Irreverent Skeptics Podcast Episode 7 – Gun Control

Originally aired live January 18, 2014… this episode was a long time coming! Today we discuss the pros and cons of gun ownership and gun control, and a bit of history on how gun laws have changed. Sorry, everyone not from America, we focused on the US for this one.

The Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

To date, The Supreme Court has never fully defined the implications of the Second Amendment. However, it has upheld the government’s authority to impose restrictions on guns.

Some examples:

  • Firearm Owners Protection Act (1986):

    • addressed ATF prosecutions that were considered “constitutionally improper” by the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary. And added restrictions to the ATF’s inspections/enforcements.

    • Added restrictions on the sale/ownership of fully automatic firearms.

    • “Safe Passage” provision – a person cannot be incarcerated for a firearms offense in a state with strict gun control laws if the traveler is just passing through, provided that the firearms and ammunition are not immediately accessible, are unloaded, etc.

    • Forbade the U.S. Gov’t from keeping a registry directly linking non-Nat’l Firearms Act firearms to their owners.

  • Undetectable Firearms Act (1988): made manufacturing, importation, sale, delivery, possession, transferring, or receiving of a firearm that is not detectable by a walk-through metal detector illegal. Or firearms with components that do not generate an accurate image before standard airport imaging technology.

  • Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990): Originally passed as a section of the Crime Control Act of 1990. The Supreme Court subsequently held that the Act was an unconstitutional exercise of Congressional authority in 1995. This was the first time in more than 50 years that the Supreme Court limited Congressional authority to legislate under the Commerce Clause.

  • Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993): Instituted federal background checks on firearm purchaser in the U.S.

  • Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2004): Banned the manufacture and transfer of certain newly manufactured semi-automatic firearms and ammunition feeding devices (magazines). There have been multiple unsuccessful attempts to renew the ban.

Talking points:

  • The Second Amendment was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common-law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Sir William Blackstone described this right as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state. (wikipedia)

  • President Obama’s recent Gun Control Proposal (January, 2014)

    • Strengthens restrictions on mentally disturbed individuals purchasing firearms.

    • Another part of the plan centers on the Department of Health and Human Services, which would remove barriers that might keep states from sharing data with the federal background check system. Those problems had been linked to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. Reuters article on the same proposals

  • President Obama’s Proposed Gun Control (January, 2013) – since defeated…

    • Requires background checks for all gun sales and strengthens the background check system.  This would include removing barriers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act so that states may more freely share information about mental health issues involving potential gun purchasers.

    • Provides states with monetary incentives—$20 million in fiscal year FY 2013 and a proposed $50 million in FY 2014—to share information so that records on criminal history and people prohibited from gun ownership due to mental health reasons are more available.

    • Bans military-style assault weapons and limits magazines to a capacity of 10 rounds.

    • Provides additional tools to law enforcement. The plan proposes a crackdown on gun trafficking by asking Congress to pass legislation that closes “loopholes” in gun trafficking laws and establishes strict penalties for “straw purchasers” who pass a background check and then pass guns on to prohibited people.

    • Urges Congress to pass the administration’s $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 state and local police officers on the street to help deter gun crime.

    • Maximizes efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.  The president calls upon the attorney general to work with U.S. attorneys across the country to determine gaps occurring in this area and where supplemental resources are appropriate.

    • Provides training for “active shooter” situations to 14,000 law enforcement, first responders and school officials.

    • Directs the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a statement to health care providers that they are not prohibited by federal law from reporting threats of violence to the proper authorities.

    • Launches a national gun safety campaign to encourage responsible gun ownership and authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to examine issues relating to gun safety locks.

    • Helps schools invest in safety. The president’s plan calls for more school resource officers and counselors in all schools through the Community Oriented Policing Services  hiring program. The plan also calls for the federal government to assist schools in developing emergency management plans.

    • Improves mental health awareness through enhanced teacher training and referrals for treatment. The plan calls for the training of 5,000 additional mental health professionals nationwide. The plan also calls for coverage of mental health treatment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

  • Five critical rules of gun safety from the NRA and other sources:

    • 1) Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction

    • 2) Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot

    • 3) Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.

    • 4) Be aware of what is behind your target.

    • 5) When handling firearms, never use alcohol or any drug  (justfacts.com)

  • As of 2009 there were an estimated 310 million guns in the U.S., including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. In a January 2012 Gallup poll, 43 percent of surveyed Americans said they had a gun in their homes. That’s consistent with the General Social Survey, which has found that over the past several decades, only 44.3 percent of Americans have kept firearms where they live.

  • It seems that gun ownership is on the decline. There was an 8% decline in gun ownership between the mid-1990s and the 2012 surveys.

  • In 2001, the U.S. had 11,101 homicides committed with firearms, which amounted to about 70% of all homicides, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which strikes me as an odd agency to be doing that study). That’s a rate of about 3.6 gun killings per 100,000 people. Whether or not that’s a “high” rate is kind of a matter of opinion/context.

  • There aren’t any countries with as many guns, but less crime. But that’s because there are no countries with as many guns per capita as the U.S.(which is a rate of about 97 guns per 100 people, note: not evenly distributed) Finland, which has 69/100 people and Switzerland which has 61/100. Finland had 14 gun homicides in 2010, a rate of 0.26/100,000. Switzerland had 40 gun killings in 2010, which is 0.52/100,000. Those countries do have stricter gun control laws than the U.S. Note link

  • It bears noting that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban didn’t have a noticeable effect on gun crime rates.

  • Gun deaths seem to be lower in states that stricter gun control laws. However, I didn’t find a breakdown of homicides/suicides and I noticed that the wording was such that it wasn’t addressed.

  • Gallup polls have shown a decline of Americans in favor of gun control over the last 20+ years. Personal speculation: I imagine that even now it’s a vocal minority who have taken up the banner of gun control. A lot of that in reaction to gun-related tragedies with massive media coverage.

  • NRA – Historically and Now

News Stories

“WUT!!?? and Whaaaaat?!?”

Links and Attributions

Links to research articles and other stories:

Surprising info on gun/crimes/incidents

http://www.nra.org

6 Things Gun Lovers and Haters Can Agree On

10 Arguments for Gun Control

10 Big Questions in the U.S. Gun Control Debate

Bill of Rights

Gun Laws in the U.S. by State

Gun facts/stats

Slate article re:surprising stats

Wikipedia article re: history of 2nd amendment

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