Sunday, January 20, 2013

How the NRA and its political lackeys have made it increasingly impossible to enforce EXISTING gun-control laws (#2)

Well, despite my complaints about the failure of political journalists to convey this story to the public in a clear and informative way that cuts through the propaganda, it seems we don't have to rely completely on satirists like Jon Stewart to do that.  Today's New York Times editorial page has a good piece that sums things up very effectively—in print and without jokes.  Some highlights:
By the time President Obama formally unveiled his suite of executive actions and new legislation to aggressively fight gun violence, the N.R.A. and its allies were already on the attack with a familiar gun lobby refrain: The nation doesn’t need any new gun laws, just better enforcement of laws that already exist.

It’s a fraudulent argument, but it has been used effectively again and again over the past 20 years to help block meaningful gun reforms. This time, in the rare opening for change that has followed the massacre in Newtown, Conn., no one should fall for it. The argument that the existing laws would be sufficient if only the officials in charge did their job and enforced them properly is nothing more than a clever diversion. Beyond ignoring deadly loopholes — many inserted at the N.R.A.’s insistence — this poses a false choice between strong laws and strong enforcement. Why should one preclude the other? America needs both.

Some of the steps Mr. Obama has endorsed — making background checks universal and cracking down on illegal gun trafficking — are needed to make existing laws more effective. Other things, like reducing the supply of assault weapons and large ammunition clips that so often figure in mass shootings, will require new laws. Obviously, better enforcement does not help when there is no underlying statute.  [....]

The hypocrisy of the N.R.A.’s argument that the problem is weak enforcement is exposed by its efforts over the years to undercut what enforcement there is. It has tried mightily to ensure that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks the leadership, resources and legal authority to do its job properly. Restrictions enacted at the gun lobby’s behest make it exceedingly hard to identify dealers who falsify sales records, for example, and bar the bureau from putting gun-sale records into a central database for speedy tracing of weapons used in crimes.  [....]

Keeping guns out of the wrong hands has never been a gun lobby priority. Its priority has been weak enforcement of weak laws.
But read the whole thing (below).

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

==============================
New York Times
January 19, 2013
The Diversionary Tactics of the Gun Lobby
By Dorothy Daniels

By the time President Obama formally unveiled his suite of executive actions and new legislation to aggressively fight gun violence, the N.R.A. and its allies were already on the attack with a familiar gun lobby refrain: The nation doesn’t need any new gun laws, just better enforcement of laws that already exist.
It’s a fraudulent argument, but it has been used effectively again and again over the past 20 years to help block meaningful gun reforms. This time, in the rare opening for change that has followed the massacre in Newtown, Conn., no one should fall for it. The argument that the existing laws would be sufficient if only the officials in charge did their job and enforced them properly is nothing more than a clever diversion. Beyond ignoring deadly loopholes — many inserted at the N.R.A.’s insistence — this poses a false choice between strong laws and strong enforcement. Why should one preclude the other? America needs both.
Some of the steps Mr. Obama has endorsed — making background checks universal and cracking down on illegal gun trafficking — are needed to make existing laws more effective. Other things, like reducing the supply of assault weapons and large ammunition clips that so often figure in mass shootings, will require new laws. Obviously, better enforcement does not help when there is no underlying statute.
It is true that the Justice Department should prosecute more people who lie or deliberately provide inaccurate information about their criminal histories on background checks. Studies show that those who lie are more likely than the average person to commit violent crimes after they are denied a firearm purchase. Mr. Obama is trying to correct this with a presidential memorandum encouraging “supplemental efforts” by United States attorneys around the country to prosecute felons who lie to evade the background check.
This sort of common-sense strategy has long been recommended by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group co-founded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Yet in 2010, the latest date for which figures are available, just 44 of the nearly 80,000 Americans who flunked backgrounds checks because they lied or gave incorrect information were charged with a crime. That’s an indefensibly low number even given competing prosecutorial priorities (though consistent with the record of the Bush administration). But insufficient prosecutorial attention is hardly a reason to oppose new federal gun laws that would make Americans safer.
Nevertheless, the N.R.A.’s cynical effort to shift the debate to lax enforcement continues without letup. An N.R.A. official, Andrew Arulanandam, intoned recently that the government’s failure to aggressively investigate people who failed their background checks meant that people who should not be buying guns in the first place were escaping justice — in his words, "getting away scot-free.” He failed to mention that it is only because of the 1993 Brady Act, which the N.R.A. vehemently opposed, that the nation even has a system that can identify prohibited buyers and those who lie.
The hypocrisy of the N.R.A.’s argument that the problem is weak enforcement is exposed by its efforts over the years to undercut what enforcement there is. It has tried mightily to ensure that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks the leadership, resources and legal authority to do its job properly. Restrictions enacted at the gun lobby’s behest make it exceedingly hard to identify dealers who falsify sales records, for example, and bar the bureau from putting gun-sale records into a central database for speedy tracing of weapons used in crimes.
Further details of the N.R.A.’s anti-enforcement efforts were revealed by Dennis Henigan, a former vice president of the Brady Campaign, a leading gun-control group, in his 2009 book “Lethal Logic.” It recounts how the N.R.A. campaigned in the 1980s to weaken the 1968 Gun Control Act that President Lyndon Johnson pushed through after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The result was the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, a misnamed law that has made it difficult to investigate and prosecute gun trafficking to this day. For example, it protects unscrupulous gun dealers by prohibiting A.T.F. agents from making more than one unannounced inspection a year. It also makes it hard to revoke their licenses. Those and other damaging provisions from the 1986 law should be tossed out as part of the new, still only hazily defined anti-trafficking measure Mr. Obama has pledged to fight for. The N.R.A.’s opposition won’t make that easy.
Keeping guns out of the wrong hands has never been a gun lobby priority. Its priority has been weak enforcement of weak laws.

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