Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where's the Reason?

There have been lots of different oppositional responses to the President's call for new gun measures, and the one that seems to jump out as having some merit is based on the assertion that we already have enough gun laws, they just need to be enforced.  When you couple that with the hard and absolutely true fact that the "law-abiding gun owners" are not the problem (no generality is perfect), its not that hard to understand some of the oppositon to additional measures.  Or is it?

Some years ago, an amendment to a rather insignificant federal spending bill became law.  The amendment is called the "Tiarht Amendment" after its "author" and sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiarht (R-KS).  Apparently the wording of this amendment was reviewed and blessed by the NRA ("reviewed and blessed" in this case can probably be read as "written by").  For extensive details and dates around this little amendment, click HERE.

Among the effects of the Tiarht Amendment is the requirement that all successful firearms background checks be destroyed within 24 hours, making a review for mistakes impossible, and eliminating the identification of unscupulous gun dealers.  The amendment also bars the ATF from requiring inventories by licensed gun dealers, and bars law enforcement from tracing guns beyond a single, specific case.  Enforcement by the ATF is pretty much blocked.

So what gun controls do we already have that we can enforce?  Study the following list of various crimes under New Jersey law, there will be a test.

Applies To Crime Degree of Crime
Stun Gun Possession 4
Dum Dum bullets Possession 4
Hollow Point bullets Possession 4
Defaced Firearm Possession 4
Silencer Possession 4
Imitation Firearm Possession 4
Firearms Possession by a convict or person commited to a Mental Health Instution 4
Destructive Devices Possession 3
Sawed off Shotgun Possession 3
BB or Pellet Gun Possession without Permit 3
Rifle or Shotgun Possession without a Firearms Purchaser ID card 3
Loaded Rifle or Shotgun Possession except when otherwise permitted 3
Firearms False information on an application 3
Any Firearm Possession for Unlawful Purpose 2
Firearm Possession with a Controlled Susbtance Violation 2
Machine Gun Possession 2
Handgun Possession without Permit 2
Assault weapon Possession of operable unlicensed or operable unregistered 2

Right up front, let's acknowledge that this is far from a complete list, but I didn't rig it in any way.  There are exceptions, exclusions and mitigating factors that apply in most of the crimes in the table.  I am not a lawyer, so I can't guarantee that I haven't overlooked or oversimplified anything.  For blog purposes, all of it is close enough, since there's been no intentionally made errors or attempts to deceive.

There are four degrees of crimes, then there's disorderly persons and misdemeanors.  There are sentencing guidelines for the four degrees and all I want to draw your attention to revolves around those four degrees.  NJ Sentencing Guidelines allow that for 3rd and 4th degree crimes, a judge may choose to impose no prison time for a first offender.  No weapons-related crime is a 1st degree crime, but if there was one, it would call for a prison term of not more than 20 years.  We'll come back to that.

In round numbers, there are 30,000 gun deaths every year in the US.  About 17,000 of those are suicides, about which I won't speculate as to whether legal or illegal guns are used.  Its probably fair to assume that the overwhelming majority of the remaining 13,000 involve illegal guns since we all know that by definition, "law-abiding" citizens don't cause gun deaths (generality).  Please note as well that mass shootings account for a tiny fraction of the 13,000.

Of the major points in the President's proposals, only the background check provisions have any potential to reduce the number of illegal guns, unless of course some additional types of guns become illegal.  So what can we do apart from going back up and clicking the link to the Tiarht Amendment Google search page and making clucking noises as we read.  We can start with fixing the damage Tiarht did and then...

Change the crime degrees of all of the offenses in the table, making them all more serious crimes.  If we want the crime to stop, put the criminals in jail for some real time - no more slaps on the wrist.  Give the public an amnesty period after we change the severity, where they can turn in illegal weapons without penalty and/or get a reward for information leading to the confiscation of illegal guns.  Somehow though, I expect the gun lobby would twist such an idea into an attack on the 2nd amendment rights of "law-abiding" citizens.

And of course this idea would cost money.  Money is the great motivator in everything that happens or doesn't happen in our country.  Think of all the lost, unreported income from illegal gun sales.

Ok, now comes the test I promised.  You may want to review the table again.

Q.  Why is possession of a BB gun without a permit a more serious crime than possession of cop-killer bullets or a defaced gun?  Explain, give examples.

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