I’m not an expert in gun buyback programs, but the basic idea seems pretty straightforward. In the hopes of getting more guns off the streets, there are organized events in which members of the public bring their firearms, and exchange them for cash. They’re usually publicly funded, though as Rachel noted on the show in March, some are privately financed.
But what matters is the point of the programs: removing guns from circulation. It’s possible Arizona Republicans find this confusing.
Arizona cities and counties that hold community gun buyback events will have to sell the surrendered weapons instead of destroying them under a bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Monday.
The bill was championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature who argued that municipalities were skirting a 2010 law that was tightened last year and requires police to sell seized weapons to federally licensed dealers. They argued that destroying property turned over to the government is a waste of taxpayer resources.
Hmm. Let’s say a local sheriff’s office in Arizona wants to reduce gun violence in its community by getting more guns off the streets. The sheriff decides to do this through a gun buyback program, encouraging local citizens to participate in exchange for money, helping to keep weapons out of the hands of children and criminals. The guns are then destroyed.
Under a new law championed by state Republicans, however, that sheriff’s office can’t destroy the guns — the firearms collected during the buyback will instead be brought to gun stores, where they then can be sold and put back on the streets.
The Arizona GOP wants to turn gun buyback programs into gun recycling programs — watch the assault rifle go from the street … to the police … to the gun dealers … back to the street.
Let’s all marvel at the cycle of life, or more accurately in this case, death.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2013
“Don’t Let Senators Off The Hook”: There Is No Logical Way To Argue Expanding Background Checks Infringes On Constitutional Rights
Every Senator who is refusing to support expanded background checks — Republican or Democrat — needs to be asked a simple question: Do you support the current background system, or do you see it as an infringement on the rights of the law-abiding?
Every one of them will answer with a Yes, because they are taking refuge behind the idea that the current law needs to be strengthened in various ways but not expanded. Once they are on record confirming they don’t view the current system as a threat to Constitutional rights, the arguments against expanding it dissolve into incoherence.
The Senators who are threatening to filibuster Obama’s gun proposals (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee) have said that they will “oppose any legislation that infringes on the American people’s right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to any additional government surveillance.”
But even libertarian Tea Party chieftain Rand Paul has allowed that current background checks “work.” And on the Sunday shows yesterday, other Republican Senators, such as Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, said they could support improving the current system through better data sharing by states on the mentally ill and other such moves, while opposing expanding checks to private sales. As Steve Benen notes, this means “leaving the massive gun show loophole in place.”
That’s true, and I’d add one other point: It means these Senators view the current background check law as constitutional. Which means there is no logical way to argue that expanding background checks is an infringement on Constitutional rights. Here’s why: The compromise background check expansion being negotiated would simply build on current law, which requires gun dealers (who would conduct the checks on private sales) to keep records on those sales; it explicitly forbids the creation of a national registry; and it requires the feds to destroy info collected on legit gun transfers within 24 hours. None of this — none of it — would change. If the current law is not an infringement on constitutional rights, then neither is an expanded one.
To be fair, in their Sunday appearances, Graham and Flake didn’t argue against the proposal on Constitutional grounds, as the four Tea Party Senators have. But they both dissembled about the plan, with Graham falsely suggesting a father-son gun transfer could be targeted (the compromise proposal under discussion exempts family members), and Flake lamenting new “paperwork requirements” (which would be identical to current ones).
All these Senators should be pressed on whether they support the law requiring private citizens who purchase guns from federally licensed dealers to undergo a check. When they confirm that they do, they need to be pressed on why applying that same system to private sales — in which private citizens who buy guns from another private citizen must undergo a check — is objectionable, particularly since for the buyers, nothing changes, and since these Senators themselves concede we need to do a better job preventing criminals and the mentally from buying guns.
Senators holding out against expanded checks need to be pushed hard on this stuff. This is an important proposal, with American lives potentially at stake.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, The Plum Line, April 1, 2013
Most lawmakers in both parties believe there will not be a government shutdown in two weeks, but to avoid one, Congress will need to pass something called a continuing resolution. It’s a temporary spending bill that will keep the government’s lights on through the end of the fiscal year. The House has already passed its version and the Senate is advancing its alternative.
Ordinarily, you might think the partisan disputes over the stopgap bill would be over spending levels and possible cuts, but as it turns out, the most contentious issue might be, of all things, gun policy. The New York Times reports that some unnamed lawmakers “quietly” added some “temporary gun-rights provisions largely favored by Republicans” to the CR.
The provisions, which have been renewed separately at various points, would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual inventories to ensure that they have not lost guns or had them stolen, and would retain a broad definition of “antique” guns that can be imported into the United States outside of normal regulations.
Another amendment would prevent the A.T.F. from refusing to renew a dealer’s license for lack of business; many licensed dealers who are not actively engaged in selling firearms can now obtain a license to sell guns and often fly under the radar of the agency and other law enforcement officials, which gun control advocates argue leads to a freer flow of illegal guns.
A final measure would require the bureau to attach a disclaimer to data about guns to indicate that it “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crimes.”
Keep in mind, it’s pretty tough to defend the provisions in question. What’s wrong, for example, with having gun dealers conduct inventories to make sure firearms haven’t been lost or stolen? I don’t know, but under a Republican measure in the temporary spending bill, the ATF would be prohibited from enforcing this basic regulation.
Also note, some of these ideas aren’t new — they’ve been temporary policies included in previous spending bills — but the new GOP-backed proposals make the policies permanent.
What’s worse, these provisions appear likely to pass because Senate Democrats see related measures in the House bill as even worse.
[A Democratic Senate] aide characterized the permanent provisions as a trade-off in negotiations that occurred late last year with House appropriators, who had sought to make additional gun-related riders permanent in the continuing resolution. Other riders — such as one banning the activities of the ATF from being transferred to another government entity, such as the more powerful FBI — are included in the Senate bill but not on a permanent basis.
According to the Senate aide, House appropriators also sought to include another provision that Democrats and the White House viewed as far more objectionable. [...]
Although the Senate’s gun language was agreed to late last year — before the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders at a Connecticut elementary school — gun-control advocates and some Democratic members of Congress said the deal now looks like poor timing. They said it undermines a concurrent effort in both chambers to crack down on gun violence.
Third Way’s Jim Kessler, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), told Roll Call, “It shows that the NRA is always on offense and rarely on defense. Even in a very adverse situation for them, in which many in Congress and the White House are trying to do something constructive to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazy people, the NRA continues to advance its agenda.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 15, 2013
For the better part of 20 years, I have lived and worked in Washington, D.C., an urban metropolis once dubbed “the violence capital of America” by the Economist. I was born and raised, however, in Alaska, a largely rural state, where guns are an intricate part of its hunting culture and often necessary for survival.
I have lived and witnessed both sides of the gun control debate with my family and my friends, and I have sought to understand the valid points of each. My family believes that guns are to be used responsibly for hunting, sport, recreation and protection. My friends living in Washington, D.C., and other urban areas fervently believe that banning and restricting the use and flow of guns will reduce gun violence.
This past week, while visiting my family in Alaska, I attended my first gun show. I wasn’t sure what to expect and did see my share of interesting characters: One woman was carrying her AR-15 like it was a Gucci purse, and camo-chic was definitely the preferred attire, along with military bunny boots and Carhart coveralls. But what struck me most was that vendors were not professional dealers with slick advertisements, instead they were everyday citizens simply looking to sell their wares: Colt 45s, Glock revolvers, hunting knives, bear traps and the increasingly popular AR-15. As one vendor told me, “President Obama should be given the ‘gun dealer of the year’ award for increasing the sales of the AR-15.”
At the show, one could sense the ingrained culture surrounding gun ownership from both the vendors and attendees. They were patriotic, law-abiding citizens who want their constitutional rights to be respected and preserved and to protect their family and allow them to hunt the land.
Unfortunately, not everyone in possession of a gun is a law-abiding citizen. Law enforcement is asking for additional tools, such as the ability to have background checks conducted on all sales and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Today, two out of every five guns sold in the U.S. change hands without a background check. In nine of 10 gun crimes, the gun used was not owned by the original purchaser.
Since the Brady Law took effect, which requires background checks on purchases from a federal licensed dealer, 172 million Americans have been subjected to background checks and 1.3 million criminals and other prohibited purchasers have been stopped from buying guns. In the three of the five states that host the most gun shows, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, the “gun show loophole” was closed, requiring universal background checks on gun sales by unlicensed and private dealers, proving they can be done efficiently without harm to business.
In January, both Gallup and Fox News polls showed separately, that 91 percent of Americans favored universal background checks on all gun purchases with as many as 77 percent of National Rifle Association members supported the checks.
Ultimately, we must acknowledge the root cause and seek to change our nation’s heart and attitude toward the preciousness of life and not default to having violence solve our problems. My dad recently lamented that, “Until there is a societal attitude about the great value of each individual life, the carnage will continue.”
In the meantime, implementing universal background checks that preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens while denying those who target the innocent to perpetrate evil seems like a balanced, common sense first step.
By: Penny Lee, U. S. News and World Report, March 13, 2013
Gabrielle Giffords on Wednesday urged senators to be “bold” and “courageous” in acting now on gun violence legislation, specifically universal background checks.
Seven Republicans sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Jeff Flake from Giffords’ home state of Arizona, couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for a federal gun trafficking bill, which would for the first time enhance criminal penalties for straw purchasers and gun traffickers.
On Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the bipartisan Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, with 10 Democrats and only one Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), voting to bring the bill to a full Senate vote, which will likely take place after Congress returns from April recess.
The seven Republicans who voted against the measure — whose chief sponsor is committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (pictured) and is co-sponsored by Republicans Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) — are: Orrin Hatch (UT), Jeff Sessions (AL), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), and Flake.
ThinkProgress quotes Cornyn as saying “my concern is that this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Straw purchasing for purpose of directing guns to people who cannot legally attain them is already a crime,” in explaining his opposition to the federal gun trafficking law.
Giffords and husband Mark Kelly’s new gun safety advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, states on its website why the gun trafficking law is important. They say, contrary to Cornyn’s assertion, that “law enforcement can only go after gun traffickers for what are essentially paperwork violations,” and that these offenses generally lead to minor sentences (the law would stiffen penalties for straw purchases to up to 25 years). They also state that “one percent of licensed firearm dealers account for 57 percent of guns recovered in crimes.”
The committee is also set to consider three other gun bills, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity magazines. Although a majority of Americans support all three proposals, many congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association oppose any new gun laws.
“The number one thing we can do to stop gun trafficking is a universal background check system. But Congress should also institute stiff penalties for straw purchasers and pass a clear federal statute that makes gun trafficking a serious crime,” Americans for Responsible Solutions says.
By: Josh Marks, The National Memo, March 7, 2013