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“Congress Complicit In Mass Murders”: Why Not Do The Right Thing”?: Renewed Gun Control Push Targets Firearm Dealers

Faced with little appetite in the US Congress to strengthen federal gun laws, a group of senators on Tuesday called on firearm dealers to help reduce the scourge of gun violence in America by performing more robust background checks, even when it’s not required by the law.

Their mantra: “No background check, no gun.”

Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with 11 of their Democratic colleagues, sent a letter urging three large firearms dealers – Cabela’s, EZ Pawn and Bass Pro Shops – to stop allowing for “default sales” and refuse to sell guns without a completed background check. Current federal law includes a loophole that allows gun dealers to complete a sale without any background check, if the check takes longer than 72 hours.

Blumenthal and Murphy also made their case at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, where they were joined by New York senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, and relatives who lost loved ones to gun violence. The senators cited the national retailer Walmart as an example of a company that took steps to toughen its requirements for gun transactions.

“For the gun dealers of America, why not do the right thing? Insist that there be a background check before you sell the gun,” Blumenthal said, while also encouraging a ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchases, steps to address mental health, and the enhancement of school safety.

Murphy said there was “absolutely no justification” for retailers not to follow Walmart’s lead, arguing that it caused “no inconvenience to the retailer” to perform safer background checks to ensure that criminals or mentally ill people do not walk out of their stores with a gun.

“The temporary inconvenience to a smidgen of gun purchases is certainly worth the lives that we know we could have saved or can save in the future if retailers make this change,” Murphy said.

For Blumenthal and Murphy, the push on firearm dealers is the latest in a two-year effort to confront gun violence – which personally impacted their constituents in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Both senators acknowledged it had been a tough road ever since. The US Senate failed to pass universal background checks in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six educators.

“We were there to see the cries and faces that expressed that grief. We know that we will never be the same because of that experience,” Blumenthal said. “We should take heart that this struggle, this battle, is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Despite a series of high-profile mass shootings since Newtown, Congress hasn’t budged on any proposals to improve America’s gun laws.

Murphy said the lack of even a debate on the issue was “an abomination” while acknowledging that the National Rifle Association had for decades built “one of the most politically powerful forces in the country” and, at least for now, maintained the upper-hand.

Although Murphy said he and Blumenthal would continue to press upon “the consciousness of our colleagues”, Republicans who control both chambers of Congress have shown little indication they will revisit a debate over guns.

West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to expand background checks after Newtown, said the votes for his legislation simply weren’t there.

“That bill’s not going to come up unless Republicans vote for it,” he told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Manchin said he still believed that his proposal, which he co-authored with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, was “pure, common gun sense”.

“It’s not gun control,” Manchin said. “I don’t think there’s a law-abiding gun owner that doesn’t believe that someone who has been mentally adjudicated or been criminally adjudicated shouldn’t be able to get a gun. I really believe that. And that’s all we’re trying to do.”

An overwhelming majority of Americans support the universal background checks bill, which fell victim to a Republican-led filibuster two years ago. Arizona senator John McCain, one of just four Republicans who voted for the Manchin-Toomey bill after the Newtown shooting, said he didn’t expect to see the background checks bill – or anything else pertaining to guns, for that matter – resurface.

“Frankly, with all the things that are going on right now, I don’t see anything real soon on this issue,” McCain told the Guardian in the Senate hallway.

McCain added, nonetheless, that he still supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

“There’s no reason not to,” he said.

Murphy implored lawmakers to do the same, or at the very least to start talking about ways to better protect Americans.

“There is a deafening silence coming from Congress,” he said. “Our silence is becoming complicity in these murders.”

 

By: Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian, July 29, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Congress, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Going Once, Going Twice, Sold”: Under A New Texas Law, The Police Can Act As Gun Dealers

For decades, weapons confiscated by the police in Texas were supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes — or else destroyed. Starting next month, police departments across the state will be allowed to sell some of them.

Some local departments have already been selling confiscated weapons, operating under a gray area of existing law, said T. Edwin Walker, president of Texas Law Shield, which provides legal services to Texas gun owners.

House Bill 1421, which passed during the last legislative session, formally permits law enforcement officials to sell found or unclaimed weapons to licensed firearms dealers. They can also sell confiscated weapons that are left unclaimed after cases that were never prosecuted or did not result in a conviction. In cases that do result in a conviction, police departments keep the firearms as evidence in case they are needed for appeals.

The new rule gives law enforcement another option, said State Representative Charles Perry, Republican of Lubbock and the author of the bill. “It has a fiscal impact in a positive way, and it makes sense if the weapons are in good shape.”

It is unclear how well the measure will meet its stated goal, which Mr. Walker said is allowing the police to “recoup some money, to put some money back in their budget.” Police departments in large Texas cities like San Antonio, Houston and Austin, which destroyed hundreds of guns in 2012, have said they would not participate.

Some law enforcement officials said they already had department policies against selling confiscated firearms and worried about putting more weapons back on the street.

The Waco Police Department has not yet decided if it will sell confiscated guns, but “at first blush it is probably not something we will be willing to do just for the fact that we don’t want to put additional weapons back out there on the street that have already been confiscated or used in a crime,” said Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, the department’s public information officer.

Those who might rely on the new law? Small, cash-starved departments in rural Texas, some of which have already been making such resales.

In Crane County, home to about 4,300 people at the base of the Texas Panhandle, even two gun confiscations a year are a lot, said Chief Deputy Andrew Aguilar of the county sheriff’s office. Firearms his department has seized in the past have already been sold, he said.

In many rural towns, sheriffs’ sales of seized property are common sources of income, said Alice Tripp, the legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association.

After the law takes effect on Sept. 1, law enforcement agencies will be able to sell confiscated guns to licensed weapons dealers. The proceeds will first cover outstanding court or auctioneer’s fees; the remainder will go to the police department that seized the weapon.

Jason Knowles, the manager of Patriot Firearms in Lubbock, said he doubted the confiscated gun market would be bustling.

“The majority of firearms seized by law enforcement typically are relatively cheap and of low quality,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of high-end guns in the seizure world.”

Sgt. Jason Lewis, the Lubbock Police Department’s public information officer, said the department had destroyed 56 firearms in 2012, many of them cheap, stolen guns in very poor condition. He said it would not participate in gun sales.

“Every once in a while, you get something that you are like ‘Whoa, that’s too bad that you are melting that,’ ” Sergeant Lewis said. “For the most part, it is junk.”

 

By: Ian Floyd, Texas Tribune, Published in The New York Times, August 24, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Patently Clear”: It’s Easy To Understand, Background Checks Save Lives

On October 21, 2012, Radcliffe Haughton killed three women, including his wife, Zina Haughton, and wounded four others at a Wisconsin day spa before turning his gun on himself. He purchased the handgun used in the shooting without a background check from a private seller he met through the website Armslist.com.

Two days earlier, Houghton had become the subject of a domestic violence restraining order that prohibited him from purchasing or possessing firearms. With the restraining order in place, he could not have purchased the weapon from a licensed dealer. Such dealers are required by law to conduct background checks on gun buyers.

It is patently clear that background checks save lives. Background checks conducted by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) have prevented more than two million prohibited purchasers—convicted felons, wife beaters, and other dangerous individuals—from buying guns. Additionally, studies show that in the 14 states that currently require background checks for handgun sales, there are 49 percent fewer gun suicides, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by an intimate partner and the firearms trafficking rate is 48 percent lower.

That’s why more than 90 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of NRA members—support universal background checks.

Faced with the reality of that polling data, the NRA has concocted a boogeyman about universal background checks leading to a national registry of gun buyers and then forcible confiscation of privately-held firearms.

The problem is this claim is hogwash. New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013 would utilize a record-keeping system that’s already been in place for 45 years (without any harm to gun buyers). Private sellers would conduct background checks through FFLs, who would then maintain paper records of these sales.

The federal government completely purges the information it receives from the dealer to run the background check after just 24 hours and the United States Code expressly prohibits the federal government from maintaining a national registry of gun owners. Moreover, the Supreme Court recently affirmed that there is a constitutional right to have a firearm in the home.

The NRA’s conspiracy theory about “confiscation” deserves to be put in the same category as FEMA camps and black helicopters: Pure unadulterated fantasy. In the wake of the horrific tragedy at Newtown, Americans deserve a real debate on universal background checks, and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

 

By: Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, U. S. News and World Report, April 10, 2013

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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