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.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

A New York affair

The NRA has been busy in New York over the past few years. Why? They really don't want a bill being pushed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pass. Here is the story so far. Microstamping of guns is a new technology but can actually help in crime gun tracing. Lest we doubt the sincerity of the NRA and the National Sports Shooting Foundation, two well funded and extreme gun rights groups, read here to what extent they have gone to stop this bill from passing:
"The National Rifle Association has taken aim at New York, doling out more campaign donations in the Empire State over the last nine years than in any other in state in the nation.
The prime target: defeating Mayor Bloomberg’s push for microstamping of bullet casings, which backers say would be an effective crime fighting tool.
Since 2003, the NRA has reported giving New York legislators and political committees $217,400 — the organization’s largest outlay over that period.
Arizona candidates received the second-highest cash infusion: $196,317. (...)
In addition, the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the firearms industry trade association — pumped another $103,500 into the state, including $80,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee in 2010."
Why is it that the gun lobby is so intent on stopping something that would help in crime fighting? It's hard to imagine. But the NRA is not logical. Common sense doesn't exist for these folks. Here, then, is one reason for the firearms industry to be opposed to this crime prevention tool. Money. What do you know? I guess public safety does take a back seat to making a profit. That's why we haven't passed any common sense gun laws in this country for so long. A letter to New York Governor Cuomo from Remington Arms  (in this article) explains it:
Results obtained by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the National Academy of Sciences echo those of an earlier independent, peer-reviewed study published by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor George Krivosta. Professor Krivosta conclusively established that microstamping technology is unreliable, does not function as the patent holder claims and can be easily defeated in seconds using common household tools.
Mandating Firearms microstamping will restrict the ability of Remington to expand business in the Empire State. Worse yet, Remington could be forced to reconsider its commitment to the New York market altogether rather than spend the astronomical sums of money needed to completely reconfigure our manufacturing and assembly processes. This would directly impact law enforcement, firearms retailers and consumers throughout New York- if not the entire country.
Of course, passage of microstamping would also hurt New York taxpayers, who would be forced to foot the bill for expensive scanning electron microscopes and software necessary to read the firearms make, model and serial number.
Hurting businesses and tax payers to support a concept that has been proven flawed is ill-conceived.
As strong supporters of law enforcement, we urge you to reject this legislation- -legislation that will allocate our state’s already limited financial resources to a crime-fighting concept that does not work. Instead, let’s focus on proven methods for stopping criminals, such as adding more police officers to the streets and more prosecutors to our courts. Surely that’s something we can all support.
Let's take a look at microstamping. This article from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence explains it quite well. From the article:
Microstamping technology stamps a code identifying a firearm’s serial number directly onto spent cartridges as they are ejected from a handgun at a crime scene. With this serial number, investigators can identify not only the crime gun, but also the point of first retail purchase of the firearm and its original purchaser. This is critical information for law enforcement as they investigate a homicide or other violent crime—and there is no need for them to physically recover the crime gun itself to obtain it.
With trace data gleaned from microstamped handguns, law enforcement officials can become more proficient at putting traffickers behind bars and curbing the flow of illegal guns on America’s streets. The ability to directly identify firearms’ serial numbers from cartridges found at crime scenes would significantly increase the number of successful crime gun traces performed by law enforcement officers. This would provide investigators with greater amounts of data to work with when mapping regional and national trends in illegal firearms trafficking. Furthermore, “straw purchasers” with a clean criminal record would be far less likely to purchase firearms for prohibited buyers if they believed those guns could be easily traced back to them after being used in crimes.
The New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, supports the bill to mandate microstamping:
This technology isn't foolproof, but if police find three microstamped shell casings at a crime scene, they'll be able to identifying the gun 90 percent of the time. That success rate means faster investigations, which could save lives by taking armed and dangerous criminals off the streets more quickly.
We can all agree that police should be able to trace crime guns to help them apprehend criminals - what microstamping will help us do is make the existing system of crime gun tracing as effective as possible. That's why opposing microstamping is like opposing DNA or even fingerprinting as a way to solve crimes. These tools simply give law enforcement another way to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent.
Microstamping technology is inexpensive, and it's designed to be tamper-proof and invisible to the user. And like other measures we've used to combat gun crime, it will not hamper the rights of lawful gun owners. In fact, it won't even apply to rifles, shotguns, or revolvers. The legislation passed by the New York State Assembly would only require microstamping technology in newly-sold semiautomatic handguns--the types of guns most commonly used in crimes.
And now, the plot just thickened. In this article from today's New York Daily News, we can see that 2 large gun manufacturers, located in New York- Remington Arms and Kimber Manufactrering got a lot of money in state grants for job creation. And the very same companies have threatened to move their companies out of the state if the Microstamping bill passes? Something doesn't pass the smell test. From the article:
The taxpayer-funded economic development dough was intended to create jobs — but Kimber Manufacturing in Yonkers, a recipient of $700,000 in grants, warned in a recent letter to Cuomo that micro-stamping would lead to an increase in production costs, which could in turn jeopardize job safety for some workers.
The economic development grants were revealed in state documents obtained by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence through a Freedom of Information Law request.
Combined with federal and local funds doled out to Remington and Kimber in recent years, the total taxpayer commitment amounted to $10.4 million.
The economic investment comes as Mayor Bloomberg, a major backer of microstamping, has railed against the scourge of illegal firearms in the city.
“Giving millions of dollars of taxpayer money to the gun industry in sweetheart deals while thousands of innocent New Yorkers die each year by guns cannot be justified,” said New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Jackie Hilly.
But in approving the grants, state economic development officials cited a need to guard against the manufacturers moving operations out of the state, the documents show. Officials from both companies did not return calls for comment.
So let me get this straight. Two major gun manufacturers accepted tax payer dollars to create jobs in New York. Said gun companies, supported by the NRA and its minions, don't want microstamping because, well, just because. But here is what they said ( from the article above): " The taxpayer-funded economic development dough was intended to create jobs — but Kimber Manufacturing in Yonkers, a recipient of $700,000 in grants, warned in a recent letter to Cuomo that micro-stamping would lead to an increase in production costs, which could in turn jeopardize job safety for some workers."So changing their business to produce microstamped cartridges would cost too much money but they got a lot of tax money to create jobs? I refer you back to what Remington Arms wrote to Governor Cuomo about their reasons to be against the bill ( from article above):
Of course, passage of microstamping would also hurt New York taxpayers, who would be forced to foot the bill for expensive scanning electron microscopes and software necessary to read the firearms make, model and serial number.
Hurting businesses and tax payers to support a concept that has been proven flawed is ill-conceived.
Where does this make sense?

This action by the gun manufacturing companies reveals, once again, how much sway the gun lobby has on our states and the inability or refusal of our elected leaders to enact laws that would actually lead to fewer gun deaths. Remember how much money the NRA and other gun rights organizations have fed to New York politicians to stop this bill? As I wrote about in my last post, what we have is two versions of our country- one where the gun lobby and gun manufacturers are in collusion to make sure common sense gun laws don't get passed and one where laws that would help law enforcement in their jobs to try to prevent and reduce the likelihood of people getting shot. Which version do you want?

12 comments:

  1. A word about microstamping. I am not going to argue about whether or not it will work, or how easily defeated it is- instead I am going to focus on the effect on the market. The problem with microstamping is that it is a ban on the sale of non-microstamped semi-automatic handguns- which will amount to a whole lot of guns. New York citizens would no longer be able to buy certain guns that they want to buy (and used to be able to buy), and that is going to upset a whole lot of people. Manufacturers will have to decide whether it makes financial sense to retool and make a special product just for the New York market. New York and California are large enough markets that the big ones might do it, but all the small producers will absolutely drop out. That will really affect collectors and enthusiast who are interested in guns beyond Glock, Springfield, Smith & Wesson, etc. Should a bill like this be introduced in a small state like Delaware it will amount to a complete ban on new semi-auto handgun sales. These kinds of bills are better left to the federal level, because no gun manufacturer is going to drop out of the entire US market.

    I don’t know if NY’s proposal includes a line about it being unencumbered by patents the way California’s does. If so, there is really no point in passing this bill now because it can’t go into effect. Why don’t they just wait so as not to waste everyone’s time? If it doesn’t have that constraint, then the above effect on the market gets magnified. You can’t mandate that a patented technology be used. That combination means the patent holder can charge whatever price they want. When the price difference is high enough, potential buyers will just buy from the used market (with a legal out of state transfer through an in-state FFL if they have to)- not to avoid having a microstamped gun, but rather to simply get a better price.

    We see this often in the auto industry where California likes to make their own guidelines. If the market research doesn’t play out, car makers will just not sell a given product in California (most often this happens for diesels). And that is true for big global car manufacturers. The gun industry has thousands of small mom and pop operations. Again, the only way for it to work market wise is for it to be on a national level. Why don’t gun controllers take it up there so they don’t screw over the fine citizens of California and New York?

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    1. Yes, of course, TS, us "gun controllers" are "screwing over the fine citizens of California and New York". That is our stated goal. Haven't you been reading about that? On the other hand, taking huge amounts of money from the NRA for lawmakers and voting against a crime fighting bill while at the same time the companies are taking tax payer dollars and then threatening to move if the bill passes?- Not "screwing" the fine citizens of New York? I guess it just depends on your perspective on the issue. Have a nice week-end.

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    2. I regret putting that last line in there. It made you concentrate on it and lose focus on the body of the post. I am sorry for stating it that way. Just consider this: what happens when no manufacturers incorporate mirco-stamping into their process (which is a very real possibility)? There is no benefit for tracing, and the citizens of the state have a ban on the sale of semi-automatic handguns. I really wrote this as a response to this question by you:

      Japete: “Why is it that the gun lobby is so intent on stopping something that would help in crime fighting? It's hard to imagine.”

      I thought I did a good job of explaining what the concern is. I hope you have a fine weekend as well.

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  2. You ask "Why is it that the gun lobby is so intent on stopping something that would help in crime fighting?" Well, first there is no evidence that the technology would help. Even in the article you quote with 3 shell casings there is a 90% chance of getting a match which means that with 1 there would be a 30% chance. That is with a brand new gun without much use. It is just another version of the Ballistics Database that Maryland and New York passed in 2004 that both states are now getting rid of since there has only been one conviction associated with the databases in 8 years.

    California passed microstamping in 2007 to go into effect on January 1, 2010. The state Attorney General has still not certified the law as enforceable so it is in legal limbo. The California Police Chief's Association has rescinded their support because it would impact their budget without any return.

    The primary reason to oppose this is because it is merely a thinly disguised attempt to burden gun owners by raising the price of handguns. First, the law mandates using the technology that can only be obtained from one source that holds the patents on it. This would be akin to mandating that all bloggers can only use a Mac computer.

    Second, while the cost of licensing the technology could range from $.50 to $12.50 that does not count the cost of retooling to implement the technology. If the technology is as benign and cost effective as claimed why are police exempted from it? Could it be that the gun manufacturers have announced that they will not implement microstamping and will instead cease to sell their wares in the state requiring microstamping? They did that in California. It is one thing to deprive civilians of firearms, it is another to deprive the police.

    Second, since when does taking money mean that you become an organ of the state? Remington took money from New York to shut down their operations in Massachusetts and Connecticut and bring the jobs to New York. They did this. Kimber accepted money to expand their operations and hire more people. They did this. Does this mean that the State of New York now owns them and can dictate how they run their business? Or are the owners still responsible for running their business in a manner that will allow them to make a profit and remain in business? Since microstamping did not pass that means that they defied not the entire state of New York, but only the antigunners who were obviously not the majority since they didn't get their way.

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    1. You seem to have missed several points here, Robin. The companies took tax payer dollars and then threatened to move out of the state of New York over a bill that could help law enforcement to trace crime guns. Tracing crime guns can find those who commit crimes and keep them from doing so again. Keeping them from doing so can result in reducing and preventing shootings. Why would we not do something that would result in reducing shootings? We enact preventative measures to prevent loss of live due to car accidents ( see previous post). That cost the car manufacturers a lot of money but they had no choice. The result- fewer deaths from car accidents. The other point you conveniently missed is the amount of money given to law makers in New York by the NRA and others in the gun lobby in order to stop the bill. You guys often miss those points, though. It is inconvenient. As to "becoming an organ of the state", whatever that means- if this were some other issue like health care, reproductive rights, etc. and a company took money from state tax payer funds, I wonder if you feel differently? Have a nice week-end.

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  3. "Why would we not do something that WOULD result in reducing shootings? (emphasis mine).

    BIG stretch there, japete. Robin is correct. There is insufficient evidence to support the allegation that micorstamping would have any effect on crime. And even less that it would result in reducing shootings as you claim. Not to mention that the technology is easily defeated by a $.50 tool (a file).

    The only known is that this technology would increase costs which would be directly passed on to the purchaser of the firearm. What does the owner of the firearm do if he/she wants/needs to replace the firing pin (they do break)? What happens when Joe Law-Abiding citizen neglects to find evey single piece or brass they fired at the firing range and Johnny Criminal picks up said brass for future use in a planned crime and plants the brass?

    The only angle anti-gunners have left is to burden law-abiding gun owners with increasing costs associated with owning and shooting firearms. This is one of them.

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    1. Your last sentence is your assertion only and not based on fact. What happened when seat belts and air bags were mandated for cars? The costs were passed along to the consumers. Guns are not an exception to other consumer products where safety measures, deemed to save lives and prevent injuries, are determined to be necessary and mandated. Manufacturers will, in most cases, not do these things on their own because it affects the bottom line. The consumer should expect that safety measures will be advised and instituted by our government agencies who actually care about public safety. That is what this is about and nothing more. You guys love to find some hidden agenda in all measures proposed by people who happen to care about prevention of senseless loss of life. Have a nice week-end, Molon.

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    2. Micro-stamping is not a a safety feature though. Besides, what's done in the car industry has nothing to do with firearms as you so often point out.

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    3. No Colin. I have never said that. What I have consistently said is that cars and other consumer products have been designed for safety and have mandated safety features. They have actually saved lives and reduced injuries. What you guys try to say is that people like me should just want to ban cars because car accidents happen and people are killed. That, of course, is ridiculous. Some of you have said that cars don't kill people, people do to prove your point that guns don't kill people either. Some of you have also tried to stupidly say that people kill people on purpose with cars to try to avoid the obvious fact that most car accidents are just that, accidents and not homicides. I had a ridiculous argument on this blog about car homicides. Some of you have also said that car accidents kill more people than guns. Now that isn't true either after the new study by the Violence Policy Center showing that in 10 states death by gunfire has overtaken car accidents as cause of death.

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    4. Very few Firearms ACCIDENTLY kill people. If there were thousands of accidents a year you may have a point about the safety features. Unfortunately people intentionally use firearms to kill. If you were to make a "safe" firearm for these intentional murders it would not function as a firearm any longer.

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    5. Those car safety features came from within the industry well before they were ever mandated by the government. Seat belts, ABS, airbags, etc. were all thought up and implemented by the auto industry and once they became widespread and proven technology- THEN the government set a timetable for it to become an industry standard. Stability control is another one. It has been around for decades, but the government mandate for it to be on ALL cars takes affect this year (though most cars offer a button to turn it off).

      People don’t like to die. So safety features are something that customers look for and the industries invest capitol to make their products safer to meet that demand. The government did not come up with these ideas.

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    6. Yes- some car companies had come up with the idea of seat belts and installed them in their cars. The driving public didn't particularly like them however. It was not until a law passed in Congress to require them did they become mandatory equipment in cars.( http://www.ehow.com/about_5110697_history-seat-belts.html) Why did this happen? Because 50,000 deaths a year were too many and something had to be done. " The Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act were passed in 1966. These were the most substantial pieces of legislature regarding auto industry standards ever passed, because they authorized the federal government to regulate vehicle and highway standards and created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These measures led to many improvements in auto design, including mandatory installation of seat belts. In 1970, the NHTSA reported that motor vehicle--related deaths had significantly decreased.

      Click It or Ticket
      Requiring that manufacturers install seat belts in cars did not ensure that people used them, however. For the next 20 years, the auto industry and federal governments campaigned for seat belt laws to be passed in all 50 states. By 1989, 34 states had laws requiring drivers and passengers to buckle up. By 1995, every state except New Hampshire passed legislation mandating seat belt use. In 2002, 19 states had primary enforcement seat belt laws, which enable police officers to ticket a driver solely for lack of wearing a seat belt, which greatly increased belt usage in those states. The NHTSA reports that fatality rates of motor-vehicle accidents have dramatically reduced since the enactment of seat belt laws by state legislatures."

      Law suits against manufacturers also contributed to safer cars. The industry responded to large settlements and started making cars safer. http://www.searcylaw.com/do-you-know/dyk-vehicle-safety/ " The enthusiasm of General Motors (GM), a pioneer in airbag development, waned when the NHTSA announced it would monitor “automatic restraint system malfunctions,” which, despite denials, GM knew occurred frequently. GM curtailed its manufacturing, and dealers backed off on sales. In subsequent lawsuits, however, courts ruled that automakers were fully aware that the absence of airbags made their cars less safe; ultimately, airbags became standard on passenger vehicles. Front airbags became a mandatory safety feature in 1996, and federal law requires that by 2013, all cars, SUVs and trucks must be equipped with side airbags, as well."

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