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Notes on Hillary Clinton's Gun Program

"I don’t know how we keep seeing shooting after shooting, read about the people murdered because they went to Bible study or they went to the movies or they were just doing their job, and not finally say we’ve got to do something about this."
Hillary, AUGUST 27, 2015

Today I ran into this gem from HRC's campaign site.

WA State democratic caucuses are on 3/26/2016. You need to arrive by 9:30, and you need to register here. Let's not make this election season a choice between Hillary and Trump!

Since most people don't understand how gun buying process works, and since her official position contains massive amounts of incorrect information, I decided to analyze the key points she is making, and explain how the process really works and why most of what she proposes does not make sense, and has no chance of being enacted anyway.

Let's begin with the premise: "About 33,000 Americans are killed by guns each year."

First, of the above number roughly 8000 deaths are homicides. Vast majority of "gun violence" called out by politicians are suicides (source). Since Hillary styles her gun program as "gun violence prevention", and the discourse about violence typically implies violent crime, this is an important distinction.

Of the 8000 homicides, at least 2000 are attributed to gang-related activities (source). I say at least, because not all agencies report the data on gang involvement. So the probability of an average person to be killed by a gun is far, far lower than dying from any major disease or vice.

To put it in perspective, there are 88000 alcohol-related deaths in the US per year (source). There were 10,076 drunk driving deaths in the US in 2013, in which 1149 children between 0 and 14 years were killed (source), as compared to less than 450 for all firearms-related deaths (source) in the same age group.

For some reason, however, we are not hearing HRC declaring war on cancer, or alcohol, or overeating, or drunk driving - an endeavors that would unquestionably save far more lives.

I will spare you the standard refrain of "guns don't kill people, people kill people". Of course guns kill people. If they are available, guns provide the most convenient tool for murders and suicides. 60% of all homicides in the US are performed with firearms. However, this does not mean that if the most convenient tool is withdrawn, the murders or suicides will cease too, as HRC Campaign seems to imply.

For example, when the number of guns was dramatically reduced in Australia, the immediate effect was that the percentage of homicides committed with firearms dropped by half - with no registered effect on the overall homicide rate. The long term homicide rate fell, as they did in the rest of the Western world, and slower than in the US where of course no similar measure took effect. Suicide rates behaved similarly. (Data.)

Let's go through her main policy proposals.

Universal background checks

"Comprehensive federal background check legislation."

"Background checks reduce gun trafficking, reduce the lethality of domestic violence, and reduce unlawful gun transfers to dangerous individuals."

Actually, there is NO DATA WHATSOEVER that proves any of her claims.

We have implemented I-594 in WA almost a year and a half ago. There was no impact on crime, more importantly, there was no prosecutions under the new law - even though I am sure the law was broken many times. Laws that are not enforced have effect only on the law abiding community, and not on criminals who are supposed to be deterred by it.

Similar laws were implemented in other states a long time ago so we can examine a longer historical record. The homicide rates in these states fell slowly over time - at the exact same rate as in other states where no such laws were enacted.

Data.

While having no effect on crime, WA state gun owners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the background checks for these transfers. The worst hit are gun collectors - they trade and swap guns very frequently, sometimes several times a month. And what used to be a free exchange of guns, for example, swapping a Mosin Nagant made in a particular year for one made in a different year with a friend - now costs $50, minimum. Have you ever seen a gun collector - or a Mosin - implicated in a mass murder?

Closing the "Charleston Loophole."

"Hillary will push Congress to close the loophole that allows a gun sale to proceed without a completed background check if that check has not been completed within three days."

NICS - the division of FBI which does most of the background checks - does not have an SLA, that is, they do not have a commitment to complete the background check on any particular schedule. And in fact, they never complete some background checks - in my experience as an owner of a gun store approximately one in a hundred customers NEVER, EVER gets a response from NICS.

These people would be denied access to guns completely if what HRC calls "Loophole" were to be closed.

But wait, it gets worse. In the State of Washington, as in most other states, the background checks for handgun purchases are done by local police departments if the buyer does not have a concealed pistol license. While Congress could have obligated NICS to complete the background checks by a certain deadline, there is absolutely no way it can force local governments to do the same.

This means that most local handgun purchases would be completely at the mercy of local authorities. For example, Seattle's police chief, as of this writing, Kathleen O'Toole, is not a friend to gun owners. She happily testified in support for Seattle Gun Tax which forced majority of gun stores out of town.

If this "loophole" were to be closed, she could easily defund the department that performs the background checks - and bingo! Most people in Seattle would be unable to buy a handgun - pure magic for organizations such as WAGR or Seattle City Council.

The automatic release clause which allows (but does not require!) gun dealers to deliver the guns to the owners is the only thing that keeps various agencies responsible for background checks honest and on schedule.

Of course, because gun ownership is a civil right in United States, for precisely this reason "closing Charleston Loophole" is completely infeasible - it has no chance to withstand legal scrutiny, even if it was somehow magically pushed through Congress.

Does Hillary Clinton know it? Absolutely. She has been part of the gun discourse in the US for many years, and I am sure she is well versed in current gun regulations framework. But her voters don't - and this is what makes all the difference.

Tightening the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won’t.

"Hillary will take administrative action to require that any person attempting to sell a significant number of guns abide by the same commonsense rules that apply to gun stores—including requiring background checks on gun sales."

Even the most urbanized city dweller with no firearms experience should see through this: the problem with this claim is covered in most middle school civic lessons. You see, the interstate sales of firearms - which are the only ones that Federal Government can regulate - already are required to go through a licensed firearms dealer, who is obligated to perform background checks.

The in-state gun sales are regulated by the respective state laws (and by the way, this is the other reason why federally mandated Universal Background Checks are Constitutionally questionable).

No Federal "administrative action" is possible here without running afoul of the very foundation of the US legal system.

Safety of our communities is prioritized over the profits of the gun lobby

Gun control crowd likes to invoke the specter of the well-funded, all-powerful NRA lobbyists who block every bit of "common sense" gun legislation that comes to Congress.

Gun industry in the USA is a 6 billion dollar business. This may look like a large number. But to put it in perspective, this is 2.5% of Apple revenue (in 2015), and about as much as Americans are charged for ATM usage, per year.

Alcohol industry in the US is 33 times bigger than the gun industry (which may be the reason why - despite generating far more carnage - it never gets pursued by politicians with anything resembling the vigor with which they go after guns).

And in actual fact, gun control groups routinely outspend NRA and other pro-gun groups. Here, for example, Michael Bloomberg says confidently that he can outspend NRA - and in many elections he did, sometimes by a margin of thirty five to one.

The reason guns have a strong support in the United States is not the industry - it is the owners. The people who are passionate participants in the shooting sports are the real gun lobby.

An average gun owner has 8 guns, and there are tens of millions of us. Yes, I am the gun lobby. And I am not even an NRA member.

Specifically in this area HRC promises to "repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection". What you should - but won't know by reading HRC campaign materials - is that the immunity for gun industry was created because various anti-gun groups tried to bankrupt it by frivolous lawsuits - and in fact the caseload that you will find here very clearly shows many attempts to hold gun manufacturers accountable for misuse of firearms perpetrated by criminals.

This would be exactly the same as holding the manufacturer of the "affluenza" teen's car accountable for the drunk driving incident where he killed four people. Of course, you do not see lawsuits like this happening very often - because we do not have an anti-car lobby funded by Michael Bloomberg. Yet this is exactly what was happening to the gun industry (again, just take a look at the case load).

"Gun industry's unique immunity" does not cover cases where a dealer sells a gun illegally, or a manufacture makes a defective gun. It simply protects it from frivolous lawsuits by the anti-gun lobby. This is the reason why Politfact rates this particular claim by HRC as FALSE.

Hillary will fight to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill

This part was why I started writing this article. Reading this, my WTF rate was literally through the roof!

Support legislation to stop domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns.

"Although federal law generally prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, this protection does not apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers."

Wait, what? What is a "dating relationship" exactly? Does is even have a legal definition? Should I be able to go to court and say - I am dating this person, and I am afraid of his or her gun, please take it away?

Sorry, but if you are uncomfortable with someone, there is a much simpler solution than taking that person's gun: don't date him or her.

Make straw purchasing a federal crime.

"When an individual with a clean record buys a gun with the intention of giving it to a violent felon—only so that felon can avoid a background check—it should be a crime. Hillary will fight to make so-called “straw purchasing” a federal crime. "

Wait, what? Straw purchases are illegal TODAY - punishable by $250,000 fine and 10 years in jail. It has been a federal crime since time immemorial (or at least way, since way before I bought my first gun). It was tested and affirmed by Supreme Court even in the most exotic and unusual cases where someone - though not purchased the gun for himself - have transferred the gun through a licensed firearms dealer, with the background check. What else is Hillary proposing to do here?

Close loopholes that let persons suffering from severe mental illness purchase and possess guns

There are no loopholes - as in, ways to circumvent legislation. There are a bunch of byzantine relationships within government agencies, which no one is opposing - and no one really prevented the current administration to "close". HRC, however, is running on the promise of "meet the new boss - same as the old one", so she cannot imply in any way that Obama's administration was ineffective. Therefore she is trying to make this sound as if there were some controversial political fight, and not a case of government's failure.

Keep military-style weapons off our streets

Wait, what? We are going for visual appearance now? You can find information about "assault weapons" ban here, but needless to say, banning firearms because of how they look is one of the fakest political propositions ever, explicitly targeted at people who have absolutely no familiarity with the firearms.

In conclusion

As you can - hopefully - see by now, Hillary's entire "gun violence" platform is fake to the core. It is not designed to actually reduce violence - it is designed to score political points with the uninformed electorate.

Does HRC know the facts and understand the finer points of gun regulation? Of course she does. All this has been discussed ad nauseum, and undoubtedly she have had many briefings on how guns and gun laws work, both as being a Senator as well as a presidential candidate. She is simply banking on the fact that her electorate - the city dwellers who only see guns in Hollywood movies - deeply misunderstand the problem of gun violence, and will opt for something that they see as "common sense", but is fundamentally untrue.

Regardless of your own position on guns, you should to ask yourself - do you want a politician this dishonest in the Oval Office?

WA State democratic caucuses are on 3/26/2016. You need to arrive by 9:30, and you need to register here. Let's not make this election season a choice between Hillary and Trump!