Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The influence of the NRA

It's pretty well known that the NRA's influence is heavy and expensive in American politics. The NRA is pretty much against anything that they have decided will erode the rights of gun owners. Their hype goes against the facts since few, if any proposals to reduce gun violence would violate the rights of law abiding citizens to bear arms. Keeping them, however, seems to be another problem. Stolen guns are the leading source of crime guns. If gun dealers and gun owners want to remain credible, they need to make sure they follow procedures for reporting lost and stolen guns. It should be of great concern to those who care about public safety that so many guns fall into the hands of those who should not have them. This latest Washington Post article in a series about illegal guns lends credence to my concerns.

I referred to the problem of lost and stolen guns and illegal trafficking in previous posts linking to the series in the Washington Post. Now articles have appeared all over the country about the findings in the articles. The following city newspapers have published articles about the gun dealers who have provided many of the guns found in the Mexican drug cartel gun deaths and in gun crimes all over the country:
Atlanta-  http://www.gpb.org/news/2010/12/14/two-stores-top-crime-guns-list
Houston- http://www.ktrh.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=121300&article=7947882
Charlotte, N.C.-  http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/12/15/1911618/store-ranks-2nd-on-crime-gun-list.html
Phoenix- http://www.azfamily.com/news/Arizona-gun-shops-linked-to-drug-violence-in-Mexico-111830574.html
Memphis-  http://www.abc24.com/news/local/story/Memphis-Store-Near-Top-of-Crime-Guns-List/H1Y8ibgZ_E-jHOMBgFI6sA.cspx.

So, as you can read in the articles above, the reports from the Washington Post have peaked the interest of local communities where gun dealers with large numbers of traced crime guns are sold. It is a few shops that sell the most guns used in crimes. These shops are not necessarily doing anything wrong but it may warrant more monitoring to make sure that they are operating within the regulations. It is inevitable that with the large volume of gun sales at many dealers, some of the guns sold by them will end up in gun crimes and shootings. Guns are dangerous weapons. People need to make sure to store them properly. Gun dealers need to be vigilant about straw purchasers. Both gun dealers and private individuals should report lost and stolen guns. And the background check system must be performed without question at all federally licensed firearms dealers. In addition we could stop some illegal guns from ending up as crime guns if we extended the background checks to all sales at gun shows.

Several articles posted more recently have taken on the Obama administration's lack of willingness to challenge the NRA, even when the facts are on their side. For our government to be afraid of a lobby group, such as the NRA is ridiculous. This article is a good synopsis of the situation. All of the articles I have linked to the "Life of Hidden Guns" from the Washington Post point to the fact that the ATF does not have the resources to do the monitoring and required inspections of gun shops. For four years, the agency has been without a permanent director. This is because of the NRA and the elected leaders who are heavily funded by the gun lobby. We are talking about people losing their lives or being seriously injured by guns. For one powerful group to make  the rules of the game is not acceptable. We need much more information about crime guns and where they come from in order to stop the problem at its source. But information is hidden, also by design. It's time for common sense to be the name of the game.


  1. "For one powerful group to make the rules of the game is not acceptable"

    But the Brady group would be more than willing to be that group.

  2. They aren't afraid of the NRA. They are afraid of the millions of gun owners who belong to the NRA and by ripple the many millions more that would be upset to see stepped up gun control.

    BTW, what does a law do for you that requires owners to report their guns? Do the police know where those guns are after they are reported? I just don't understand your need to have a law that would have penalty for failure to report a robbery. Who fails in reporting btw? Those are valuable items.

    This is akin to penalizing a rape victim for not reporting the dangerous rapist.

  3. Now I realize that some percentage, large or small, of "pro gun" politicians vote "pro gun" out of political expediency rather than personal conviction, just as I am quite certain some politicians attend church out of political necessity rather than heartfelt faith (for the former I have some candidates, for the latter ... only God knows and I'll not judge).

    But in terms of NRA influence ... in the 2010 election the candidates all total raised 2 billion $$, not counting their supporting PACS and etc. To this party the NRA brought a total of 20 million dollars, or about 1% of the total.

    Although NRA money wasn't evenly distributed by any means ... for no successful candidate was an NRA contribution a large percentage of the money they brought in. The NRA didn't buy any candidates with money.

    The difference is votes. Millions of people belong to the NRA or follow it closely, and those people are almost all voters. In some regions you just plain can't get elected without having pro-gun credibility. And that's the real success of the NRA and the failure of anti-gun groups; however many people may support greater gun control they don't care enough to vote on and follow the issue.

    But I would put this to you ... since the U.S. is a representative democracy, is it the duty of our politicians to rule over us like protective parents do children, arbitrarily deciding what is best for us because they're so much smarter than we are? Or is it their duty to represent that voters sent them to Washington? And if a candidate is elected with pro-gun support, and takes a pro-gun stance in his/her candidacy ... isn't it his/her duty and responsibility to represent pro-gun voters? Even if someone else doesn't like the results and thinks their stance is downright deadly?

    It's easy for bloggers and the main stream media to vilify the NRA as some evil tool of the gun industry. But that doesn't do much for politicians, who hear the anger but also know how the people that they represent will vote. So perhaps you should start leveling your criticism against the masses, rather than the NRA, and turn them around first (and once they abandon the NRA and quit funding it -- you've won).

    Because the problem with your current strategy is ... when you attack the NRA, you attack me. I'm an NRA member and contributor, and I support the majority of things they do. And even if I don't support every statement or decision the NRA makes ... I know that without them we'd still have any number of laws around that I don't want.

    If you don't believe how strong the grassroots support of gun rights is (at least in states like Colorado) you should follow me around sometime. I worked the NRA/CSSA booth at a big gun show today (as a volunteer, signing up new paying members), so I had on an NRA T-shirt. On the way home I dropped by the grocery store, and 2 people took the time to stop me and compliment me on my shirt (and cause).

    I've worn NRA T-shirts a lot over the years, even to places like Boston, and so far no one has said anything negative to me ever. But even in Boston I've had people go out of their way to give me a thumbs up.

    You've got to win the hearts and minds of the people, Japete, and get them so riled up on your side that they'll start blogs, talk to their neighbors ... even confront people in public who are openly standing against you (I would have no problem starting a debate with a member of an anti-gun group -- if I'd ever seen one wearing some kind of identifying insignia). To date ... y'all simply haven't.

    Because I'm the kind of guy you need to win over -- a voter, a father, an active member of my community -- and I am the NRA. And I'm not a pawn of the gun industry, and I haven't been bought -- I willingly pay.

  4. I don't think you can compare those two.

  5. You are right, Stephen, about some of what you say. It is interesting that, conversely, when I wear my tee shirt that says "Minnesotans against being shot" people ask me where they can get one. It is very popular when I wear it. There are just as many of "us" who don't belong to the NRA who vote in elections as well. We are not being represented by our politicians who have bought the NRA's lines. They are simply afraid to defy the NRA because of the bully tactics used against them.

  6. "Their hype goes against the facts since few, if any proposals to reduce gun violence would violate the rights of law abiding citizens to bear arms."

    Let's consider some of these proposals:

    * Waiting periods
    * Limits on how many guns can be purchased
    * Bans on guns that are too big
    * Bans on guns that are too small
    * Bans on guns that look scary
    * Bans on specific types of ammunition
    * Bans on carry in specific locations
    * Bans on carry in general
    * Requiring permits for carry
    * Requiring licenses for ownership
    * Requiring firearms to be registered
    * Requiring purchases to be approved in advance

    All of these violate the individual right to keep and bear arms.

  7. japete: "I don't think you can compare those two."

    Comparing a rape victim and a victim of theft? I don't think the original poster was intending to minimize the crime of rape with his comment, but the pending legislation makes it feel like if I was to have my home burglarized and numerous possessions stolen -- its now my duty to pick through the rubble and figure out what was stolen within 48 hours, or I face jail time and/or a fine.

    Thats not fair to require it. Almost all firearms owners already keep a detailed listing of their firearms and serial #'s -- we WANT to get that information to the police as soon as possible to get it entered into the NICS database, so that theres a hope of a recovery at some point in the future. But to legally require it within 48 hours? Not necessary.

    I'll throw another one back at you. What if a stolen firearm ends up at one of those wonderful "Gun Buyback" programs. Shouldn't it be incumbent on organizers of those events to be submitting the serial #'s to the NICS to reunite stolen property with its rightful owner? Receiving stolen property, and unlawful transfer of a firearm are felonies.

  8. We're not blind minions following the NRA, I think thats been said before.

    Politicians represent their constituency whether or not you agree with whatever the majority opinion might be.

    "Minnesotans against being shot" is such a flip comment. Of course, we're all against being shot. I don't think I've met anyone yet who would want to -- but why does your side get the slogan. Its disingenuous. Why? If you wore your true ambitions as a slogan on a t-shirt, you probably wouldn't get anyone to talk to you outside of the Liberal enclaves in the Cities.

    I'm going to get a bunch of T-shirts made up with that slogan -- and the website to a firearm's safety course underneath -- what a more appropriate way to keep from "getting shot" than to learn firearms safety!

  9. No, actually, they don't. There are no bans to carry and nothing that bans a right to own guns. There may be a few restrictions for obvious reasons which are perfectly within the second amendment and the decisions made by the Supreme Court.

  10. Yes, as to the stolen firearm ending up in gun buyback programs, I don't know if the serial numbers are reported to NICS. That is something to check out. I think the guns are destroyed after the buy back. I doubt that anyone involved in a buy back, usually co-sponsored or sponsored by law enforcement, would be considered to be a felon if a gun that is bought is stolen property. These are legitimate programs designed for people who want to get rid of guns they no longer want or use and they don't want them going into the illegal market. It's a good idea. Your scenario is just one more way for you to accuse those on my side of some sort of wrong doing when it isn't there. But I will check this out with my local law enforcement to find out what they do about this. Have you checked it out with LE in your city?

  11. Pat- we get it because we thought of it first. " "Minnesotans against being shot" is such a flip comment. Of course, we're all against being shot. I don't think I've met anyone yet who would want to -- but why does your side get the slogan. Its disingenuous. Why?" It's not any more flip than anything your side has come up with.

  12. "There are no bans to carry"

    Yes there are. Illinois has no Concealed or Open Carry. The Brady Campaign is fighting tooth and nail to maintain that. Also if you consider MD, NY, CA, NJ etc. to only be a 'few restrictions', then you know very little on how difficult it is to get a license in those states, unless you're rich or well connected.

    The BC considered the DC and Chicago handgun bans to be 'reasonable', 'common sense' restrictions. The director of your own MN group said they opposed the SCOTUS decisions.

  13. Yes sorry Illinois and Wisconsin still have restrictive carry laws. Yes we did not like the Supreme Court decisions but now that they are law we move on to discussing reasonable restrictions as supported by Alito and Scalia.

  14. JDege,

    If you've read this blog long enough you should realize that as long as one person in the country can possess a single shot .22 "cricket" there is no ban in effect.

    As far as gun buyback programs, I think it is somewhat naive to think that they aren't a great way to get rid of "hot" stolen guns if you're a criminal thug or fence. Say you have a sawed off shotgun that you want to get rid of -- amnesty! Say you have a gun that was used in a drive-by last week -- amnesty! Getting $100 for it from the local PD is better than tossing it in the river and hoping that it is never found and used as evidence against you.

    But hey, as long as public funds aren't used in the execution of these programs and as long as criminals don't get a free pass, I don't care too much. As long as the police aren't looking the other way when someone walks in with a sawed off shotgun, and as long as guns of historical value aren't being destroyed, I don't object one bit if it is privately funded; and on the latter point I am more sad than outraged. In fact, I think they are a great tactic for your side because they seem like they are expensive and not too effective.


    As far as the NRA's influence goes... It isn't about money. It is about membership. I ran the numbers once and NRA members give about as much to the NRA on average as Brady members give to the you guys. The difference is that the NRA has many, many more dues-paying members. The money helps, but the numbers are what get politician's attention.

    Also, I think the NRA does better because it isn't just an issue group. NRA does educational programs. NRA is one of the foremost experts on how to design and run a safe shooting range, and they'll provide that technical assistance to local groups. NRA sponsors competitions. NRA has safe shooting activities for young people. NRA offers its members tangible benefits like insurance and an entertaining magazine. All of those things engage and retain members. As has been mentioned before, I don't think your side has a similar analogue; you can't go to the "anti-shooting range," really.

    I don't think it is silly at all for politicians to be concerned about the views of major interest groups. That's what powerful groups like AARP, the Alaska Native Corps (at least up here), and others do for their members.

  15. I am trying to get my head around what the exact problem is regarding “lost & stolen”. It seems you are saying that too many thefts go unreported. Is there any evidence to support this? There are two side of this to look at; the law-abiding side, and the criminal side.

    If we look at the case of an innocent victim of theft (who you say has nothing to worry about), I simply don’t understand why you think they don’t report these crimes. Sure, many thefts in general don’t get reported when the item is not of much value, and the victim feels calling the police would be a waste of time. It is hard to see this as applying to guns, because they typically carry a fair amount of value, but more so because it could be used in a subsequent crime/murder. If the owner bought it through an FFL it can be directly traced back to them. Anyone would certainly want to absolve themselves of culpability immediately. Even if it were bought privately, the gun would still carry their fingerprints. The only reason I can possibly think of why somebody would NOT call the police in this situation is if there was a law which could hold them criminally responsible for getting robbed (exactly counterproductive to your intensions). What do you do when you come home from vacation to find that your home had been broken into possibly a week ago? What do you do when your only gun (worth $200) was stolen but you didn’t buy the required $1000 safe to keep it in? Or maybe you did own a safe, but seeing that the door was plasma torched clean off- you are paranoid the authorities are going to find it to be non-compliant? What do you do when you go to your out-of-state storage location to shoot your gun (from Justice Breyer’s suggestion that it is a fair infringement) only to find that it has been stolen for who knows how long? These are all cases that will come up when you write laws to prosecute victims. They will have to make a choice to eat the loss and not risk prosecution, or cooperate with the authorities. Right now, there is no reason not to cooperate. Again, is this really a problem?

    Then there is the case of the criminal element. These laws get cited as a way of curbing straw purchasers because when a crime gun gets traced back to them, they claim it was stolen months ago. Again, is there even one example of someone actually getting away with a straw purchase because they lied about it being stolen? Criminals lie to cops all the time. Sure they’ll say “it was stolen”, just like they say “that ain’t mine” when found with drugs or “I didn’t do it” for any other violent crime. The police’s job is to investigate these stories, find out if they are lies, and make arrests when they are. I don’t think it will be hard for them to be caught in a lie when there are no other guns stolen (or anything else of value), and no evidence of a break-in. Honestly, with the way most states laws are, a better excuse is “I sold it to some guy for cash”. I know you have a bigger problem with that. My solution for private sales which I laid out in my über-post on compromise handles that perfectly with much less infringement on gun owners and won’t throw victims of crimes in prison. But you are still talking about gun shows. Remember, “less infringement” means a much better chance of actually getting something passed.

  16. japete, The most common explanation I read for gun dealers with high numbers of trace guns is that their volume is high. I figured that's true to a point but are there other high volume gun dealers who don't come up on the high traced gun list? Wouldn't that put the lie to their excuse? Have you seen any stats about that?

  17. People need to remember that the NRA is all about expanding the profit margins for the gun manufacturers.

    It's that simply real.

  18. "People need to remember that the NRA is all about expanding the profit margins for the gun manufacturers."

    Actually, it's the National Shooting Sports Foundation that serves the interest of the gun manufacturers. The National Rifle Association serves the interest of gun owners*, and is quick to throw the manufacturer's under the bus when they act against the interest of gun owners. Case in point, Smith & Wesson and their consent agreement with the Clinton Administration.

    The simple truth is that there isn't enough money in gun manufacturing to wield the kind of influence you attribute to them. S&W was the nation's largest handgun manufacturer, and they grossed less than Ben&Jerry's Ice Cream.

    There are, though, tens of millions of ordinary citizens who understand how essential an armed citizenry is to maintaining a free society. That's where the power of the NRA originates. It's about 50,000 votes in each and every congressional district. It's not about money.

  19. I think I just read an article that said that the ATF counts all traces in the same category even if the firearm wasn't necessarily used in a crime. So even the "trace" numbers are padded. The article said that any time the ATF is asked to trace a firearm regardless of purpose, it gets put into the same numbers as illegal guns. So some of these shops may have had traces done against them but not necessarily were the guns used in a crime. It goes back, again, to definition and point that is trying to be presented.

    @BantheNRA - The NRA is a collection of members and doesn't speak for gun manufacturers. Nice try to slander an organization. Do gun manufacturers make more money as 2A restrictions are eased? Sure. That's a side effect. Ammo manufacturers, holster manufacturers, and all the firearm accessories manufacturers are benefited as well. This is actually incredibly insulting to Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and freedom.

  20. Get your facts straight, BantheNRA. The NRA is a grassroots organization made up of millions of American gun owners. The NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) is the gun industry lobby.

    BTW, you should change your handle to "Ban4millionAmericans," and keep on dreaming.

  21. For Pat- What if a stolen firearm ends up at one of those wonderful "Gun Buyback" programs. Shouldn't it be incumbent on organizers of those events to be submitting the serial #'s to the NICS to reunite stolen property with its rightful owner? Receiving stolen property, and unlawful transfer of a firearm are felonies."

    My organization does return stolen guns at gun buy back programs and serial numbers are routinely checked.

  22. @Joan: "My organization does return stolen guns at gun buy back programs and serial numbers are routinely checked."
    Really? That is outstandingly good news, and does dispel a long-held (and apparently erroneous) belief I held about them.
    Do you have any numbers?

  23. Anon @ 2:33

    ***Do gun manufacturers make more money as 2A restrictions are eased? Sure***

    Thank you for affirming my assertion.

  24. jdege:

    The NRA is all about increasing membership, striking down laws and making it easier for people to purchase guns. When more people by guns, profits go up. It's really isn't so hard to understand

  25. All of the gun manufacturers in the county, working together, don't earn enough to buy the kind of political power that the NRA has been given by its members.

    The NRA is about serving its members, and its members have the firm belief that maintaining an armed citizenry is essential to preserving freedom.

  26. BantheNRA - That correlation is as thin as saying an organization for the legalization of marijuana is in league with the paper manufacturers. Just because someone may profit from a change in the law doesn't mean that any organization is in league with them.

  27. mikeB, you wrote "japete, The most common explanation I read for gun dealers with high numbers of trace guns is that their volume is high. I figured that's true to a point but are there other high volume gun dealers who don't come up on the high traced gun list? Wouldn't that put the lie to their excuse? Have you seen any stats about that?"

    I want you to chant "A trace is not a crime, a trace is not a crime." until it sinks in that a trace is NOT a crime. A trace is simply a paperwork exercise to determine the original buyer of a firearm.

    As much as MAIG and BC like to say that a traced gun is a "crime gun" that simply isn't reality. Remember, "A trace is not a crime."

  28. Thanks anonymous. A trace is not a crime. Is that like the 90% of traced guns in Mexico come from the States?

  29. @mikeb: As a matter of policy, some police departments trace all firearms they come across, whether a crime has been committed or not.

    Hence, a dealer may have a number of "traces" not linked to any crimes actually being committed.

    That being said, there are some bad apples out there that should be subjected to ATF investigation under existing laws to put them out of business permanently.

  30. MikeB you wrote "Thanks anonymous. A trace is not a crime. Is that like the 90% of traced guns in Mexico come from the States?"

    Mike, the number is actually 7.9% according to Bill McMahon, deputy assistant director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
    Of the 100,000 weapons recovered by Mexican authorities, only 18,000 were determined to have been manufactured, sold, or imported from the United States, and of those 18,000, just 7,900 came from sales by licensed gun dealers.

    The remainder of those that came from the US but didn't come from an FFL were "state department approved" sales of military equipment to the Mexican government or State Department approved exports out of the country.

    If you are going to use statistics, you need to know that the Mexican government submits less than One in Four seized firearms for US tracing, and of those less than half come from FFL's. The rest get smuggled into Mexico from Central America or even Asia.

    Now, repeat again, "A trace is not a crime, a trace is not a crime." Until it sinks in. Be a good boy now, repeat it until you get it.

  31. Come on you guys. It's the holiday season. Give it up for some peace and quiet and stop sweating the small stuff. It's just not worth all of these words to keep arguing about the same things. Maybe allowing comments is not such a good idea after all.

  32. Semper Vigilans and Merry Christmas.

  33. Thanks. I, too, remain vigilant.