Journalism in the Public Interest

Five Federal Policies on Guns You’ve Never Heard Of

It’s not just states that have relaxed gun laws. Federal lawmakers have come up with a few of their own.


It’s not just states that have relaxed gun laws. Federal lawmakers have come up with a few of their own. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

1/7/2013: This story has been corrected.

U.S. gun policy is set by both state and federal law. We previously published an explainer on the ways states have eased gun restrictions. But federal policy, too, has become more gun friendly in recent years — and we're not just talking about the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and held that people have a right to keep guns in their homes.

Here, we outline five federal policies relating to guns you may not have known about:

1. A federal firearms trace database is off-limits to the public.

How often do federally licensed gun dealers sell guns that are then used in crimes? It's hard to know, because for nearly a decade such gun trace data has been hidden from the public. Even local law enforcement had been, until recently, barred from accessing the database for anything but narrow investigations.

Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, licensed dealers are required to record certain information about a buyer and the gun's serial number at the point of sale. When a gun is recovered from a crime scene, local law enforcement agencies can request The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the firearm's origins. The retrieved information is compiled into a crime gun trace database maintained by ATF. A tool to catch criminals, the database in the early 2000s became a political flashpoint, as the Washington Post details. Outside research tying seized guns to a small handful of dealers spurred the federal government to impose tougher sanctions and inspections on gun retailers and manufacturers.

But those sanctions sparked a backlash: Since 2003, the Tiahrt Amendments, so named after the former Kansas Republican congressman who introduced the measures, have concealed the database from the public. Prior to 2010, local police could access the database only to investigate an individual crime but not to look for signs of broader criminal activity.

Despite the relaxing of some restrictions, parts of the original Tiahrt Amendment remain in place. The ATF can't require gun dealers to conduct an inventory to account for lost or stolen guns; records of customer background checks must be destroyed within 24 hours if they are clean enough to allow the sale; and trace data can't be used in state civil lawsuits or in an effort to suspend or revoke a gun dealer's license.

2. The military can't impose additional regulations on service members who own guns.

Following the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood military base in Texas that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others, the Department of Defense proposed guidelines that included, among other things, a new policy around private firearms. (The semiautomatic pistol used by accused gunman Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was purchased at a store off-base.)

Consideration of tighter gun regulations, such as the registering of non-military guns, sparked at least one new piece of federal legislation.

Less than a year after the shooting, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., introduced a bill prohibiting new regulations on Defense Department personnel's private guns. It also prohibited commanders from inquiring into private gun ownership. At the time, Inhofe stated that the measure would "prevent current and potential Second Amendment violations for those serving and employed by the Department of Defense."

There has been a recent revision: In the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act recently passed by Congress, a new provision does allow military commanders to ask about private firearms if there is reason to believe a service member is at high risk of committing suicide.

"It codifies the ability of military commanders to have a conversation with someone they feel is suicidal. This is all about conversation, not confiscation," said John Madigan, senior director of public policy at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which pushed for the measure.

3. You can carry a gun inside a national park or check a gun when riding Amtrak.

In 2009, Congress passed a measure, tucked into a larger credit card reform bill, to allow visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges to carry a loaded firearm. (Previously, the guns had to be locked, unloaded and stowed away). Under the amendment, which took effect February 2010, visitors can carry firearms only in those parks located in states that permit concealed guns in their own state parks. Although the U.S. Department of the Interior had lifted the 25-year ban the year before the law passed, a federal judge had blocked implementation after gun control groups objected.

Also in 2009, Congress voted to allow customers riding Amtrak to check guns and ammunition in their luggage. (Though airlines have a similar policy, the federally subsidized national rail service barred guns in any luggage, checked or carry-on, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.) In a statement shortly before the measure took effect, its sponsor, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, said it would provide "hunters, sportsmen, and gun owners with more choices for traveling."

4. The gun industry is shielded from many lawsuits involving criminal misuse of guns.

In 2005, Congress enacted a law that immunizes gun dealers and manufacturers from liability for injuries resulting in the "criminal or unlawful misuse" of a firearm. The law authorized dismissal of any applicable pending lawsuits and prohibited future claims.

During floor debate, the bill's primary sponsor, former Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, said the measure wouldn't provide the gun industry with blanket immunity, just prohibit "one extremely narrow category of lawsuits: lawsuits that attempt to force the gun industry to pay for the crimes of third parties over whom they have no control."

Indeed, the 2005 law provides for certain exceptions, including cases in which a gun dealer or manufacturer is aware the firearm will be used to a commit a crime and the suit is brought by the victim directly harmed. The law also allows suits based on a manufacturing or design defect, but not for lacking certain safety features.

Under the law, it would be much harder to obtain a settlement of the kind that families of the victims in the Washington-area sniper shootings of 2002 received. In 2004, those families won a $2.5 million settlement from the manufacturer of the Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle used in the shootings and from the licensed Tacoma, Wash., store from where the gun was stolen.

"The law has not stopped gun litigation, but it has created an obstacle for litigation," said Jonathan E. Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which filed the lawsuit, alleging that the defendants' negligence allowed the snipers to obtain the firearm. "Today, you would almost certainly face motions to dismiss by the dealer and manufacturer, and there is a significant number of judges who would dismiss the case," he said.

5. Congress has removed federal funding for firearms-related research.

Funding used to be set aside for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the impact of gun ownership — but that was taken away in the mid-90s.

The New York Times explains that as the CDC became "increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon," the National Rifle Association assailed its findings as politically skewed and lobbied to defund research.

One study commissioned by the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that the risks of keeping a gun in the home outweigh the benefits: "A gun kept in the home is far more likely to be involved in the death of a family member of the household than it is to be used to kill in self-defense," its authors wrote in 1993.

In 1996, an amendment proposed by then-Arkansas Republican Congressman Jay Dickey removed $2.6 million from the center's budget, the same amount earmarked for firearms research. When funding to CDC was later restored, legislation included the directive that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." Critics charge that language had a chilling effect on CDC's support for gun-related research.

The CDC Injury Center today collects data generally on homicides, suicides and injuries in homes, schools and communities. But when it comes to firearms-specific research, "I never heard the money was replaced," said Dr. David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General who served as CDC's director from 1993 to 1998 and now leads The Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.

"I don't think this (1993) study was saying the government should take guns away from people. I think it was saying people should know what happens when you have a gun," Satcher told ProPublica. "A major benefit of that kind of research is, it keeps informing and updating people: What do we know about gun violence? What do we know about the benefits of owning a gun? I think those are the kinds of questions we need to ask in public health."

Correction: This story has been corrected to note that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collects trace data only for guns involved in a criminal investigation. A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the ATF maintains a general database of guns purchased from licensed dealers.

“A gun kept in the home is far more likely to be involved in the death of a family member of the household than it is to be used to kill in self-defense,”

Self defense with a firearm rarely means killing. Most self defense incidents don’t even see the gun fired.

Thanks to ProPublica for keeping the discussion alive. I actually was quite aware of most of these federal policies which continue to weaken our ability to track guns, gun violence, and hamper our ability to find means to reduce it.

What I haven’t yet seen from you is a discussion about the heavy influence the “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC) along with its NRA partner, has had in that weakening process.

Here’s an idea for your next anti-gun tirade, why not do some actually research on this issue and speak with gun owners and people knowledgeable in the laws instead of turning your article into a link farm of anti gun websites and articles.

The most troubling aspect of the gun lobby pressuring Congress to block CDC funding was the presumption that such studies would be used to “advocate or promote gun control”.

I mean, just as one example, what if an actual peer-reviewed study supported the often stated claims on defensive gun use? Unlike the widely-criticized and largely-debunked Kleck study, one backed by the CDC could lend weight to their arguments.

Unless, of course, the gun lobby—like the tobacco lobby—knows something we don’t?

I read nothing here that the Feds have done which I feel is wrong to do. Was this tripe supposed to disturb me. I honest citizens are disarmed, the EVERYONE should disarmed, including the police. The gun lobby knows, like the tobacco lobby ( guns are not addictive, nor do gun makers try to make them more so @ Michael Long) that citizens should hold themselves responsible for their actions, unlike Liberal coddlers.

@ Carolyn

I just posted the comment below on the earlier Pro Publica story re state laws and gun control, but I am posting it here for you and others to read, as I believe it may save you some time in responding to the comments from those who want absolutely no limits or restrictions placed on the types or amount of guns they are allowed to own (aka gun nuts).

I hope you can now see how utterly futile it is to try to debate this issue with someone like John.

No matter what reasonable proposals you might come up that might lead to a solution to the problem, you will be met with endless “what if?” scenarios. (Some plausible perhaps but many of them mere speculation and/or paranoid fantasies.)

As the saying goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”, and I believe this is a very good example of that axiom.

I often encounter such thinking in regards to tobacco control. No matter what type of measures are proposed to curb tobacco use, opponents of tobacco control measures will criticize them and/or prevent their implementation because no single measure can be 100% successful. I call this, the “since we can’t do everything let’s do nothing” argument, usually used or promoted by those with a vested interest in doing nothing (e.g., cigarette companies, gun manufacturers, etc.).

While it is entirely appropriate to make the effort to have an intelligent debate with such people, at some point we just have to realize that they are not interested in compromise and, in order to promote the general health and welfare of society, move on with or without them.

Walter D. Shutter, Jr.

Jan. 7, 2013, 5:40 p.m.

As a gun rights person I am amused when a gun control person advocates “compromise” as this “compromise” always means more restrictions on gun rights.  This is not the meaning of compromise.  Compromise is when both sides give up something they already have for something they don’t.
Come, let us reason together.  As for myself, I would cheerfully give up high capacity magazines for a nationwide(and that means everywhere, without exception) Vermont-style concealed carry provision.

The reason that protections like the Tiahrt Amendment are so important is that law enforcement knows how to handle data prudently.  When the public gets access, such as the Rockland Westchester Journal News did, you see the unintended consequences of law-abiding citizens put at risk.  Incomplete or out of date data that only serves to foment fear by making it look like there are more guns in a place than there actually is, and more critically, approximately 8,000 law enforcement officials have been put at risk- with prison inmates now telling their guards that “they know where they live”.

@ Walter

You say say that “compromise” to gun control advocates mean “more restrictions on gun rights”, which apparently you find unacceptable. You then go on to give us an example of your version of compromise.

You would “give up high capacity magazines for a nationwide…Vermont-style concealed carry provision. (In other words, you want to trade one deadly poison for another.)

So it would appear that you are against compromise unless this compromise means you get exactly what you want which, of course, totally contradicts your own definition of “compromise”. (But such flawed logic, of course, is to be expected from NRA troglodytes, trolls, and gun nuts in general.) 

If my position on gun rights (especially in regards to the 2nd amendment) and gun control is unclear to you, then I suggest you take a look at the numerous comments I posted on the previous Pro Publica story re state laws and gun control, as it would be a waste of my time to post any more reasoned and/or rational arguments here. (I am reminded here of the saying about “pearls before swine” or perhaps what Mark Twain had to say about getting into an argument with an idiot).

One final thought: In regards to the often heard “They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers”, I think the only logical remaining response is “That can be arranged”.

Well we are all “skewed” again.  The comment about the NRA skewing the CDC data is a bunch of malarky.  That statement by Propublica is an editorial comment for someones agenda.  As noted by others there is no inclusion of university research on self defense statistics.

Mike Jackson, maybe people get tired of all the name calling by self-appointed intellectuals, and therefore become intransigent.  Carolyn has been engaging, as well as others.  I don’t like some of what she writes but I read every word of it to ensure I understand her.  The same cannot be said of some bloggers on these threads who intend to villify and demean.  Rather than dismiss a contributor who has endless scenarios and “but-if” comments—I think it would be better to try and figure out why they object so strongly.  Quit using sterotypes.

I really like what Ellen S., had to say today in light of the what is happneing after the publication of gun owners names.  Bad timing for Propublica.  In a modern electronic age we scream and shout for privacy from police monitoring of cell phone and internet traffic, citing privacy concerns in the face of logical concerns for terrorist activity.  We have court precedents on protection of social security numbers.  We have uncountable court records on illegal searches, and invasion of privacy.  Police have to have warrants. 

Yet self-appointed individuals now call for publication of gun owner information, and to what end?  Be honest.  It is not for public concern, it is part of the villification process that is so widely used in our modern and low-class political process to cast bad light on people that don’t agree with the party line.

If you really think that publication of gun owners is good, then you should be ready for the blood shed that will follow as home owners fight against gangs breaking into their homes to steal weapons or valuables.  I am not joking on this matter.  In Houston, like many cities many gangs are highly organized and sophisticated in their intelligence gathering for home invasions and theft.  They have scouts and conduct active profiling of neighborhoods.  They understand alarm system deployments for the various companies, what room to break windows on, and how much time they need for evasion and escape.

Then there are crime victims, as some people have pointed out.

But as important, what about our Military personnel whose family homes have weapons.  Has anybody thought through that problem and what that might expose the families too?  Don’t kid yourselves.  Be honest.

Number 6.  The CDC has (for all intent and purpose) been forbidden from investigating gun related deaths.

For any change of heart to occur in those who support unregulated gun ownership in this country, they would first have to:

1. Believe every human life has value.

2. Acknowledge we are only a small part of a very large diverse community in the United States, all of whom hold the same rights we hold.

3. Acknowledge we actually have a terrible problem with death from gun violence here.

4. Acknowledge that in comparing ourselves to the next 23 high income countries we lead with 80% of all firearms deaths.

5. Must actually be concerned enough about our level of gun violence here to take meaningful steps to reduce it.

6. Must be willing to agree that with their “rights” they also have responsibilities to the rest of us.

7. Must be flexible enough to forgo some of their unfettered “rights” in order to make life safer for all of us as a community.

Too many NRA supporters posting here don’t seem to be able to acknowledge any of this, so I’m hoping those of us who do are in the majority as we move forward. We need to prefer “us” rather than “I”, “me”, “mine” and “them” if we’re to hold together as a country.

Ellen S and Mike 1950’s: For what it’s worth, I agree with you about publishing gun-owner data publicly (updated, out of date, or whatever condition it’s in). Not thought through very well, is it? - dumb idea not only for the sake of gun-owners including law enforcement officers, but offering information which used in reverse allows anyone to easily single out those of us who don’t own guns.

@ Mike 1950s

You are a prime example of what I am talking about with your own unending “what if?” scenarios (e.g., “what about the military with guns in their homes?”).

You say we need to figure out the reasons behind people’s attachment to their position re gun rights and gun control. All right here it is a nutshell…

NRA troglodytes, trolls, and gun nuts in generals have a very strong emotional connection to their guns. (Hence, the “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers” mentality.)

People who believe in gun control are, for the most part, coming from a position of logic and rationality.

You cannot engage in a reasoned rational debate with people who are coming from an entirely emotional position (which is, by definition, unreasoning, irrational, and therefore not susceptible to logic) and attempting to do so is largely a waste of time.

The only reason those against gun control even pretend to engage in this debate is that they know that while it is going on no progress towards restricting guns in this country will take place. No matter what reasonable measures or restrictions are proposed, the NRA and gun nuts will continuously throw more “what if?” scenarios into the discussion and/or poke endless holes in any of these restrictions, pointing how that they won’t solve this or that problem or will lead to another problem (remember, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”), thus endlessly delaying and stalling any and all hope of bringing the problem under control.

I’ll give you an example of how this works using their own “skewed” logic.

Gun nuts argue that criminals will not break into homes if they know the owners are armed and willing to protect themselves.

Okay, fine. I can accept that argument.

But if a proposal somehow means it would become public knowledge which homes possess guns and which don’t (e.g., some registration laws might), now the argument becomes that you can’t do that because criminals would know which homes have guns and would target those same homes so they could steal the guns!

So does a home with guns present keep criminals from breaking in or, does it serve to attract criminals?

Who knows. But this should serve to prove my point that it is a waste time trying to debate with people who, not unlike the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, are capable of holding two contradictory thoughts in their heads at the same time! You’ll never get anywhere with them.

And even should you somehow persuade some of these people with logic and reasoning, there are countless others who will never be persuaded or agree to any reasonable, rational proposals re gun control.

Walter D. Shutter, Jr.

Jan. 7, 2013, 8:37 p.m.

@ Mike Jackson

It would be difficult indeed for anyone to mistake your position on gun rights/2nd Amendment. 
We get it.
And we appreciate your input even though, as you say, our continuing intransigence reminds you of the saying “casting pearls before swine”.


I own a Glock 19, but I also believe that it’s time to support common sense gun laws:

Block online, gun show, and private transaction loopholes by requiring all commercial or private sales or transfers go through licensed and regulated dealers, a BATFE agent, or the local police department.

All weapons sold, resold, or transferred will be registered via the existing 4473 process, the buyer will be required to pass a background check and undergo a waiting period, and if not on record, a ballistics sample will be taken at the time of transfer.

Move all “assault weapons” and high-capacity semi-automatic weapons and magazines into the same class (or a similar class) as existing Title 2 NFA weapons, and require similar checks for new purchases or transfers. Increase civil and criminal liability for owners or purchasers of weapons used in criminal acts.

Use the funds from the ammo tax to help institute a federal buy-back program for guns, ammo, and magazines. Set reasonable limits as to the amount of weaponry, ammunition, and magazines a given individual may be able to purchase over a given period. Flag exceptions.

Return to authorizing concealed-carry permits only on displayed need, only after a background check, and only after passing a standardized safety and certification course. That’s for their own safety, and ours.

Note that the majority of the above laws are designed to close the “gun show” and private sale loopholes, and would help keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and those who shouldn’t have them in the first place.

Law-abiding gun owners can still own weapons. No one is going to visit and take away your guns. You can still hunt, shoot, and protect your families.

We are, however, questioning the need to do so with weapons designed to kill 15 or 30 people as fast as you can squeeze a trigger.

@Chuck: The argument isn’t that guns are “addictive”, but that ownership may lead to a dramatically increased risk of death. (Re: the first CDC study).

@Ellen: The biggest issue with the Tiahrt Amendment is the prohibition from using the data to track and prosecute gun store owners who sell weapons below the table and/or without the proper background checks.

@Walter: I’d grant you a nationwide permit in exchange for eliminating all HC magazines sales and transfers. However, such a CCP would be granted only after a thorough background check, and only after passing an annual standardized safety and certification course.

@Michael Long: You should run for public office. You’re cutting to the chase and giving us nuts and bolts solutions.

Funding? Shouldn’t the underfunded ATF be funded by those who purchase alcohol, purchase tobacco, and sell, purchase, and own guns? When (not “if”) we enact more sensible gun regulations here, the costs and personnel needs of the bureaucracy will explode and the remedies made into law will be on the federal level as is the ATF.

I am proud of the evolution of great changes in American society. Increased freedom and “a more perfect union” has resulted from the following:  1)We have abolished slavery in our land. 2)We have allowed women to vote. 3)We have progressed in civil rights for blacks, women, gays, and the disabled. 4) Although in dispute in some areas, womens reproductive rights will increase. 5)The poisons in cigarettes have been exposed to the public and smoking is greatly reduced.
    The next freedom we need to build a better society, is the freedom to go about our lives without fear of getting shot. I look forward to the bright future when this occurs.

Those seeking to thwart a burglary with guns need to remember two things: If you don’t work at home the odds are that the guns are there, but for a bit of handiwork to get through locks (tools usually provided by homeowner) to be lifted most hours of the day, and there are three things thieves want to find: cash, drugs, and guns; because all of them are portable and either inherently valuable, or easy to sell with no questions asked.

With a good pistol going for over $600 and rifles over $1000, and consumer electronics becoming self-securing and ever cheaper, the most valuable objects in a house are now the guns.

Why aren’t we organizing to repeal the second amendment?  It was effectively repealed by the Civil War anyway, but just never taken off the books. 

Not allowing gun regulation, especially as regards those gun owners\users who are not serving in any “well regulated militia,” is the very heart of the problem and solely a result of not having removed it following that war (and, of course, the realization by the gun manufacturers and retailers that the NRA was a perfect lobbying vehicle).

The widely held belief that repeal of the second amendment is tantamont to seizure of guns is nothing but NRA driven paranoia.  With over 300,000,000 guns in American homes now the idea that legislators would attempt to seize them is laughable.  And the myth that repeal is impossible is nothing more than a mantra used by gun advocates to keep us from the attempt.

The moment my gun quits being a problem is the moment you people let go of it and focus on the real problem, mental disease. You can treat symptoms until the cows come home and not solve the problem. You can paint a pretty picture, rationalize and justify your distorted uninformed position, but that will not erase what our founding fathers knew when they assembled the constitution. Each and every individual has the innate (born with it) right to protect them self, their family, property and friends from ALL takers, weather individual or government. Some say, “That was when they only had muskets”! Well the oppressing government only had muskets too! The individuals arms were EQUAL to the governments!

Move on to the real problem and let go of the drama.

At the time, “A well regulated militia”, meant, well practiced to perform as one cohesive unit. It did not refer to having the government foot firmly on its neck, as is the popular or PC interpretation.

@ MMS Dave

You might want to learn a little U.S. history before you start making such statements re “well-regulated militia”, as your explanation of what that term meant is completely wrong.

You are right in one regards, however, and that is that when the 2nd amendment was written the people more or less had access to the same weaponry as did the government and therefore had the means to resist tyranny through armed conflict.

Unfortunately, this is no longer true and hasn’t been for a very long time. That argument was pretty much laid to rest when the Union, i.e., federal government, put down the armed insurrection of the Confederacy during the Civil War. 

If you think you can now take on the government’s armed forces with whatever firepower is available to you, well all I can say is good luck to you as not only are you seriously deluded but your story will probably not have a very happy ending.

Unfortunately, in the meantime society must suffer from the delusions of you and others like you.

But I guess all those thousands of maimed and murdered children, mothers, fathers, etc., are just the price we must pay for freedom, right?

In the meantime, the NRA and gun manufacturers are laughing all the way to to the bank.

Micheal Long says he owns a gun that can fire 15 shots as fast as he can pull the trigger, but then he says he wants to question other guns that do the same. Who’s side is he really on? He will help line the pockets of firearms manufactures with every proposed idea he posted driving up the price of firearms at the same time putting them out of reach of the poor. The rich get armed, and richer. While the poor become even more defenseless.

I think that if you are arguing that people need unfettered access to guns with no regulations, then you have some type of mental issue.  Gun control is needed.  In fact, more gun control is needed.  However, if you think that publishing gun owners names, arguing that ‘confiscation’ is the answer, or think that only gun control advocates are coming from a place of logic - then you have mental issues as well.  The posts that people are placing in regards to this article are embarrassing.  Embarassing for BOTH sides of the issue.  I own about 18 firearms.  I own an AR-15.  I believe that more regulation on guns IS needed, but not to the point that people cannot buy firearms that they want.  It is ridiculous and sad to me that foolish, crazy, homicidal maniacs in states like CT, CO, and IL are having an effect on responsible gun owners in MT, NV, FL, and my state of NC.  Gun control IS the answer.  But responsible gun control and laws seem to just be OUTRAGEOUS and IMPOSSIBLE to both parties.  I’ll leave you so more senseless arguing with my $0.02.  This was written by a U.S. Ary Ranger in response to a question regarding his poinion on new gun laws.

“I will support any law that prevents inappropriate people from owning firearms, as long as it does not limit the choices of individuals who are capable of making mature and responsible choices for themselves. I realize that such laws will not stop all violence, and criminals will still find ways to obtain the weapons, but if even one killer is thwarted by the law, it is worth enacting it – as long as it doesn’t deny choices to others who are capable of owning firearms responsibly.”

Our society needs to legislate a variety of First amendment restrictions, imposed upon all media sources - with regard to false information, fraudulent use of the First Amendment to shield print propaganda and misinformation. Media sources should be required to print two articles side by side ( one pro and one con ) both well researched and factual.

@ carolyn

I believe your latest series of tit-for-tats with John (or whomever) should only serve to reinforce my point regarding the futility of engaging these NRA togs, trolls, and gun nuts in a meaningful debate that actually leads somewhere.

All they want to do is tie you up with an endless stream of misguided trivia, misleading statistics, misinterpretations of the 2nd amendment, on and on and on ad nauseum…such that nothing ever gets accomplished.

In the meantime, people who have not only experienced the horrors of gun violence themselves but fought for our country and our rights, Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, have decided to go after the root of the problem, which is the incredible amount of political clout the NRA possesses and which is seriously skewing the debate re gun violence in this country.

Their website is

I believe you will find that not only can you engage in a meaningful conversation there re gun control but also contribute to finding a solution to this horrific problem.

As far as this Pro Publica comments board goes, I’m sure you would agree that its expiration date has now passed.

Mike Jackson
You refer to those who disagree with your stance as “NRA troglodytes, trolls, and gun nuts” and wonder why it is difficult to have a rational discussion.  Ordinary people such as myself, the aforementioned Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly are also gun owners.  The tragic killings which occurred in Tucson, Auroroa, CO and Sandy Hook were perpetuated by very sick individuals who slipped through the mental and legal cracks leaving them able to perpetuate these heinous acts.  Arizona’s mental health system suffered a huge funding loss within the last few years which left many without the ability to receive medications they need.  Problems persist in every realm of these crimes, not just with guns.  I for one think it is far to easy to purchase guns in AZ, it’s a joke.  lets have rational gun control, tighten up those areas that have become too lax and make people work harder to prove they are able to be responsible gun owners.  The majority of gun owners are normal everyday people who believe in their right to have the means to protect themselves and their families.

@ Mike Jackson
You criticize my interpretation, but give no clarification. I found Franklin’s biography most entertaining and refreshing, if that is the history you are referring to. Or are you talking about the history where millions of Jews and other peoples were disarmed before being exterminated.
As to your NRA rant, they lost my support years ago.
And to lining the pockets of manufacturers, guess again! Last gun I bought new was 3+ years ago for $140. The rest of my collection came to me used, some over 100 years old. (I’m heavy into recycling. Anyone know where I can pick up a good used A-10 real cheap?)
So if we are going to address senseless killings, lets talk about automobiles. Or doctors.
If plane crashes and school shootings happened as often as auto fatalities, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
We already have more than 10,000 laws on the Federal books alone. Our own government can’t even tell us how many there are. Add to that all the state and local laws. And we as citizens are supposed to know each and every one by heart. Did you consult your attorney before leaving your front door today? Laws don’t make us a safer people. Education does. Better healthcare does. Not more, not free, BETTER healthcare. Laws only serve to make the rich richer, and the poor slaves.

@Mike Jackson, good advice, and thanks for the link!

I seriously have to question the knowledge of any ‘gun owner’ that says CCL holders need to pass a background check and a safety test. If you knew anything about what it takes to get a CCL in ANY state, you would know that those two things are required.
Funding the ATF strictly through taxes on gun owners and makers is an unfair and rather obvious attempt to make gun ownership, a RIGHT, in to a PRIVILEGE of those who have money to spend. We don’t ask military families to pay for the military, we don’t ask needy families to pay for SNAP- we pay out of the common treasury because these programs are there for the good of the public. The same goes for the ATF.


It seems to be common that anti-gun supporters don’t know much about their target. Maybe a reason gun control isn’t better.


Right on! So true, nobody has the right answers if we can’t compromise, and the ones who think they have the right answers need to really evaluate the goal they are trying to accomplish.

Gun control is needed, I’m pretty sure the majority agree. There are many ways to accomplish this. If you look at the numbers, banning one type of gun is ineffective in reducing gun crime overall. Lets focus on the additional restrictions that will actually accomplish prevention of guns getting into the wrong

It’s funny to me that individuals who think they know the right answers are pushing to ban a type of weapon that makes up 2% of violent crime (more people are killed each year with hammers and knifes, every study shows that the prior ban had no effect on the crime rate, etc)

because it was used in the latest 3 tragedies.

No other reason.

If a lever action 30-30 was used in all three of those instances, they would be trying to ban those with their current logic.

Mike Jackson is just a bitter non gun owner and I bet he doesnt even vote. Beyond that, When presented undisputable evidence, he ignores it and writes it off as “tying you up with misguided trivia”.  Yet provides no input into what could help, nor supporting evidence. If this is what we are against, there truly is nothing to worry about.

The issue is, there is a lot of emotion behind both sides, but it’s transparent when someone is fueled by emotion vs. fact.

Reading it is pretty ease to see the lines.

Gun Nuts,  or anti Gun Nuts.

What all of you anti seem not to get is.
Any dictator ship takes weapons away from the civil population.
See Former Soviet Union, Cuba, Venzuala, Any current dictator ships fear a armed civil population.

You think our esteemed Congress and senate members do not fear an armed citizens, bet on it they do. It may be a low level fear but it is there.

Need to do better back ground check for mental but that is prohibited data restricted by FED Govt. They need to be identified.

Get rid of (kill frre zones), like no guns allowed here. Guess where the mass murders take palce; in these (kill free zones)..
Non of these killers went to a police station and started shooting, they go to gun free (Kill zones)They are sick but not stupid.
They do not go to Gun Shows, nor weapons ranges. just places where they can kill and kill; gun free ( Kill Zones).

2nd amendment will not be changed so change laws about mental pateints, and get rid of the (kill free zones)..
Too many peole own guns for this law to change. Obama and Bill Clinton caused Gun sales to go up more than any president we have had; check stats;  google it your self..
Like fire free zones in Vietnam, if your arse was in one chances are you would get killed, for me same as a gun free zone = Kill free zone with impunity until the local law shows up. If they know it is shooting most want drive fast, too dangerous..

@MMS Dave: What, exactly, is the mental health solution? Lock up anyone who might be a potential threat? Go door-to-door administering psych exams? Restrict the freedom of those who fail the test so that some other, presumably stable individual can keep his precious AR-15 or AK?

I also find it interesting that the NRA thinks we need to keep a national database of those potentially mentally ill or taking medication, and use that to block gun purchases, but in the next breath absolutely forbids keeping track of firearm sales and ownership. Apparently trampling over the rights of others is fine, just as long as we don’t trample over theirs.

At any rate, it’s not an “either / or” issue. We can work on improving mental health and we can work on better gun laws, registration, and safety.

Saying that we should look only to the failings of the mental health care system is little more than a diversionary tactic, and a feeble one at that.

@TRUTH: Every proposal? Mostly I want to close the loopholes through which 40% of all firearm sales are made with no background check whatsoever. And I want people to secure their existing weapons.

And I fully recognize that I and others already own the weapons in question. I, however, at least passed a background check to obtain mine, and believe that everyone who wants a firearm should be required to do the same.

@Louis: You’re trying to dodge the issue by attacking my credibility. And you’re wrong.

Constitutional carry states like Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming allow residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. The requirements in states with “Shall-Issue” laws vary widely by jurisdiction.

Hence my assertion that all states should require a background check and all states should require the individual to pass a standardized safety and certification course. Note ALL and STANDARDIZED in that sentence.

@John: Nice rant, and by the way that’s dictatorship. One word.

That said. the “take your guns” crap is extremist rhetoric. It’s a desperation card thrown into the mix to shortcut any reasonable, rational discussion.

The fact of the matter is the the government already regulates what you can and can not own. They already mandate extremely strict procedures for obtaining weapons deemed too susceptible or likely to be abused, like fully automatic weapons. We already require background checks on new sales.

So don’t pretend that your 2nd amendment rights can not be abridged or regulated… because we do so daily.

New firearm sales already go through the 4473 process. If we’re going to require background checks on weapons to weed out felons, why are we not doing so on all purchases, sales, and transfers?

Its also seems like some anti-gun supporters on this site ( I won’t stereotype and say all of them are like this, I know better than that.)  act as if their cause is more noble than pro-gun supporters, therefore they must be more sensible. Simply using the word “sensible” seems to make them think it equates to the user falling under its definition.

How come some of the anti-gun supporters on this site ignore a clear effort by pro-gun supporters to proclaim the need for effective gun control? Nobody want’s to have these tragedies happen.

That’s right, both sides are working toward the same goal, yet some anti-gun supporters on this site would rather not listen to facts and attempt to focus on one aspect of gun control that is proven to not be effective, or discredit the poster by labeling them a “gun nut”.

Why not put emotion aside, exchange reliable and accurately interpreted information, and work toward determining a strategy that effectively stops maniacs from getting guns. Is it not clear that’s the collective goal?

@ Micheal Long

you said it all right here brother

“The fact of the matter is the THE GOVERNMENT ALREADY REGULATES what you can and can not own. They already mandate extremely strict procedures for obtaining weapons deemed too susceptible or likely to be abused, like fully automatic weapons. We already require background checks on new sales.”

All legal gun owners with 100% agree that every gun purchase should require a background check. 40% not getting checked is ridiculous and it should be 0. 

Required background checks on every firearm purchase is a great initiative to get guns out of the hands of criminals!

Don’t remember saying anything about locking anyone up.
Right now our society still looks at people with needs as weak, when so often all they need is an environment to safely express their feelings without being judged by others. Like a car with a small oil leak, if taken care of in a timely fashion, amounts to little more than an inconvenience. Right now the socially accepted method for dealing with problems is to self medicate.

Right now there is an obvious group with a mental, (not physical) dis-ease, with my owning firearms.
And because we are still a democratic Republic, bound by a constitution, they cannot just gang up and take away my rights without due process. (Lynch mob)

As to the people who would lump me into one category or another and put words in my mouth, I say, “Get Well Soon”. Find a 12 step program and work it with at least half as much energy as you waste trying to control my life.

John Smith seems to be on the right track.

@John Smith: I’m one of those who ask for “sensible gun regulations” and I’ve used it as a quick modifier in hopes it separates me from more unrealistic gun control advocates: those who want a mirror of the UK system implemented here. I’ll probably continue using it. The word, “rational” might be even more offensive. I agree. We need to limit gun ownership to “responsible” people who won’t endanger the lives of the rest of us.

@Tod: In view of LaPierre’s unyielding position regarding any chiseling away of the NRA position on “gun rights” - instead, offering his solution to arm teachers - I support Mike Jackson’s hyperbole (though it’s clearly not meant to change hearts and minds). The NRA does not acknowledge a problem with our daily carnage due to using guns. I’m pleased you believe we have a problem and are offering us solutions.

@MMS Dave: Yep, we have a lot of laws, contradictory laws, and huge gaps in laws between states. My (probably unrealistic) hope is that through our process in creating “sensible” gun regulations through the federal system, we can simplify and streamline some of the mess.

@Michael Long: More accurate and concise comments/replies from you. Being a non-gun owner, I didn’t know what a 4473 was. In reading it I found this:

“Q: Does an unlicensed person need an ATF Form 4473 to transfer a firearm? No. ATF Form 4473 is required only for transfers by a licensee.”

Are there any means to turn an unlicensed gun into a licensed gun? (my google searches have been unsuccessful)

History lesson from the other side of the pond and a good explanation of why I am reluctant to give in, even just a little.


Use whatever word you like it doesn’t offend me. I agree the responsible people who wont endanger the lives of the rest of us should own guns (if they want to) under reasonable regulations.

“Are there any means to turn an unlicensed gun into a licensed gun? (my google searches have been unsuccessful)”

The license is referring to a person who owns a gun store - not the individual gun. In order to legally sell guns and make a profit, you have to become a Federal Firearms License holder (which is an extensive process).

You don’t need a license to sell a couple guns, but if you are doing it like a business you will attract the attention of the BATF.  Im not sure how they discovered him, but it happened to a person I went to school with - he got fined heavily and cannot touch a gun (its good to know they are actively shutting things like this down).

I agree that with every transaction using this 4473 form, the BATF would be able to prevent unlicensed dealers from making a profit better, and help eliminate another the background check loophole.

Are there any issues using this as it currently is? Or What would have to be changed in order to do?

What the gun makers are worried about is not the removal of guns from the American public, but, the removal of cash flowing into their pockets with the sell of each one. What’s more important people? The safety of our children or the fortunes of the gun industry? Keep the fight alive!!!

@Carolyn: As John Smith indicated, a responsible firearms dealer with a Federal Firearms License will fill out a form 4473 and do a background check on all firearm sales. In short, that buyer becomes the owner of that weapon. Private sales are currently exempt.

My proposal was that the same form and background check needs to be done for all sales and transfers, including resale, and as such would require ALL sales, commercial and private, go through a licensed dealer, police department, or ATF.

Many guns change hands outside of the system, and many guns are bought through “friends” and straw purchases. All need to be tracked.

In addition, the increased civil and criminal liability on guns used during criminal acts would apply to the 4473 “owner”. So if you buy a weapon for a “friend” and it kills someone at a convenience store a month later… you’re in deep trouble.

So the second measure would help increase compliance of the first. It would also help insure that responsible owners properly secure their firearms in order to reduce the chance of theft.

I got about 3 down on these comments and when I got to the admonition to ‘talk to a gun owner or someone who is knowlegeable about the law’ part, I had to laugh.  Most gun owners don’t know what the NRA has done to our gun policy.  Let’s list a few, shall we?  The NRA lobbied for or to:
1- making it illegal for the ATF to use computers to track guns, they have to use a phone, paper, and write the details down.
2- make it illegal for background checks to be kept for more than 24 hours, they must be destroyed.
3- make illegal for gun dealers to have to perform an inventory, ever.  Car dealerships do it twice a year though because they are tracked at every point of sale from import/manufacture to destruction.  Novel idea.
4- making it illegal for ATF to do more than one pre announced spot inspection per year on any gun dealer
5- making it a full 6 years since there has been an accountable director of the ATF.  The post has been filled by interim only since 2006.
6- made it so that nearly anyone in NY can buy a Bushmaster because they are made there, and the only reason for that pistol grip is to lower the center of gravity so that the shooter doesn’t have to shoulder the weapon and aim.  They can just spray rounds into a crowd and not fall down.
7- just today, they argued for the right of a gun to exist…yes, now guns have rights, when a gun buy back in Arizona resulted in some 200 guns scheduled to be destroyed. 
Seriously….can we get some personal injury lawyers to write our ambulance protocol while we’re at it?  Why is the NRA allowed to slip pre-written (by ALEC) legislation into the hands of lawmakers at skeet-shoot/bar B-ques with out the public having some kind of say in the process?  They’re OUR gun rights, not the NRAs. 
Using a pool alarm or a car seat does not reduce my freedom in anyway, because I’m a resposible pool owner and driver.  It does however, prevent the neighborhood kids from drowning in my pool and keeps my kid safe on the way to kindergarten.  Why does the wingnuttio faction persist in the argument that ‘bad guys will always get the guns anyway?’ Easy….because the NRA has made it so stinkin easy.  Sell guns.  They really don’t care to whom.

@John Smith: Thanks for the clarification. As a clueless non-gun owner, I now understand the distinction between “permits” and “licensed” guns.

I now have it straight that all gun permits are issued at the state level, and only 13 states require them. Of those, there are only 2 states which don’t extend the automatic right to “concealed carry permits”. Four states allow “permit-free unrestricted concealed carry”.

@Michael Long: Thanks! You’ve again presented, what appear to me, more smart solutions to tighten and extend existing regulations. When I continued to analyze them, it finally dawned on me that by tracking gun sales, sellers, and buyers on the federal level, we’re in effect issuing permits at the federal level. We actually do have a national registry and it needs a lot of work. 

Since I’ve long believed we should have a national (federal) registry of all guns/gun owners. I can now see what a nightmare state’s rights advocates would raise with such a requirement, not discounting the already existing arguments between states regarding their differing restrictions, eg: Strapped, unregistered Arizonans must find it a hassel to travel to DC. My state of Washington (a non gun registration state), along with Colorado, just legalized the possession of small quantities of Marijuana. Obviously it’s against federal law so we’re waiting to see how the feds respond. Changing/tightening federal gun law regulations will create huge ripples at the state level where regulations differ - particularly those states which don’t like any regulations at all.

@ Gwen: I love your spot-on, timely, and accurate NRA comments! Can’t wait for the replies! I’m hoping ProPublica does some reporting about corporate funded ALEC’s legislative writing skills and cash flow which turns the bidding of the NRA into law. Only more public awareness can help us properly re-designate ALEC as a corporate lobby front group rather than the tax free “charity” status it now enjoys.

@Carolyn: Tracking on the Federal level is a major issue with the NRA and the 2nd Amendment fringe, as they believe that a comprehensive national database is the first step towards confiscation of all weapons.

With the 4473 process, the Feds basically store the SN and the dealer, and then if the firearm is later recovered and investigated the dealer is contacted for the appropriate owner information.

Awkward, but it works most of the time. At least for new weapons purchased through legitimate dealers. I’m simply proposing all guns resold or transferred be required to go through the same system.

And as it’s an existing process, with information stored at the local level, the NRA shouldn’t kick too hard with it being a national “seize the guns” database.

@MMS Dave: Nice history lesson. Wrong, but nice.

Just for one example: “As it happened, America delivered 1.25 Million rifles ... They were stored between the wars and when the threat of invasion during 1940 was imminent, THEY REMAINED IN STORAGE. The Home Guard was set up and paraded with broomsticks and any “overlooked” service rifles. It was not until the end of 1940/early 1941 when the Home Guard had been fully organised and brought under strict government control and the threat of invasion receded that the rifles were issued to them.”

“Consider the implications – there was a serious possibility that the Germans WOULD invade but the civil servants and the Government of the day decided that arming the population carried a greater risk than working with a hostile government.”

In actuality, pre-war Britain was feverishly inspecting and refurbishing its remaining stocks of P14’s under what became known as the Weedon Repair Standard. I say remaining, because after the WWI Britain had sent huge numbers of rifles to the emerging Latvian army and others. By the 30’s they had fewer than 600,000 left in store.

The entire article appears to be like that, a “fear the government” screed that selectively presents the “facts” deemed appropriate to support its argument, and then leaps to its own conclusions based on such.

And just as conveniently forgets or ignores others.

Mike Jackson, I apologize for not replying sooner… life just gets in the way sometimes.

So let me make some qualifying statements.

I do belong to the NRA.  I have been a member for a long-long time.  I started reading NRA magazines when I was a little kid while sitting in the barbershop with my Dad, who is also a life-long member of NRA.  I grew up with guns, lived in a small to modest sized town, and started hunting with my Dad when I was six. (In good humor, at that age it was more running along behind him, but he always took me).  So yes there is emotional attachment to lifestyles that cannot be replicated in big cities like Houston, where I live now.  But, I am also old enough to remember the debates of the 1968 Gun Control Act, and the rhetoric has not changed.  That bothers me because people whom I am assuming are too young to know that history are citing or speaking the same arguments as if they are reading from prepared texts.  Sincerely, I shake my head in disbelief because comments have not changed in 44 years.  That is why the legal groups in NRA are so entrenched in their positions.  From the gun registration and gun confiscation side of the argument there has been no compromise and reasonable discussion.  At this point I am sure somebody is going to bring up issues, so let me state my position and we can take it form there.

“Reasonable registration requirements”
We started with the 1968 GCA, and the Brady waiting periods.  NRA advocated instant police checks from a national crime database.  The gun control crowd opposed it with as much passion as the NRA in debating the issue.  I ask why do they oppose it if it is a good thing to do.  The general arguments from NRA types, is if you are a new crime victim such as those of domestic abuse, why should you have to wait while your abuser makes their next plan to attack you.  We know there is case after case of domestic violence where the boy friend defies the restraining order and kills the girlfriend and usually somebody else.  That is not an extreme argument, and reasonable.

But the real fear is that all gun confiscation schemes by governments all over the world are preceded by gun registration demands.  Our President in a campaign speech promised to not take our guns.  But others like the Senator from San Francisco want the laws to be so restrictive as to not allow weapons to be passed onto generations. 

Back to the emotional issue—Here I point out two government leaders who are on the same side of the agenda saying things that concern gun owners.  I would be very saddened to not be able to receive my Father’s guns that go back to his father and over a hundred years, and not be able to give them to my sons and grandsons.  Tradition.  Some of those guns would fall under the ban guidelines.

But my best argument that is undeniable by reasonable people—recall all of the support for the Occupy movement and their lofty goals of social re-adjustment.  Recall that their greatest anger and fear was mistrust of government leaders and business leaders to do the right thing.  I remember reading Propublica blogs late into the night as people claimed their support for ONY and ODC and how much they despised government.  So now, why would you expect a person like me to trust government leaders anymore on an issue like gun control, and feel any less passionate as the OC’s and their issues? 

Come on, smile with me on this one. 

Our country’s founders mistrusted government as much as the OC’s, and certainly as much as people like me who are reasonable and willing to look for solutions.

But I trust not what government is capable of doing when our leaders take the bully pulpit and talk about taking power away from one party or the other.  Why, because we never here them talk about governance.  We only hear them talk about power.  Therefore I prefer to look at history and say don’t make that mistake.

Well that is one long point.  So I won’t go into the others until later. 
But I hope now you will not classify me as a gun nut.  I prefer family guy with a strong tradition.  Or maybe we can call that a new stress syndrome “FGST.”

I look forward to the next post.

@ Michael Long: Thanks again! “Awkward” is an apt term for our current “system”.

You’ve led me to understand that dealers are the choke point through which law enforcement must pass in order to find out who owns the guns they’re trying to track down. I then needed to find the key points in ATF requirements for would-be gun dealers to follow if they obtain the required FFL (Federal Firearms License). They must agree to immediately respond to ATF requests and they must transfer their records to the ATF if they no longer are in the business of selling guns. “These requirements enable ATF to carry out one of the principal purposes of the GCA—to assist State, local, and foreign law enforcement officials in tracing firearms used in crime.” Of course I then looked up the GCA and found it refers to the Gun Control Act of 1968 which begins with the disclaimer (sec. 101) that the act (in essence) isn’t a government plot to take our guns away.

On paper, sounds ok. In reality, it has to include a nightmare of delayed response, vanished or deceased dealers, and missing/incomplete/out of date paperwork. Your Jan 9 post with your well thought out proposed fixes really must be included in coming legislation.

Re: Your correction (smackdown) of MMS Dave’s paranoid post brings me to Jon Stewart’s brilliant Jan 9 show devoted to gun violence:

“Their paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future prevents us from addressing its actual dystopic present. We can’t even begin to address 30,000 gun deaths that are actually, in reality, happening in our country every year because a few of us must remain vigilant against the rise of an imaginary Hitler.”


“NRA advocated instant police checks from a national crime database. The gun control crowd opposed it with as much passion as the NRA in debating the issue.”

Ummm… citation? It’s true that at the time the NRA supported background checks, but only if they could be done “instantly”, so as not to inconvenience gun buyers on gun store owners.

And they’ve historically opposed any registration scheme that might lead to a national database of gun owners, while not being shy about proposing national databases of criminals, sex offenders, those on “watch lists”, or people with “mental health problems” or on medication. (In other words, tracking everyone else appears to be find and dandy.)

The NRA promotes “gun safety”, but also seems to go out of its way to block legislation mandating CCP training and certification before such a permit is issued.

You point out the issue with waiting periods, but ignore the equally well-document cases where the boy friend in your scenario goes and buys a gun in a fit of rage, returns home, and uses it.

30,000 people a year die in the US due to firearms. Based on averages, and as of noon, 41 people have died today. 41 more tonight. 82 more tomorrow.

What’s your solution?

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