, gun dealers are going largely unchecked, and are feeling the freedom to succumb to the temptation of illegally dealing their guns because they can make BUKU bucks doing so. Imagine if restaurants went eight, ten, 30 years with no inspection. We’d probably see sanitation slip and more cockroaches show up in kitchens if nobody’s checking on anything, wouldn’t you think? It’s the same with these gun dealers and pawn shops.  Here is an unreasonably long article expressing some of the troubles that ATF agents have had monitoring so many dealers with such a small team.

So, we need to do the following right away:

  1. Separate the drugs aspect of the ATF from the firearms aspect. These problems are too large to lump them together and place them on the shoulders of one small group of people. Leave the drugs to the DEA, and let the ATF focus on firearms.
  2. Increase their measly budget! People are dying by the thousands at the hands of people who have found the loopholes in getting their guns. Put some money into this program, and put feet on the ground to close these loopholes and prosecute those breaking the already sufficient rules.
  3. Increase the fleet. The number 780 is a joke. Having just watched the show Narcos, when the drug lords of Colombia became out of control, the government decided to fight back by hiring and training a large number of well-trained, committed soldiers known as the Search Bloc. They were hugely effective. ATF Agents need to be given similar attention, training, but mostly NUMBERS.
  4. Investigate and monitor. Today alone, I’ve read stories of FFLs who went 30 years without a single visit or investigation. There are stories of firearms dealers who “lost” years worth of gun license reports, leaving 3,000 guns unaccounted for and still didn’t lose their licenses. Let’s update the rules. Something like this: One rules infringement equals probation and a second visit within six months. If the problem isn’t corrected, the dealer loses his/her license. FFLs should have yearly, unannounced visits.
  5. Surprise the black market. Even if we monitor FFLs, there are still thousands of places to buy guns from full-on black market dealers. Set up sting operations! Hundreds of them! Get lay people to attempt to purchase guns, and when they do, raid the entire operation. Arrest people! Arrest anyone who is caught selling illegal guns and get them off the streets!

How can we help make all these things happen?? Well, that’s a really great question. I’m not positive. Getting people in positions of authority who share these ideals is a good start. I know how tough that can be, however. I’m open to your suggestions in this arena, because I know it’s one thing to think up solutions, but it’s entirely another to implement them.

It comes down to this: increasing rules for people purchasing guns legally is like doing laser eye surgery on a person who is deaf. We’re operating on the wrong area. The problem lies in the bad guys who are willing to do bad things to get guns. Let’s get serious about finding them and stopping them. Like Hansel and Gretel, they’ve left crumbs for us to find them, and those crumbs are all the avenues one can get a gun that are not walking into a shop and applying for one. Here’s a case study in which this idea saw positive results. Granted, it was on a small scale, but the number of violent crimes decreased, which is the idea.

Let’s consider the root of these words: gun control. Controlling guns. With the proposed 300 million guns in existence in our country, when you have 300 million of something, controlling them is important. 300 million crickets? That needs pest control. 300 million cars? You need traffic control. 300 million people? You need crowd control. 300 million guns? You need some stinkin’ gun control. Find out where they’re going, how they’re being used, and how to keep them from being used incorrectly. Are you using yours correctly and acquiring them from the right places? Carry on, good sir. Are you using them incorrectly and acquiring them from the wrong places? We’re going to find out, and if you’re not, you’re going to wish you had. This is the mindset America needs to take on, if we expect our unacceptable homicide rates to decrease.

I understand fully that these proposed ideas are not going to eliminate the problem. People will still die. They’ll die by knives, by bonking people over the head with heavy objects, and guns are never ever going to go away. However, if we start looking practically at the problem, and attack it where it most badly needs attacking, I’m convinced we WILL see fewer people die, and statistics begin to change. Flawed as this post is, I don’t know how to be the type of thinker or writer who just says, “Well, this situation sucks and I have no clue what to do about it.” My personality requires that I toil over data and possible solutions, far fetched as they may be. What are your ideas for solutions, and how would you implement them?

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