Q-Isn't there already an assault weapons ban?
A-Yes, at one point. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed in 1994. However, that ban expired in 2004 and has not been reinstated.
Q-What's the deal with background checks?
A-Currently background checks are required on a federal level when purchasing a gun through a licensed dealer. Keyword being licensed, more on the later. This Gun Law Navigator is a helpful resource if you want to explore more federal gun laws.
Q-What about state laws?
A-Each state has their own set of gun laws which can either mirror federal laws or close federal loopholes. For example, NH and VT do not require background checks for all handgun purchases. Technically, if there is a conflict between state and federal law, federal law will prevail (supremacy clause). However, as we know this isn't always carried out. For example, federally marijuana is still illegal, but nothing has been done about that where state laws make it legal (for the record I'm 100% in support of federally legalized marijuana).
Q-Can domestic abusers buy guns?
A-Federally, no. Though those laws are limited mostly to married and cohabitating partners, with some exceptions. However, domestic abusers can find loopholes through state laws. For example, several states have the "boyfriend loophole." Meaning, unless an abuser is cohabitating or married to their victim, they can buy a gun. In some case, states do not submit all required info to the FBI when doing a background check. Using NH and VT as examples, neither states require domestic abusers to surrender their guns.
Q-How about mentally ill people?
A-Currently under federal law, a mentally ill person is barred from purchasing a firearm under two conditions; 1. They are involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and 2. If a court or government body declares them mentally incompetent. Here is the important part. Federal law does not require mental health records to be part of the background check system, and many states will not voluntarily submit them. In addition, here is more info regarding Trump's rescinding an Obama era law involving background checks and the mentally ill. Spoiler-it's mostly true.
Q-What's the "gun show loophole"?
A-Much like online sales, private sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers. They are also not required to record the sale or ask for ID. The loophole in the federal law states, "any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the state where they reside, as long as they do not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms."
Q-Well, I heard that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the state and the most gun deaths.
A-The notion that Chicago has the strictest gun laws is an outright lie, yet pro-gun people love to spread that myth. New York has stricter gun laws than Chicago, and it's gun deaths are at historic lows. The important thing about Chicago is that there are no gun stores and no loopholes for private dealers, therefore guns being used to kill people are coming from neighboring states, which surprise surprise; have very lax gun laws. More info here.
Q-Clearly it's a mental illness issue. Right?
A-According to the APA, "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths." and "The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms." Mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the cause. Furthermore, "mentally ill" is a very large and broad spectrum. When people speak of mental illness being the reason for these mass shootings, it feels like they are lumping everyone who deals with mental illness into one, "crazy person" stereotype. Finally, mental illness exists worldwide, yet we are the only country where mass shooting happen on a (sadly) now regular basis.
Q-Is it true about the UK not having any mass shootings?
A-Yep, read about it here. However, I have not researched whether what works in places like the UK and Australia would work in America.
Q-Are people trying to take away my constitutional rights?
A-No, but you also need to take into context when the constitution was written and how times have changed. The second amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This was written during a time when we didn't have assault rifles. It was written during a time where soldiers used bayonets that would miss half the time. Do you know why they always lined up so close together? To have more of a chance to hit their target. I know you think you're John Wayne and you need to own guns to overthrow the government, but should that day come, your AR-15 won't stand a damn chance against military tanks. As much as I want all guns to be melted down and turned into a statue of Malala, I know it's not going to happen. If you are truly the responsible gun owner you claim to be, then stricter gun laws shouldn't matter to you. It's a bit concerning that you, Mr. gun fetishist, really need to go to a gun show and buy a gun in 5 minutes rather than waiting.
Q-Well, these school shootings wouldn't happen if we armed teachers, put guards at schools, and installed metal detectors.
A-This sentiment makes me so angry. The government can't seem to find the funds for pencils, but they suddenly have money to put guns and metal detectors in schools? They pay teachers shit, but they can afford to pay armed guards? In addition, I work with inner city, low-income students who are mostly youth of color. You know, the kids who are going to grow up being told not to do something dangerous like wear a hoody or smile at a cop. And you want these 5-10-year-olds to walk through metal detectors and sit in classrooms where there are guns? You are a special kind of stupid. Finally, let's say we do arm and train teachers. So now they have to carry a gun on them while teaching? I know you think this is the wild west, but that's not how this works, that's not how any of this works. There is no guarantee that reaction time would be quick enough, that they wouldn't accidentally shoot a child or co-workers. I just can't with this absolute asinine opinion.
Q-If they don't use guns, they will just find another way.
A-No one is killing dozens of people in a matter of seconds with a knife. What about cars? Cars have a purpose. A guns purpose is to kill. Guns don't kill people! People kill people! Fishing rods don't catch fish, the fisherman does! Yeah, well it's a hell of a lot harder to catch a fish without the tool. How about homemade bombs? Let's tackle one thing at a time, okay?
Q-So what's the cause of mass shootings?
A-In my opinion it's a few things. It's toxic masculinity, it's state and private seller loopholes, and it's lack of mental health and crisis services. Not because people who are mentally ill are the cause of all these shootings, but because people are bullied and pushed to the point where they feel they have no other choice. A person does not have to be mentally ill, to benefit from mental health services.
Q-So what's the solution?
A-Sadly, this isn't easy. In my opinion, I'd like to see the following;
- An end to the private seller and gun show loophole.
- Stronger counseling and mental health services in schools.
- All state laws to coincide with federal laws.
- States required to submit mental health records to background checks.
- A ban on AR-15s. Honestly, no one needs this gun. If you like target practice, there are other guns for that. Using this gun during hunting would destroy most of the meat. Feel you need protection in the home? Well having a gun increases the likelihood of a gun-related injury or death, but if you must, I'm sure a handgun will do just fine. Honestly, you can give up one type of gun if it means saving lives.
- Anyone found guilty of domestic violence is prohibited from buying guns, no matter what. Also, make all abusers turn their guns in.
Is this something that will happen over night? No. Is it easy? No. Will it completely stop gun violence? Probably not. But you know what really doesn't stop it? Doing nothing. Stop doing nothing. Stop thinking the anwser to gun violence is more guns. Stop using mentally ill people as scape goats.