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Nov 19 2013

Another pattern recognized

Oh gosh, who could have predicted – George Zimmerman pulled a shotgun on his girlfriend the other day. There we all were thinking he’d learned his lesson and would totally be more careful with guns in the future! Were we dumb or what.

Amanda Marcotte asks some difficult questions.

…tightening up gun laws is known to make it better for victims of domestic violence. States that pass laws requiring a background check on all handgun sales have 38 percent fewer gun murders of women at the hands of current or former partners. A quarter of a million domestic abusers have tried to buy guns in this country, only to be unable to pass the background check.  

Unfortunately, the Zimmerman situation demonstrates why even having more comprehensive background-check laws may not be enough to keep legal guns out of the hands of angry, belligerent men who are eager to pull them on anyone they feel entitled to control. Despite a history of frequent run-ins with the police and one dead teenager, Zimmerman hasn’t been convicted of the kind of crime that would make him ineligible for gun ownership. Is there a way to make it easy to get as many guns as you want without making it a gun bonanza for people who find them attractive as totems to express their unjustified paranoias and their desire to instill fear and obedience in the people around them? It doesn’t really seem that there is, which is why so many other countries have decided to lower their murder rates with extensive bans and gu[n] buyouts, to great success. To be blunt, there’s a problem with any legal regime that allows a George Zimmerman, after all that has happened, to still have a gun with which he can threaten his girlfriend. This country needs to get to fixing it.

It needs to but it won’t. We know that much.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Jackie

    I’ve heard half of the assaults in my area are DV related. So are half of the murders.

  2. 2
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    To answer the question on availability: Licensing. Being able to card for eligibility would make life a lot easier for FFLs, and could make revocation of eligibility as easy as a court ordered surrender of said license. No license, no gun. Card people wandering into the range while you’re at it.

  3. 3
    Peter Hilton

    @ #2:

    The current background check, if performed correctly, IS your “eligibility card.”

    If the charge against Zimmerman by his (presumably ex) girlfriend stands, his days of gun ownership are ended.

  4. 4
    SallyStrange

    Typo alert in the title: “recognized” not “reconized.”

  5. 5
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    Peter Hilton @ 3

    The current background check, if performed correctly, IS your “eligibility card.”

    The current status of the NICS background checking system is woefully inadequate. Several states are months, if not YEARS (Texas), behind on reporting, yet still happily selling firearms. In addition, the system only screens for a Y/N on a very limited basis, and requires states to update the database individually. Frankly, stronger controls, such as mandatory training and certification similar to the requirements for Concealed Carry in Utah, are needed if the nation wants to curb violence while allowing citizens to lawfully possess firearms. . A licensing system would simplify this and provide an easier verification at point of sale. No card, no gun, and losing the card means you forfeit all guns in your possession.

  6. 6
    keresthanatos...I am my Evil Twin

    I am a big believer in the second amendment to the constitution. That being said I totally agree with comments 2 and 5 not only should a person be licensed but it should be a tiered system, requiring demonstrated proficiency with each individual weapon. I also feel that it would be good to have to have anual physical and psychology screenings to renew the license.

  7. 7
    Peter Hilton

    @#5:

    The background checks are real-time, live-phone, on-the-spot checks before any FFL dealer in this state will give more than the time of day to any customer. There is no “reporting.” Before you run about with “stronger controls,” you had best develop appropriate criteria that will pass a court challenge. Any currently existing “licensing” fails this test abysmally. Proper steps ought to be taken, to be sure, but knee-jerk criteria will not suffice.

  8. 8
    Peter Hilton

    Addendum to #6:

    Do you have any appreciation of the magnitude of the variety of firearms for which you would seek “demonstrated proficiency”? That would be quite analogous to demonstrating proficiency in every model of auto currently on the highway or on exhibit in museums to obtain a driver’s license.

  9. 9
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    Peter Hilton @ #5

    The background checks are real-time, live-phone, on-the-spot checks before any FFL dealer in this state will give more than the time of day to any customer. There is no “reporting.” Before you run about with “stronger controls,” you had best develop appropriate criteria that will pass a court challenge. Any currently existing “licensing” fails this test abysmally. Proper steps ought to be taken, to be sure, but knee-jerk criteria will not suffice.

    You have apparently misunderstood. NICS at the federal level requires each participating state to update the federal database with disqualifying cases on a regular basis. Rather, that’s what SHOULD happen. Many participating states have a backlog due to funding issues, usually only 2-4 staff assigned. Other states have NICS partial particiaption, and a few (OR, CA, CO, and notably, FL) are running a stateside version outside of the federal system (1). As to FFLs “not giving the time of day” to someone without running NICS, I have not personally observed this in the LGSs around my locale in rural WA state, but perhaps your FFLs exercise better judgement.

    (1) http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map

    As to my comment being “Knee-Jerk,” I would argue that they are the opposite. I firmly believe, after 10+ years of gun ownership, that standards need to be put in place for training. Period. And they need to be enforced. Allowing any idiot to buy a firearm without proper training is the height of irresponsibility. The entire problem of accidental shootings/negligent discharge is based on improper training or failure to follow training with a firearm.

    My proposed solution normally comes with a basic rider clause of replacing the NFA with the same universal tiered licensing scheme. If people with cash to burn on a tiered licensing system want some full-auto rifles to turn money into noise and pass all the safety, background, training, and monitoring requirements (As they already have to with grandfathered NFA full-auto firearms), go right ahead. I would have no problem with dropping suppressors in there as well, as they’re a boon for hearing protection.

    Marcotte is right, in my opinion, in that allowing someone like Zimmerman to possess firearms after a high-profile death is problematic, especially with what appears to be a history of domestic violence. I disagree that there is no solution, however.

  10. 10
    latsot

    > “It’s kind of frightening,” she said.

    Yeah, I’ll agree with that. It’s kind of frightening when your neighbours murder teenagers then beat and threaten their girlfriends with guns before barricading theirselves in the house when the police come. I’d say that was kind of frightening.

  11. 11
    latsot

    In the UK you can only own guns if you have a good reason. This means the default is that you can’t be Yosemite Fucking Sam. You can’t carry guns around without an even better reason. You can’t carry certain types of knife or other weapons around at all. Carrying things designed only to kill people is a crime.

  12. 12
    Peter Hilton

    @# 9:

    The nature of fully automatic firearms and paperwork costs associated with owning them makes them of interest to and possession by a very tiny percentage of firearm owners. Except for that tiny minority, mention of fully automatic firearms when discussing collecting, hunting, self-defense or competitive shooting is irrelevant.

  13. 13
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    Peter Hilton @12:

    Apologies, I was attempting to head off the age-old argument about automatic weapons, which is pretty consistently brought up as a point by those who aren’t familiar with the almost 100 years of gun legislation on the books.
    Also, the NRA (the primary gun-lobby) have made much of their stance on the NFA, and frequently used repeal of it as a counter-offer for other legislation, usually knowing that it will go nowhere. As it seems you’ve neglected to address the rest of my post, I’ll take that as tentative agreement. Or mindless cherry picking. One or the other.

  14. 14
    medivh

    Peter Hilton, especially of #8:

    You comment like it’s a bad thing that people who drive manual transmissions should have to be licensed separately to those driving auto transmissions. Or, I believe, “driving stick” vs. “driving” to USians. You also comment like it’s a bad thing to require motorcycles to be licensed separately. Trucks over a certain weight. Articulated vehicles. All of these vehicles require different skills to drive, and in my home country and state require different licences. Frankly, if your state doesn’t licence vehicles in this fashion, I wonder what your state’s road toll per capita is. Mine is the lowest in my country, and one of the lowest world wide. Licensing is a part of that.

    Now apply that to guns. Would a revolver marksman be trustworthy with a magazine-using rifle? Someone who uses a bolt-action rifle trustworthy with a break-barrel shotgun? Of course not! So why would it surprise you that in a country that allows any fool off the street barring a few dangerous criminals to get their hands on a gun without proving proficiency that shooting accidents are quite numerous?

  15. 15
    johnthedrunkard

    And George Zimmerman seems to have an endless supply of ‘girlfriends?’

  16. 16
    Peter Hilton

    @#14:
    The fundamentals of safe and competent use of any firearm are exactly the same regardless of the particular firearm at hand. To assume a person familiar with one common type of firearm would not be “trustworthy” with another is to project one’s doubts but not to reflect reality. A person who is competent and “trustworthy” with one firearm will be equally so with another – perhaps not as accomplished as with the former firearm but that has no correlation with “trustworthy.” And drifting into the “any fool” line merely engages in cliché and jingoism.

  17. 17
    medivh

    @Peter Hilton, #16:

    A bolt-action rifle is unlikely to have a safety, meaning the precautions one must take to safely handle such a rifle are different from those taken to handle a modern semi-auto pistol. Even the difference between a pump-action and break-barrel shotgun is significant enough to warrant different safety procedures. So that’s a bald-faced lie in your arguments. With that in mind, I concede you may trust someone to own a weapon they are unfamiliar with, but most rational people wouldn’t.

    The “any fool” line is not so much cliché as it is a relatively accurate representation of most US states. I’m also really not sure where you’re coming from with “jingoism”. I’ve represented no nationalistic opinions, merely facts that my home state is world-leading in preventing road deaths. I’ve certainly not offered any opinions that US gun policy must be changed by foreign force, though I do have designs on changing US gun policy by foreign shaming of the US.

  18. 18
    SallyStrange

    You know what other pattern I’ve seen? People expressing amazement and surprise that George Zimmerman has a girlfriend. And had a wife. There are two things wrong with this.

    First: Women aren’t magic! They are just as stupid, uninformed, selfish, short-sighted, and self-destructive as men are. Sometimes stupid, selfish, jerky women end up having sex with stupid, selfish, jerky men. GASP SHOCK HORROR yes it’s true.

    Second: Are you surprised that a violent bully man has women willing to sleep with him? Well, I see you are unacquainted with bullies’ manipulation tactics and how charming they can be when they want to. Abusers know how to charm people, that is how they get away with their abuse. Did you not noticed how chummy Zimmerman got with his all-female jury? Not to mention, patriarchal norms encourage women to see Zimmerman’s type of behavior not as a red flag, but as a sign of true macho manliness, which is supposed to be attractive.

    Start paying attention so you can stop being so fucking shocked by totally ordinary bits of reality.

    This rant brought to you by johnthedrunkard’s comment, which followed on a stream of many other similar comments on other sites.

  19. 19
    SallyStrange

    As an American, I fully support Medivh’s foreign-shaming of US policy.

  20. 20
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    SallyStrange@19

    Indeed. Our enforcement of firearms law in the United States is all over the place. We have a nominal agency for such (BATFE: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) that has been completely gutted over the last 14 years, and now has little accountability, or real ability to consistently audit. Our legislation that’s currently in place is semi-decent, but has no real enforcement in some cases (see my previous comment regarding the optionality used in NICS) and in others, there is no way to conveniently track purchase histories due to semi-manufactured outrage over “tracking citizen illegally” using a national database. As it stands, all purchases are in individual logs at each FFL (excluding class II items, which ARE nationally tracked), and tracking requires a breadcrumb trail to each individual. The whole situation could use improvement, such as actual enforcement of NICS reporting by states and criminal penalties for attempting to purchase and failing a NICS check (I also believe there should be a way for citizens to “self-check” for eligibility on the NICS database to prevent them from possibly unknowingly breaking the law)

    Peter Hilton @16:

    I somewhat agree with you, in that firearms are an order of magnitude simpler than automobiles to operate, and that the 4 basic rules (Treat all guns as loaded, never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy, only put your finger on the trigger when you are ready to fire, always be aware of what is behind your target) cover a large quantity of common handling. Principally, I would say that training should cover the basic differences in handling between pistols, revolvers, bolt-action, and semi-auto rifles, as well as a breakdown on shotguns. I believe everyone should, at the very least, understand how to clear a firearm to ensure that it’s is not loaded.

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