The Big Gun Control Thread

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Okay. Folks who know me on these boards know that I'm a gun-totin' redneck from the wilds of Howard County, MD. I stock my safe with "assault weapons" and enough ammo to start a small African revolution. So when I say the epidemiological evidence of straw purchase mills like Realco in Forestville, MD disturbs me, I think it's worthy of a look.

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Realco has been linked to over half of the illegal gun sales in MD and DC. The next nearest (MD Small Arms Range) isn't anywhere close to their numbers.

I'm a big fan of guns, but I have to be honest and my severe discomfort at this.

This thread is huge.
Is this thread for Big guns or it's a big thread?

It's destined to live up to the name, unless it gets locked.

I think we should all try very hard not to get this locked. I think there is actually quite a bit of room to talk about this.

Seriously, I think that that particular gun seller should do a much better job at policing himself before the situation gets significantly worse for everyone else. When over half of the guns seized in illegal activity in MD and DC came from your shop (and you aren't selling anywhere near half of the guns in the state to eliminate statistical average), you are clearly doing something wrong.

I definitely don't think the gun lobby should be protecting the worst of the offenders any more than the medical profession should be protecting the worst of doctors.

I definitely don't think the gun lobby should be protecting the worst of the offenders any more than the medical profession should be protecting the worst of doctors.

I agree with you but for industry to allow these people to be penalized is an admission that there actually is a problem. This store just highlights the situation. Through negligence or malfeasance, people have probably died because of its behavior.

Guns kill people. Frequently.

Paleocon wrote:

I think we should all try very hard not to get this locked. I think there is actually quite a bit of room to talk about this.

Seriously, I think that that particular gun seller should do a much better job at policing himself before the situation gets significantly worse for everyone else. When over half of the guns seized in illegal activity in MD and DC came from your shop (and you aren't selling anywhere near half of the guns in the state to eliminate statistical average), you are clearly doing something wrong.

I definitely don't think the gun lobby should be protecting the worst of the offenders any more than the medical profession should be protecting the worst of doctors.

I haven't RTFA yet, but are there any statistics mentioned about guns used in crimes in other states? I'm thinking of NY in particular, since most of our illegal guns are said to come from Virginia.

At question, I think, is whether there should actually be teeth to the guidelines for avoiding straw purchases. The case study that the Post pulled for the story was one in which the murderer went into the store with his girlfriend, stated that he couldn't buy it himself, instructed her which gun to get, and the gun was not typically the sort that a female first time shooter would use. These are all warning signs of a pretty obvious straw purchase. I know if I did this over at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they would have, at a bare minimum told me that they couldn't sell me a gun and would probably had called the cops on me.

It appears pretty clear that Realco is not doing either and, though they might be operating within the letter of the law, are clearly profitting from abetting felons get firearms.

If they are unable or unwilling to police themselves, should we, as a society, do the policing for them?

Unless the legal system starts finding some form of liability for negligence in sales of a weapon, I don't see this changing. And Congress will never let that happen. The democrats have just given up, I think. There are just too many voters for whom gun control is an overriding issue, and it's not worth it to the dems to lose elections over the issue. They have other priorities.

To sound a bit morbid, this is a problem that should sort itself out after a century or two. Every time someone dies from gunfire, a few more gun control supporters are born.

As a person with no horse in this race, my only concern is that Realco sounds like it's within spitting distance of an underground dogfighting club or narcotics ring. I fail to understand why dealing guns to felons is any more acceptable than dealing drugs to them.

Funkenpants wrote:

Unless the legal system starts finding some form of liability for negligence in sales of a weapon, I don't see this changing. And Congress will never let that happen. The democrats have just given up, I think. There are just too many voters for whom gun control is an overriding issue, and it's not worth it to the dems to lose elections over the issue. They have other priorities.

I agree, though I see it as tremendously short sighted on everyone's part.

We are going to electronic medical records keeping by 2014. Law enforcement is slowly being forced to modernize record keeping as well. But firearms purchases and the availability of those records is entirely paper driven precisely because Congress doesn't allow the information to flow to where it can be properly used.

I like my guns. I like my scary-ass military guns. I like having 2000+ rounds of ammo in my safe.

But I think the resistance to the idea that law enforcement should be able to track, instantly, where a felon got a gun with an electronic chain of custody, to me, is pretty retarded.

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

I've got a bit to say on the gun debate as a whole but I'll wait for the thread to derail there on its own.

LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

It certainly forces them to try. And should they try at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they're likely to be told where the door can hit them.

Paleocon wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

It certainly forces them to try. And should they try at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they're likely to be told where the door can hit them.

I'm not sure I'd say such a thing to a would-be violent criminal looking to buy a gun who definitely knows where I work.

LobsterMobster wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

It certainly forces them to try. And should they try at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they're likely to be told where the door can hit them.

I'm not sure I'd say such a thing to a would-be violent criminal looking to buy a gun who definitely knows where I work.

When was the last time you went in a gun shop? No one who works there is going to be intimidated by a would be criminal trying to get a gun. All the clerks I've ever seen are armed to the freaking teeth and somewhat sadistic about the possibiity of getting to use their gun on a deserving perp.

Paleocon wrote:

All the clerks I've ever seen are armed to the freaking teeth and somewhat sadistic about the possibiity of getting to use their gun on a deserving perp.

That's been my impression. I seem to remember a surveillance video a while back of a guy trying to rob a gun store. Instantly there's people pulling out weapons. Can't remember how that one turned out.

LobsterMobster wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

It certainly forces them to try. And should they try at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they're likely to be told where the door can hit them.

I'm not sure I'd say such a thing to a would-be violent criminal looking to buy a gun who definitely knows where I work.

But if I'm working at the gun store, I have the guns, and they, by virtue of asking to buy one, don't. I suppose they may be after another gun, but chances are I'll have more.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

It certainly forces them to try. And should they try at Atlantic Guns or Bass Pro Shops, they're likely to be told where the door can hit them.

I'm not sure I'd say such a thing to a would-be violent criminal looking to buy a gun who definitely knows where I work.

But if I'm working at the gun store, I have the guns, and they, by virtue of asking to buy one, don't. I suppose they may be after another gun, but chances are I'll have more.

While Paleocon is likely correct and some gunstore owners are just itching to blow someone away, I don't consider that a good reason to mouth off to someone who would try to kill me, no matter how unsuccessful he may be. I don't want to kill anyone.

Like most other things, we have an issue of resource allocation. What would the landscape be if we put the same money we have to say tracking pot towards guns? Or the money spent screening shampoo at the airport?

But there are also questions to ask. Germany makes a lot of guns, China makes a lot of guns. What makes their industry, their regulations different? Why do we find mostly American and Russian guns trafficked? Is it worth threatening one of our major industries and exports with short sighted and ineffective regulations-The Brady bill did nothing.

Paleocon wrote:

Seriously, I think that that particular gun seller should do a much better job at policing himself before the situation gets significantly worse for everyone else. When over half of the guns seized in illegal activity in MD and DC came from your shop (and you aren't selling anywhere near half of the guns in the state to eliminate statistical average), you are clearly doing something wrong.

I definitely don't think the gun lobby should be protecting the worst of the offenders any more than the medical profession should be protecting the worst of doctors.

I was wondering if this story would pop up in P&C...

First, a bit of shock. The gun seller in question should do a better job policing himself? Come on. Realco's been selling guns to anyone who walks through their doors since 1992. It should be pretty clear by now that they're a bad apple and they aren't going to change. They should have their FFL immediately revoked.

Personally, I'd also like to make sure that all their family and friends were barred from ever obtaining a FFL so they can't simply start up again under someone else's license and face criminal and civil charges for selling guns used in crimes. The owners or Realco are responsible for each and every deed done with one of their guns because they failed to act appropriately at the time of sale.

I have to wonder why there's even any hand wringing over this gun dealer. The data from recovered and traced guns linked back to this shop is a statistical beacon that shouts "we sell guns to criminals". I mean what possible reason can you give for still allowing them to have the privilege of selling guns?

Paleocon wrote:

But I think the resistance to the idea that law enforcement should be able to track, instantly, where a felon got a gun with an electronic chain of custody, to me, is pretty retarded.

Then I hope you haven't ever given any money to the NRA since they are the lobbying juggernaut that is actively preventing effort to increase the transparency and oversight of firearm ownership.

LobsterMobster wrote:

This is a microcosm of the entire gun debate. If they shut down a seller because too many crime guns get tracked back to them, does that stop those crimes or force those criminals to buy from someone else?

Shutting down lax sellers reduces the flow of guns from their retail source. That makes it harder for criminals to get their hands on clean weapons, which is a good thing.

Is it perfect? Heck no. That's because the NRA has fought tooth and nail to ensure that guns can be easily sold outside of government oversight, such as through person-to-person sales or no background check loopholes at gun shows.

Funkenpants wrote:

Unless the legal system starts finding some form of liability for negligence in sales of a weapon, I don't see this changing. And Congress will never let that happen. The democrats have just given up, I think. There are just too many voters for whom gun control is an overriding issue, and it's not worth it to the dems to lose elections over the issue. They have other priorities.

I see it changing, but very slowly. I agree with you that Democrats now consider firearms another political third-rail. The only positive trend is that gun ownership has been slowly declining, which lessens the general societal support for completely unhindered gun ownership. At that point people can start to look at the real societal costs of gun ownership and begin to approach from a law enforcement/health and safety perspective and not have it painted as "the gub'ments coming fer me guns!!" hysteria the NRA promotes.

A study just published by researchers at Iowa State University might change help change the political discussion about gun ownership.

The study calculated the total societal costs of major crimes and found that murders cost $17.25 million. That means murders involving firearms cost our society nearly $158 billion in 2009. Each armed robbery cost $335,733, which means that robberies involving firearms cost our society another $58 billion. Assaults cost $145,379, meaning that those involving firearms cost society another $22.8 billion. So firearms can be linked to about $239 billion in societal costs each and every year.

In the case of Realco, that one company cost society nearly $1.5 billion for the 86 murders it was linked to (plus another couple tens of millions of dollars for the 300 robberies and assaults its guns were used to commit). The cost of its lax operations certainly weren't offset by the $90 it paid to renew its FFL.

These real numbers serve as a practical counterpoint to the purely emotional "it's my right" argument used by gun owners. Yes, the current read of the law says you have a right to own an arsenal and thousands of rounds of ammunition, but that right doesn't let you off the collective hook for the costs your right imposes on society. The gun lobby has crippled any attempt at meaningful oversight meaning that anyone with an NRA membership is responsible for the dysfunctional system that makes it easy for a criminal to buy a gun.

I really don't think we are that far away from quick and easily manufactured cyberpunk "smart" guns with tracking chips, id locks, and target verification (the tech for most of that already exists)- and once those are commonplace it's only a matter of time before legislation is passed to make them the mandatory industry standard. Of course, this will create a black market for hacked and pre-chip weaponry, but that's just how capitalism works.

ruhk wrote:

I really don't think we are that far away from quick and easily manufactured cyberpunk "smart" guns with tracking chips, id locks, and target verification (the tech for most of that already exists)- and once those are commonplace it's only a matter of time before legislation is passed to make them the mandatory industry standard. Of course, this will create a black market for hacked and pre-chip weaponry, but that's just how capitalism works.

Someone has one that requires a watch and their implementation of it just sucks. I'm sure someone can do a better job at it.

Edwin wrote:
ruhk wrote:

I really don't think we are that far away from quick and easily manufactured cyberpunk "smart" guns with tracking chips, id locks, and target verification (the tech for most of that already exists)- and once those are commonplace it's only a matter of time before legislation is passed to make them the mandatory industry standard. Of course, this will create a black market for hacked and pre-chip weaponry, but that's just how capitalism works.

Someone has one that requires a watch and their implementation of it just sucks. I'm sure someone can do a better job at it.

I am not sure I understand what you are saying here Edwin. You have to wear a wristwatch that matches the gun to fire it?

NathanialG wrote:

I am not sure I understand what you are saying here Edwin. You have to wear a wristwatch that matches the gun to fire it?

It's Smart Gun technology. The weapon is synced with a control device, whether a coded electronic signal or matching magnetic fields, so that the weapons cannot be fired without the control device is close proximity. Early versions used a bracelet as the control device (hence the watch), while others used a magnetic ring or even a chip planted under the skin.

Smart guns? The brothel scene from Shoot'Em Up comes to mind.

I'm aware of that tech, but anything that requires extra action on part of the user will never catch on. I'm talking more about ambient tech, like something out of a William Gibson novel. When you pick up a gun it takes a biometric scan off your hand and locks up if you aren't an approved user. When it senses you beginning to pull the trigger it takes a snapshot of whatever the barrel is pointed at and feeds the results through onboard software which looks for heat signatures corresponding to organic life, then scans those for facial signs and body language signifying hostility. By the time the trigger is depressed into firing position the software has already decided whether or not it will allow the gun to fire. If it has fired, assuming you shot at something living and not just a target, it uploads positional data along with serial and gps signatures from both the gun and bullet to law enforcement/emergency services (or, if you fired at something clearly an animal, it notifies animal control services or deducts hunting allowances from applicable hunting licenses).

The tech for all of this already exists in some form, it's just not to the point where it would conveniently fit in a handgun, though I would say we'll probably reach that point in around 10-15 years on the inside, 20-30 conservatively. Tack on another five years to either figure for the time it takes to be cheaply enough produced for widespread adoption.

Vive le future!

Better yet, deploy that facial emotion recognition engine at the point-of-sale, make it take a long hard look at the face of the prospective buyer, and politely decline his business!

ruhk wrote:

I'm aware of that tech, but anything that requires extra action on part of the user will never catch on. I'm talking more about ambient tech, like something out of a William Gibson novel. When you pick up a gun it takes a biometric scan off your hand and locks up if you aren't an approved user. When it senses you beginning to pull the trigger it takes a snapshot of whatever the barrel is pointed at and feeds the results through onboard software which looks for heat signatures corresponding to organic life, then scans those for facial signs and body language signifying hostility. By the time the trigger is depressed into firing position the software has already decided whether or not it will allow the gun to fire. If it has fired, assuming you shot at something living and not just a target, it uploads positional data along with serial and gps signatures from both the gun and bullet to law enforcement/emergency services (or, if you fired at something clearly an animal, it notifies animal control services or deducts hunting allowances from applicable hunting licenses).

The tech for all of this already exists in some form, it's just not to the point where it would conveniently fit in a handgun, though I would say we'll probably reach that point in around 10-15 years on the inside, 20-30 conservatively. Tack on another five years to either figure for the time it takes to be cheaply enough produced for widespread adoption.

Vive le future!

With any biometric security device, the challenge is to play the odds between inevitable false positives and false negatives. No system is going to be perfect and figuring out what a tolerable level of failure gives you an idea of what consequences you may need to accept. If, for instance, the biometric bone density palm scan you have to use in order to get into the secure datacenter comes up false negative, no big deal, you do it again. If if comes up false positive, you get unauthorized access. As a result, those devices are set with pretty tight tolerances.

If, on the other hand (no pun intended), a policeman's service pistol denies him access because his palm is sweaty, dirty, bloody, not placed entirely correctly over the sensors, or because his partner in an emergency is using it and it fails to fire, you have dead cops.

Paleocon wrote:

With any biometric security device, the challenge is to play the odds between inevitable false positives and false negatives. No system is going to be perfect and figuring out what a tolerable level of failure gives you an idea of what consequences you may need to accept. If, for instance, the biometric bone density palm scan you have to use in order to get into the secure datacenter comes up false negative, no big deal, you do it again. If if comes up false positive, you get unauthorized access. As a result, those devices are set with pretty tight tolerances.

Ten years ago the most popular portable media player on the market could both play CDs and receive FM radio. It even had enough memory to keep track of your progress on the cd while powered down (assuming you didn't remove the battery). The most popular one today can internally store the equivalent of hundreds of CDs, can take photos, can record and playback video, can browse the Internet and run literally millions of different games and programs. While not all technology has moved as quickly, biometric technology ten years from now is bound to be more sophisticated than it is currently as security technologies tend to be on the far side of the bell curve. I wouldn't be surprised if some form of rapid genetic
sampling was common practice in ten years.

ruhk wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

With any biometric security device, the challenge is to play the odds between inevitable false positives and false negatives. No system is going to be perfect and figuring out what a tolerable level of failure gives you an idea of what consequences you may need to accept. If, for instance, the biometric bone density palm scan you have to use in order to get into the secure datacenter comes up false negative, no big deal, you do it again. If if comes up false positive, you get unauthorized access. As a result, those devices are set with pretty tight tolerances.

Ten years ago the most popular portable media player on the market could both play CDs and receive FM radio. It even had enough memory to keep track of your progress on the cd while powered down (assuming you didn't remove the battery). The most popular one today can internally store the equivalent of hundreds of CDs, can take photos, can record and playback video, can browse the Internet and run literally millions of different games and programs. While not all technology has moved as quickly, biometric technology ten years from now is bound to be more sophisticated than it is currently as security technologies tend to be on the far side of the bell curve. I wouldn't be surprised if some form of rapid genetic
sampling was common practice in ten years.

A ruggedized laptop capable of withstanding a drop from 5 feet in height weighs nearly five times that of a similiarly capable laptop without such hardening. And that pales in comparison to the sorts of forces a medium caliber handgun would exert on any sophisticated electronics. Power sources routinely run out of juice. When that happens with my Aimpoint red dot sight on my AR15, I just flip up my iron sights and I'm back in business. If the power goes out on your biometric authentication, will the default be "on" or "off"?

The reliability tolerances for firearms (and in particular self defense firearms) are many many times greater than consumer electronics. If anything, they are closer to those of life-sustaining medical devices. You would have to have a biometric system that would approach the level of reliability of a pacemaker in order for it to be worthwhile. Regular testing of that reliability would be required as well since product degradation -- especially in consumer electronics -- is only to be expected. If you had to guess, what do you think the cost impact of such a system would be?

Folks who shoot and shoot regularly know that there is simply no substitute for proper discipline and training. A "smart" gun with biometric authentication only addresses the issue of unauthorized transfer and does it at a cost to reliability that is simply unaffordable. There are many ways to control that issue, but making guns prohibitively expensive and unreliable is not the right one.

I think you are missing my point entirely... You are speaking from current technological limitations, I am speaking of theoretical future tech based on modern trends in the industry, and can't really be assumed to suffer the same physical or monetary limitations (as there will be entirely NEW limitations).

But I feel I have derailed this thread enough...

ruhk wrote:

I think you are missing my point entirely... You are speaking from current technological limitations, I am speaking of theoretical future tech based on modern trends in the industry.

There is, however, a good reason why technology in firearms design has been very conservative. Like I said, reliability is, literally, of life or death importance. The tolerance for failure is about as low as one can get. If one Xbox in 1000 fails catastrophically, it's a bitch point on some web bulletin board. If one Glock in several hundred thousand blows up from a bad cartridge seal or if a one HK in as many fails to fire, you get to read about the results on this page.

Simplicity and durability are constant goals in firearm design. Reducing the number of critical moving parts, reducing complexity, and eliminating points of wear is an imperative when building reliable firearms. Reducing the number of stress decisions is another. Is the weapon's battery charged? Is the environment conducive to proper identification? Can the biometric function properly through cold weather or evidence gloves?

It may be the case that all of these engineering issues will be solved decades from now (or they may not), but until they are, the debate about making such science fiction advancements mandatory on firearms as a matter of policy is not a particularly good use of both political capital or engineering resources.

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