Needed Gun Reform & Questions about guns in the United States

Follow Marin Events

• HomeUpCut Child Poverty by HalfNeeded Gun Reform & Questions about guns in the United StatesTam School District to spend $450millionSave Santa Venetia from fireUSPS Petaluma replaced by OaklandWHAT ARE SPECIAL DISTRICTS2016 Election MeasuresABAG MTC Stifle DissentMarin's Law Suit against Fossil Fuel Corps.AB 2406 Junior Dwelling Unitsis a Marin Charter School being favored?Marijuana in MarinCut the Cord or just cut ComcastReverse MortgageNoisey NeighborSecurity BreachesSome ECLECTIC Shopping CatalogsMarin Bike Count - $28 Million WastedJohn Muir Transcription ProjectTRUE GOPHER STORYHigh Sierra Lakes •
•  •

Needed Gun Reform

Banning assault weapons won’t prevent all shootings, but contrary to Republican talking points, we already know that banning these military-style weapons does reduce mass killings of six people or more. When the original ban was in place from 1994 to 2004, the number of  such massacres fell by 37% and the number of people dying from them fell by 43%
After the ban expired, the number of gun massacres killing six or more increased by 183% and the number of people dying from them
increased by 239% .

 The first need is getting military-style assault weapons such as the AR-15 off the streets.

These weapons  fire much faster than typical hunting rifles. They fire rounds that are also deadlier than those fired from a hunting rifle. A Parkland radiologist noted that an AR-15 round may leave an exit wound “the size of an orange.” These weapons are designed to kill people, not animals.

Our current bill would ban 205 weapons by name, and any other weapons that accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic. The 1994 ban required two additional characteristics, a loophole that gun manufacturers exploited. We'd close that loophole.

Importantly, the bill also bans high-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. The shooter at the  grade school in Newtown, Conn., for example, used 30-round magazines

High-capacity magazines also lead to deadlier mass shootings. While law enforcement might be able to respond to mass shootings in a matter of minutes, a matter of minutes is all it takes to fire hundreds of rounds. In Las Vegas, for example, the shooter fired 1,100 rounds in just 10 minutes — 110 rounds per minute.

Under current law, licensed gun dealers cannot sell a handgun to anyone under 21, but they are allowed to sell assault rifles like the AR-15 to anyone over 18. This policy is dangerous and makes absolutely no sense.  

While the preference is to ban assault weapons outright, instead, ensuring teenagers can’t legally buy these weapons is a commonsense compromise.

Another problem is a legal loophole permitting accessories such as bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire at the same rate as machine guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has concluded that it cannot regulate or ban these devices without a new law

While President Trump has directed the ATF to review the issue, if the agency were to reverse its analysis after admitting that it lacks the authority, inevitable lawsuits would tie up any regulations banning these devices for years.

Too often, family and friends were aware that a family member posed a threat to themselves or others but were unable to act. The gun lobby and their allies say we need to take guns away from those who exhibit "red flags," but it fails to explain that families and law enforcement have little recourse in these situations.

Barring someone, (who does not fall into one of the nine prohibited purchaser categories from buying or keeping weapons), can be done only through a legal process that few states have in place. Our bill would help states establish a court process to allow family members and law enforcement to petition the court to bar someone from purchasing or possessing weapons.

Last, none of the above will make a difference unless we improve the background check system by ensuring that states and federal agencies submit required records and ensure that all sales — not just those at federally licensed dealers — require a background check.


Questions about guns in the United States
Mar 2, 2018,

What is an FFL?

An Federal Firearms License (FFL) is the document that allows an individual or company to buy, sell, or manufacture firearms in the U.S. FFLs are issued and monitored by the ATF ( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), and they are the ones who law enforcement questions if a gun is involved in a  crime .

What happens when someone buys a gun through an FFL?

They have to fill out an ATF-issued 4473 form, which includes standard identifiable information like the applicant’s address, age, sex, date of birth, and ethnicity. It also asks if they have ever been convicted of a felony, are an unlawful drug user, have ever been committed to a mental institution, been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, convicted of  domestic violence, and are a legal resident of the U.S.

That form is kept on paper, and then the FFL needs to electronically forward information from that form to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is overseen by the FBI. The purpose of that NICS review is to see if there’s any prohibitive factor that should prevent someone from being allowed to buy a gun.

NICS is given up to three days to answer, either saying that the applicant is approved or denied the sale. If NICS doesn’t respond in three days, the sale is approved by default. If the person is denied, the FFL will just know that their application is denied but will not know why.

What are other ways that people can buy guns?

Beyond buying guns from stores, many of which are FFLs, people can also buy guns through private sales, which means that they are buying directly from the owner of the gun. In that situation, the seller is said to be selling the firearm from their personal collection which could have been passed down through generations or bought directly by the seller from manufacturers or other FFLs.

What happens when people buy guns through private sales?

There are no federal requirements that private sellers need to meet when they sell firearms, meaning that they don’t have to run a background check, ask for identification, or have their customers fill out any  forms.

What happens when someone buys a gun at a gun show?

Gun shows involve sales by FFLs, who set up tables at gun shows, or by private sellers, who are also allowed to sell at gun shows. If the seller is an FFL, then they have to go through the same process as they would at a store, having the applicant submit a 4473 and waiting up to three days before giving the either approval or denial. If it is a private seller, there is no background check required.


 Gun Show Miami


How are gun records stored?

All ATF records about gun sales or owners are kept on paper, not electronically, making it difficult to search the records. The ATF is legally prohibited from doing so.

A line has been added to ATF appropriations bills that says that no funds “shall be available for salaries or administrative expenses in connection with consolidating or centralizing, within the Department of Justice, the records, or any portion thereof, of acquisition and disposition of firearms maintained by Federal firearms licensees,” as it says in the 2012 appropriations bill.

It was always understood that this was the position of the NRA that they didn’t want to have any government entity to have what was construed as a national registration record keeping system.

When a gun shop closes down, they are required to pass their records over to the ATF’s Out of Business Records Center.

As of 2010 the records that were sent to the Out of Business Records Center were then put on microfiche, rather than in an electronic database. ( They probably spent multiple times more money on microfiching than they would digitizing.)

How are traces run on guns involved in crimes then?

When law enforcement is looking for information on the owner of a gun that is connected to a crime, they run an electronic trace, or e-trace, on the gun.

By looking up the gun’s serial number the ATF can determine the manufacturer of the gun, and the manufacturer can tell the ATF which FFL got that weapon. Then the FFL uses their Acquisition and Disposition (AAD) book to look up the 4473 form that the purchaser of that gun had to fill out when they bought it in the first place.

The tracing process is a paper process. Dead slow and stop!

What is the National Instant Background Check System (NICS)?

NICS is the system, which is run by the FBI, that determines whether someone can legally buy a gun. NICS was mandated as a result of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which was named in honor of James Brady, the assistant to President Ronald Reagan who was shot in the 1981 assassination attempt. It was put into effect in 1998.

A NICS check goes through records from the National Crime Information Center, the Interstate Identification Index and the NICS Index. The information that individual states provide to the NCIC database differs by state.

On the  FBI’s undated website explaining NICS, it states that more than 230 million checks have been run and it has resulted in more than 1.3 million denials, which equals 0.56 percent of checks lead to a denial.

(ATF) has 25 firearms-related data systems, 16 of which contain retail firearms purchaser information from a federal firearms licensee (FFL)—such as firearms importers and retailers.

Here are 4 of them:

  1. The Out-of-Business Records Imaging System (OBRIS) stores nonsearchable images of firearms records from out-of-business FFLs. Such FFLs are required by law to provide their records to ATF.
  2. Access 2000 (A2K) provides servers for National Tracing Center (NTC) personnel to electronically search participating FFLs' records at their premises for firearms disposition information during a trace.
  3. The Firearm Recovery Notification Program (FRNP) maintains information on firearms that have not yet been recovered by law enforcement, but are suspected of being involved in criminal activity and are associated with an ATF criminal investigation.
  4. Multiple Sales (MS) includes firearms information from multiple sales reports. FFLs are required by law to report to ATF sales of two or more revolvers or pistols during 5 consecutive business days. ATF policy requires that certain information in MS be deleted after 2 years if the firearm has not been connected to a trace.

Thanks to NRA directed legislation from Republicans -- the GAO forces the agency to periodically delete records !

What happens if you lose your gun?

Giffords, a gun violence prevention advocacy group associated with former Rep. Gabby Giffords,  reports that nine states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island -- and the District of Columbia require owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm to law enforcement. Maryland requires the reporting of loss or theft of handguns and assault weapons but not other guns, and Michigan requires the reporting of thefts but not the loss of firearms.

Responsible gun owners tend to report a loss or theft to their local police department because then, if the gun is later used in some kind of crime, the individual will be able to have a record of reporting the weapon lost or stolen.

Is it possible to look up the age or medical history of someone who bought a gun?

The only record that states the gun owner’s age or medical history is the 4473 form, which the FFL is required to keep but is not passed along to any other authority unless upon specific request.

As for medical history, the applicant doesn’t need to submit any medical records or doctors notes with their applications, meaning that it is just up to them to self-identify any issues.

Endless rows of boxes of paper records line the hallways of the archaic federal facility where guns are traced. The physical records, some 8,000 boxes, are stashed in the Trace Center building. Another 7,000 are kept in nine shipping containers outside. They are stored there to keep the floor inside from collapsing!

The National Tracing Center (NTC), is the go-to source for police stations looking to catch a criminal. It receives nearly 1,500 requests for gun traces every day. The center’s work would be quite simple if there were a digitized national gun registry, yet, bizarrely, the NTC—part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—is banned from using an online national registry. There is no searchable database.

When a police station calls to have a serial number traced, the center instead must contact the weapons manufacturer, and hope it has hung on to the paperwork with the gun owner’s name on it.  The NTC does, however, oversee the Access 2000 program, which enables it to search the manufacturer’s database of serial numbers for information about the distributor or retailer to whom the firearms were sold.  In some cases, the gun dealer has gone out of business, in which case NTC employees must search tediously through thousands of stacks of boxes full of paper and endless rolls of microfilm to find the right serial number. The search can take weeks.


Why are people allowed to buy some guns at 18 years old and why do you have to wait until you’re 21 years old for others?

Because the law says so. The Gun Control Act of 1968 stipulates that no rifle or shotgun or matching ammunition can be sold to someone younger than 18 years old, and no handgun or ammunition could be sold to anyone younger than 21 years old.

Long guns and shotguns were deemed more of sporting type of firearm than a pistol or revolver when the law was enacted in 1968.

How many gun owners are there in the United States?

That’s not known. The way in which federal laws mandate gun sales records be kept – though not shared – makes it difficult to have an accurate account of the number of guns in the country.

There is no national registration, there is no law or registry on the books that requires that gun owners have to either registered or convey how many guns they actually own. There is no federal law that requires gun owners to be registered, but there are some states and cities, like New York City, that require owners to register their weapons with local authorities.

According to  a Pew Research Center study, released in June 2017, 30 percent of American adults own a gun and a further 11 percent said they live with someone who owns a gun, meaning that 41 percent of adults lived in a household with a gun.

The Pew study noted that among gun owners,

  • 32% own one gun,
  • 37% own two to four guns, and
  • 29% own five or more guns.

How many guns are there in the United States?

Similarly, because of the lack of national cohesion on various records, no one knows exactly how many guns are in the country.

ATF ( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) does not maintain a federal gun registry, therefore, records are not kept on the sales of firearms, private sales or information on individual purchasers. There are hundreds of millions of firearms” in the country.

One way to measure the number of guns in the country is the annual commerce report released by the ATF, which reports how many guns were manufactured in the United States in a given year. The only readily available data from ATF commerce reports date from 1986 through 2015, the most recently released report, and there were 143,642,781 guns manufactured in the U.S. during those 30 years.

Because firearms are not biodegradable, it is very easy for a gun to last for decades so long as it is cleaned and stored properly, meaning that guns that were manufactured much earlier in the 20th century may still be in circulation.

By contrast, it’s also unknown how many guns drop out of circulation, either by being destroyed or seized by law enforcement.

One estimate said that there were believed to have been 310,000,000 guns in the U.S. in 2009, according to a Congressional Research Service report published in November 2012, though gun sales are believed to have increased in the years that followed.