CORRECTION: A previous version of this story published on Dec. 14, 2012 contained factual errors regarding the sale of guns via the Internet. The National Memo regrets the errors and apologizes to readers.
While the nation is processing yet another deadly mass shooting, this time involving children at an elementary school in Connecticut (at least 20 students were killed out of 27 total dead, including the shooter), the question will be whether this will be the wakeup call the United States needs to have a serious conversation about gun control and the gun culture fueled by the National Rifle Association.
Will we demand our political leaders take action to get at the root of the problem — America’s lax gun control laws? Or will we let the NRA and its followers continue to dominate the discussion by dismissing guns as the problem or even arguing that every private citizen should own a gun? Should the children have been packing?
Shopping malls. Houses of worship. Schools. Cinemas. A mass shooting every other week. Will we become numb to what should be shocking? Is this the price our society has to pay for the Second Amendment?
Last week it was an Oregon shopping mall shooting. This week it is a Connecticut elementary school in the line of fire. Where will the next mass shooting take place as a consequence of American gun violence? Organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence are fighting the good fight against the NRA and for stricter gun control measures.
While federally licensed firearms (FLF) dealers are required to conduct background checks on all buyers via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), unlicensed private gun dealers are not required to conduct background checks in 33 states if the sale is conducted within the state — and 40 percent of guns are sold through private sellers.
There are federal rules against private sellers repeatedly engaging in selling guns for a profit, which is why many call this loophole the “casual sales exception.” There are also federal rules against unlicensed dealers selling guns to someone they suspect couldn’t pass a background check, although this is often ignored, as an investigation by the City of New York into private online gun sales found that 62 percent of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said they couldn’t pass a background check. The in-state transactions generally occur either via mail or face-to-face in a parking lot after arranging to meet via email or phone.
The NYC Fix Gun Checks Report recommends a federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales, making sure the ATF enforces existing gun laws, and encouraging websites to take self-policing steps to stop illegal gun sales.
Here are five of the most dangerous firearms advertised online:
Photo: gunsnews2012 via Flickr
Barrett M82 50-Caliber Sniper Rifle
An NBC News undercover investigation into online gun sales conducted a transaction for this 50-caliber sniper rifle, calling it “the most powerful gun legally sold in the U.S.: bullet range five miles. It can pierce armored vehicles, even bring down a helicopter.”
The NRA claims 50-caliber sniper rifles have not been used in crimes, but the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit working to reduce gun violence, refutes that assertion with a long list of criminal activities in which the 50-caliber sniper rifle was the weapon of choice.
(Photo by United States Marine Corps via Wikimedia Commons)
M134 General Electric Minigun
The minigun is one of the most dangerous weapons ever designed, with the capacity to fire up to 166 bullets per second. Amazingly, it is currently legal in the U.S. to own this military-grade machine gun because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 stated that any fully automatic weapon constructed before that year was legal to own.
(Photo by United States Navy via Wikimedia Commons)
Shortly after the Aurora movie theater massacre, President Obama made a gun control speech in New Orleans, in which he said he believes that “a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers and not in the hands of crooks. They belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
(Photo by Flodjy via Wikimedia Commons)
Glock 23 Semi-Automatic Pistol
The Glock semi-automatic handgun is the favorite weapon for mass shooters who want to maximize casualties. The gun was used in the Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, Sikh temple, and Aurora massacres.
The Chicago Tribune paraphrased Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, writing that “semi-automatic handguns are the weapon of choice for mass murderers because they are light and easy to conceal, and adaptable to using high-capacity magazines. This allows the shooter to fire the maximum number of bullets in a short period of time.”
(Photo by SoCalBrandon via Wikimedia Commons)
Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine
This deadly assault rifle, used on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, is perfectly legal to purchase in the United States because the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 expired in 2004. There have been multiple attempts to renew the assault weapons ban, but there has so far been no progress from Congress or the White House.
Will President Obama make reinstating the assault weapons ban a priority in his second term, along with other gun control measures like closing online loopholes? Perhaps his emotional comments after the horrific gun-related slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown provides a preview of what’s to come.
“As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We’re going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics,” the president said at Friday’s White House press briefing.
Photo: United States Marine Corps via Wikimedia Commons