This is the 2nd post in an ongoing series. You can find the first post, You and Guns, or The Beginning, here.
Good morning firedogs, and happy Tuesday!
Last week we looked at statistics pertaining to your personal safety in the presence of a firearm. We also took a brief look at how prevalent firearms are in American society. This week I’d like to examine one of the central issues that finds its way into any gun control conversation – accessibility and availability.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Who is allowed to own a gun?
The short answer to this question is darn near everyone. An individual 21 or older can acquire a handgun, and an individual 18 or older can acquire a rifle or shotgun, from a Federally licensed firearm dealer in any state. An individual 18 or older can purchase a handgun in a private transaction.
The better question to ask is ‘Who isn’t allowed to own a gun?’. The following is a list of prohibited persons (thanks Wiki!) according to Federal Firearms Law.
- Those convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors except where state law reinstates rights, or removes disability.
- Fugitives from justice.
- Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic, or stimulant drugs.
- Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution and currently containing a dangerous mental illness.
- Non-US citizens, unless permanently immigrating into the U.S. or in possession of a hunting license legally issued in the U.S.
- Illegal Aliens.
- Those who have renounced U.S. Citizenship.
- Minors defined as under the age of eighteen for long guns and under the age of twenty-one for handguns, with the exception of Vermont, eligible at age sixteen.
- Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Persons under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year are ineligible to receive, transport, or ship any firearm or ammunition.
Well that seems like a pretty comprehensive list. It would appear that if you’re a crazy person, a convict, a domestic abuser, a kid, or under indictment, you can’t get a gun. These are great laws. The problem arises when it comes time to enforce the laws. On the front lines of firearms retail, what is being done to prevent individuals who fall into the above categories from obtaining a gun?
Let’s take a look at the typical process of buying a firearm.
I’ve composed two narratives. I find narratives easier to read than hard analysis. The following two stories are theoretical scenarios based on current law and documented problems (see here, here, and here).
Chad, the Law-Abiding Everyman
Chad wants to purchase a semi-automatic varmint rifle. Chad is a responsible, upstanding citizen who has never been in any trouble. He’s a proud Texan, a Longhorn fan, a real estate agent, and a 3 handicap at the local golf course. Chad happens to have a problem with various rodents on his property, and wants to be able to dispatch them from a distance.
Chad spends some time researching different firearms on the internet and decides to purchase a Ruger 10/22 .22LR Carbine Autoloading Rifle. These rifles are readily available, ammunition is cheap and effective for Chad’s planned use, and these rifles have gained a great reputation over the years for durability and reliability. There are a wide array of accessories for the 10/22, including extended 30 round magazines and tactical stocks and grips. The 10/22 can accommodate a telescopic sight, which will perfectly suit Chad’s needs.
Chad heads over to his local sporting goods store and approaches the firearms counter. A friendly clerk shows Chad the available 10/22, which Chad finds agreeable. The clerk asks Chad for his Driver’s license and proceeds to fill out ATF form 4473. This form is then fed into a computer and the data is used to run a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check at the Federal level. Chad’s background check of course comes up clear, and 15 minutes later he’s leaving the store with his 10/22 and 500 rounds of .22LR hollow-point ammunition. Chad’s total purchase runs $250 including taxes.
Chad is now the happy owner of a semi-automatic rifle and 500 rounds of hollow-point ammunition.
Brad, the Diagnosed Schizophrenic