Is there a solution to the sort of tragic shooting last week in Indianapolis that took eight lives? I’m not sure. All sorts of proposals have been mentioned, and among the ones I’ve heard none will really solve the problem of gun violence in this country.
Creating a national database of some sort that would have to be checked before anyone can purchase a firearm has been suggested, but what sort of database? People who are mentally ill? Fine, but how are we going to define mental illness? Would it be people who have been adjudged mentally ill? Would it be people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill? Or would it be people whose friends just think someone is acting in some peculiar way? Furthermore, what about the privacy of people who are diagnosed with some sort of mental illness? Are we going to make an exception for those people who a doctor correctly or incorrectly diagnoses as having a mental illness? The fundamental question being, what if the diagnosis is wrong? What if your name is entered into a data base of people who can’t buy a firearm by mistake? And, more basically, what about the privacy rights of patients, mentally ill or not?
What about doing a background check on previous felony convictions? Are we going to forbid convicted felons from buying firearms? What class of felonies are we talking about? Just convicted murderers who used a firearm to kill another person? What about convicted murderers who used some other type of weapon? Should convicted murderers who used a knife be allowed to buy a firearm? What about attempted murder? Should people who tried to murder another person with a club, but failed, be allowed to buy a firearm? Without going to deep into the weeds, what about felony murder, which essentially is a death the occurs in the commission of a felony. Are we going to bar someone who was, let’s say, driving the car while a buddy kills an employee of a gas station while in the process of robbing the place, from buying a firearm because that driver was convicted of felony murder even though he didn’t actually kill anybody, to purchase a firearm? And, one more point, whether or not a person’s criminal record is reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database is up to the county clerk of the county in which the trial took place and, as far as I know, there is no state law in Indiana, for example, that requires county clerks to report convictions to either a state or national database. So, doing a court background check may or may not turn up a previous felony conviction.
These are all questions that have to be answered before requiring a background check prior to the sale of a firearm will mean anything.
What about banning the sale of certain types of firearms? That immediately raises the question of what types of firearms can or cannot be purchased, even after a background check (whatever that might mean) is done? Would it be lawful to sell handguns? How about hunting rifles and shotguns? Would the ban just cover assault rifles? How would assault rifles be defined? Would it be lawful to purchase a semi-automatic rifle? (This is all based on the assumption that the background check has been successfully passed.) What, after all, is difference between an assault rifle and a semi-automatic rifle? Other than the looks of the weapons, not much. An assault rifle holds a clip of ammunition of various sizes – in terms of how many bullets it will hold. Some clips will hold around a dozen shots, some around 20 shots, some more, some less. The point is there is essentially no difference between an assault rifle and a semi-automatic rifle! Regardless of what it’s called, a semi-automatic/assault rifle will fire one round each time the trigger is pulled. It will fire as slow or as fast as the trigger is pulled until the clip is empty and a new clip is inserted. Assault rifles just look more deadly. But the same thing is true of handguns, regardless of whether they’re pistols or revolvers. They will both fire every time the trigger is pulled until the clip is empty or all the chambers in the revolver are empty. So, in terms of firepower, semi-automatic weapons are really what we’re talking about banning. But, does that include handguns as well? What about high-powered hunting rifles? They may only hold one round, but a marksman can chamber and fire a single shot weapon pretty quickly! And what about shotguns. A shotgun fired into a crowd of people is going to kill or seriously wound multiple people with only one blast! Furthermore, there are what one might call semi-automatic shotguns as well. They contain several shotgun shells that can be fired as quickly as the shooter can pull the trigger and eject the spent shell and reload a fresh one into the chamber. Are we going to ban “assault” shotguns, too?
Some people have advocated the passage of a law that would make it illegal to own any type of firearms. Unless people are willing to voluntarily surrender their firearms, of which there are over 300 million in this country, somebody’s going to have to explain to me how that would work, but that’s a topic for another time.
That’s —30— for this week.