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.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gun safety has to include background checks

Warning. Gun sales to felons domestic abusers, terrorists and those who are adjudicated mentally ill people are legal in America. Yes. It's true. Why? Because the corporate gun lobby cares more about gun sales than saving lives. This insanity continues in America despite continuing gun violence. And despite the shooting of 20 first graders in a Connecticut elementary school. Despite and increasing number of school shootings. Despite the continuing domestic shootings. Despite how easy it would be to stop this insanity.


After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Congress had an opportunity to expand background checks at the federal level. The bill had bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate but it failed when the NRA decided that they would make life difficult for those who supported it. And while it's true that some who supported the bill lost their bids for re-election, more than a few also were re-elected or elected to Congress. The landscape is changing. Gun safety reform groups are spending money on elections as well. Expect that to continue.

Meanwhile the deceptions offered by the corporate gun lobby when they oppose common sense gun measures need to be exposed for what they are. Let's be clear. Expanding background checks to private sales will not lead to gun registration or gun confiscation. The fact that these same background checks performed in millions of gun sales since the Brady law passed in 1994 have not led to gun registration or confiscation lends the lie to the assertions by the gun lobby. There is no reason not to pass an expanded background check law that makes any sense or is based on fact. It is supported by 92% of Americans, including gun owners.

Gun background checks save lives. Why? Because if we just let anyone legally buy guns, then just about anyone and everyone will legally buy guns. The thing is, just about anyone CAN legally buy guns in the U.S. because we aren't stopping them. So, for example, take this case of a mass shooting in West Virginia. From the article:
The Monongalia County man who police say killed four people Monday before taking his own life had a history of violence against women and wasn’t supposed to have a gun, court records show.
State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said officers haven’t yet determined how Jody Hunt, 39, of Westover, got the 9 mm gun and shot dead his ex-girlfriend, Sharon Kay Berkshire, 39, of Westover, as well as her current boyfriend, Michael David Frum, 28, of Maidsville, and another man who might have dated her, Jody Taylor, Hunt’s cousin.
Doug Brady, owner of Doug’s Towing, also was killed.
“I doubt they’ve even had the chance to look that far into it yet,” Baylous said.
The Winchester (Virginia) Star newspaper reported that Hunt pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony abduction and using a firearm in the commission of a felony after holding another ex-girlfriend hostage at Lear Corporation Winchester, where they were employed.
He wasn't supposed to have a gun but have a gun he did. How did he get it? There are ways. As the gun rights extremists say, criminals will always find a way to get a gun. But why in the world do we make it easy for them to get guns? Yes there is a black market for guns but how did those guns get into the black market in the first place given that all guns start out as legal purchases? Private sellers at gun shows or on Internet sites like Armslist.com provide many guns to folks like the shooter, above, with no background check. Easy Peasy. The thing is, people are killed in senseless acts of violence like the case above, every day in our country. And we wonder where they get the guns? We know there are ways but we do nothing about it. West Virginia does not have expanded background checks to all gun sales. Sure, the shooter in the incident above could have stolen the gun. Maybe he did. Sure maybe there was a straw purchase- a friend bought it for him. But at the least, we can stop one of the avenues for accessing a gun for people who shouldn't have guns.

So again, the Brady law passed in 1994. Since that time, federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) have been submitting records of sales to the FBI's National Instant Check System. It takes a few minutes for the person on the phone to approve or disapprove of a gun sale. Since the law passed, about 2 million people have been stopped from buying a gun from a FFL. But now, due to the insane number of guns being purchased, the system is overtaxed and flawed, allowing some who may not be legally able to buy a gun to get one anyway. Clearly we need to fix the system and then expand what we are doing. Lives depend on us getting this right. At the least, we need to make sure all of the records of felons, adjudicated mentally ill people and domestic abusers are sent to the FBI background check system.

We know how easy it is to get a gun at a gun show or on Internet sites. There are quite a few hidden camera videos showing people walking out of gun shows with guns purchased with no background checks or in some cases, no ID required. I have referred to them many times on this blog. Here is just one. The most often quoted case of a man who shouldn't have a gun buying one on-line and using the gun in a shooting is the case of Radcliff Haughton who was a domestic abuser and bought a gun with on background check. He killed his estranged wife and 2 others in a Milwaukee area spa.

Avoidable shootings are a national tragedy. If we want our communities to be safe from gun violence we have to pass a law requiring background checks on all gun sales. The state of Washington just became the 7th state to pass such a law but they did it by going directly to the voters. Voters understand the importance of this kind of law. And they can't be intimidated by the corporate gun lobby. Much to our disgrace, politicians have allowed themselves to be sucked into the tired old senseless, nonsensical arguments posed by the corporate gun lobby. Serious questions have to be asked. Why not require a background check on all gun sales? Who will it hurt? No one who is a law abiding citizen. Who will it help? Victims of shootings. On which side do you come down?

Sometimes we have to legislate safety. Sometimes we can encourage public safety through education of the public. It's pretty clear that legislators have to step up to the plate and do their job to protect their citizens from devastating violence occurring all over our country. Don't we deserve to be safer in our communities than we now are? Selling guns to felons, domestic abusers, those who are adjudicated mentally ill and others happens every day- legally. About 40% of gun sales go without background checks. That is insanity. It's past time for common sense.


  1. I have purchased a handgun on gunbroker, the seller would only mail to my local ffl, I was ok with this as I wanted to that I was buying from a reputable seller as well. That is me. Now for the potential problem. If you take your kids or a buddy to the gravel pit to shoot if they want to shoot one of your guns, that would technically be an illegal transfer. Get you up to 10 in the pen?? Not sure I am not a cop, just a guy that likes to shoot. As far back ground checks at gun shows, I don't know if felons can be in a room with guns much less handle or buy them because that defiantly WILL get you up to 10 years in Duluth.

    1. There are many Internet sales where the guns are transferred between 2 people with no FFL pick-up. The sale is arranged on line and the gun is picked up at a location determined by the 2 people involved. As to the transfer to which you refer, most of the laws passed do not prohibit those types of transfers. We are talking mostly about gun shows where private sellers do indeed sell guns with no background checks and internet sales where that also happens. A private seller, if they don't ask for ID or do a background check, would have no idea if a buyer is a felon or not. That is the point. I don't think they would knowingly sell to a felon but without a background check, how will they know?

  2. japete, glad to hear you give private sellers at gun shows the benefit of doubt that they would not "knowingly" sell to felons, I doubt anyone would unless they are associated with them and that would be a straw purchase, clearly against the law. Speaking of straw purchases, I wonder when straw purchases are knowingly made if the person doing the buying truly understands the consequences of their actions, If they were verbally warned about possibly being prosecuted for aiding a burglary or murder that might be a huge deterrent. As to my comment about transfers you state "most of the laws passed do not prohibit those types of transfers" True, agreed, however I said "technically" and I think this is why there is so much resistance against back ground checks, gun owners want black and white NOT grey. Grey is left to interpretation. Interpretation can lead to legal fees and/or jail.

    1. Interesting point. I wonder if even then, the people who are opposed to expanding background checks would be on board. After they were reassured and with specific language in the bill that was voted on in the Senate that there could be NO registration, the NRA still opposed the bill. You can see why my side is suspect as well. As to straw purchases, some do knowingly make the sale. A sale is a sale and if you want to make a sale and therefore, the money, you may just ignore what is in front of you. Lawsuits have been filed against dealers who have knowingly sold through a straw purchase. I hope that message gets out. It's not worth doing. If a dealer has any reason to suspect a straw purchase they need to report it.

  3. You stated "s to the transfer to which you refer, most of the laws passed do not prohibit those types of transfers." Yet the bill your billionaires bought in Washington state does exactly that. http://wslefia.com/?zone=/unionactive/view_page.cfm&page=I2D59420and20Law20Enforcement

    There are many ways that a background check could be done that would be acceptable to gun owners but everytime one is proposed that does not burden gun owners you oppose it.

    1. As you can see by this article, there are reasonable exceptions to the transfers that will not require a background check under the new Washington state background check bill. http://wagunresponsibility.org/about-594/
      I find it interesting that when the NRA spends millions, that's OK with the gun rights advocates but as soon as the gun safety reform groups spend money, it's a bad idea. And further, Robin, you will need to explain the terrible burden on gun owners to background checks. The same system that has been in place now since 1994 will be used. I haven't heard gun owners complain about the terrible burden on them when getting a background check through a FFL. So please tell me how terrible it would be to get the very same background check now from a private seller.

  4. and yet the Department of Fish and Wildlife had to declare their volunteer hunting safety instructors to be "law enforcement" personnel in order to allow them to hand a firearm to a student. Students cannot hand a firearm from one to another but must hand it first to the instructor.


    Interestingly, when I took the Minnesota Hunter's Safety training we were taught to stop at a fence, unload the weapons, and then one person cross the fence. The one behind would hand the firearms to the one that crossed before crossing the fence himself. As I understand the law, that is now illegal in Washington. Way to go for increasing safety.

    1. You seem to be confused about the new law, Robin. Check this out- http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/House/INITIATIVE%20594%20HBA%20JUDI%2014.pdf
      Temporary transfers are allowed.

  5. I have explained the issue to you before but you have consistently refused to acknowledge it.

    First, you are the one that has complained about NRA spending. I merely pointed out that your victory required you to spend 20 times as much as your opponents to get less than 60% of the people to give you what you claim 92% of the people want. I merely point out that you claim that 5 million people represented by the NRA are evil for political spending but a handful of billionaires buying an election is okay.

    Second, gun dealers must now be mind readers to remain out of jail. The principle law enforcement technique by the BATFE is to send in phony "straw purchasers" to try and trap dealers. Even a husband asking his wife if he should use the debit or a credit card to pay could be construed to be "evidence" of a straw purchase. Many dealers to not want to get involved in transferring firearms that they are not directly involved in selling. That means that although most people live within 10 miles of a FFL dealer they may not live within 100 miles of one willing to do transfers. Last I heard there were only 2 dealers in all of the Denver area willing to do walk in transfers. Then there is the fee. No dealer will do a walk in transfer for free. In Colorado a fee must be paid to both the dealer and the state. On the other hand, I have never paid for a transfer for a firearm I was buying from a dealer. This leads me to believe that since alternatives that were acceptable to firearms owners were put forward and rejected that your aim was not safety but to cause maximum inconvenience to gun owners.

    1. The NRA made a choice not to spend money in the WA state initiative- http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/09/11/washington-gun-rights-advocates-wonder-where-is-the-nra/
      60% is a majority who agreed that requiring background checks for all gun sales makes a lot of sense. The majority of NRA members have agreed in poll after poll. Apparently you are in the minority, Robin. As to fees, people pay fees for many things they purchase or do. I have to pay a fee to go cross country skiing on city trails. So what? We are talking about deadly weapons. Gun dealers can charge fees in Minnesota- https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca/bca-divisions/administrative/Pages/firearms-permit-to-purchase-transfer.aspx
      And of course, we are about safety. Your assertions to the contrary are just that- assertions and deceptions. And inconvenience "suffered" by a person purchasing a gun are nothing compared to the inconvenience of a dead family member and having to bury someone who died violently and unexpectadly from an avoidable firearms injury.