A Google search for the definition of “common sense” yields the following:
• “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters”
• “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”
• “natural ability to make good judgments and to behave in a practical and sensible way”
• “the knack for seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done”
A common definition of “crazy” is:
• “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
In light of recent events, calls have been renewed for more “commonsense gun legislation.” The legislation usually proposed centers on background checks for gun purchases and banning certain types of weapons and accessories. Based on the way things are, would such new legislation really be prudent?
A Department of Justice Special Report in January of 2019 showed the results of a survey of prisoners who had used a firearm in the commission of the crime for which they were imprisoned. In this survey, 56 percent of the inmates who had used a gun in their crime either stole the gun, obtained it at the scene, or purchased it on the underground market; 1.3 percent of the criminals purchased the gun at a retail source, and 0.8 percent purchased it at a gun show.
This means that 2.1 percent of the purchases of the guns actually used by inmates in the commission of their crime might have been covered by a background check.
Even had they been covered, at the time of purchase, there actually may not have been any legal reason to prevent the sale.
In an August 2019 report titled, “What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.” John Gramlich, a senior writer/editor at Pew Research Center, points out that, according to the FBI, 64 percent of gun murders in 2017 were committed with handguns; shotguns were used in 2 percent, and rifles — which includes those guns often referred to as “assault weapons” — were used in 4 percent.
If it were possible to totally eliminate all gun sales, what is the likelihood that there would be an appreciable reduction in gun violence? If certain weapons could be banned based on their appearance rather than performance, would that likely reduce the level of gun violence?
According to the latest edition of the global Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, there are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, or enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over.
This survey was done in 2018, so it does not include the millions of guns purchased since then. According to The Western Journal, the FBI processed a record 39.7 million firearms background checks in 2020. While the exact number is impossible to determine, it is reasonable to conclude that there are close to 400 million guns currently owned in the U.S.
Even with not one more gun sale in the U.S., these estimated 400 million guns would still exist. Who has these guns? Where are they?
The only way to determine the answers to these questions, before the weapon is used, is to search for those guns. The only way to find all of these guns is to conduct these searches anywhere, anytime, without notice and without regard for whether the person being searched is even a known gun owner.
Whether or not the gun laws often proposed violate the Second Amendment, these searches would definitely violate the protections afforded under the Fourth Amendment.
Does it make good common sense, then, to pass legislation requiring more and stricter background checks when the way things are shows that criminals are not purchasing their guns legally?
Does it make good common sense to pass legislation to ban certain weapons and accessories when the way things are shows that these guns are not the primary weapons being used in most gun violence?
Does it make good common sense to pass legislation that makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families? Is it prudent to pass legislation that would make it necessary to conduct unreasonable searches in order to enforce it?
Numerous gun control laws have been enacted in the past — they have not reduced the number of gun deaths that occur each year. Common sense indicates that doing more of the same will not yield different results.
Ken Lillagore is a Sequim resident.