The farce of Obama’s “common sense” gun control
On Wednesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of some 214 convicted criminals, including more than 50 who had firearms violations. In an awkward press conference, the president said (emphasis added):
On the firearms issue, what I've done is to try to screen out folks who seem to have a propensity for violence. And so, and these are just hypotheticals, but there may be a situation where a kid at 18 was a member of a gang, had a firearm, did not use it in the offense that he was charged in, there’s no evidence that he used it in any violent offense. It’s still a firearms charge and an enhancement. But he didn’t use it. He’s now 48, or 38, twenty years later, and has [a] unblemished prison record, has gone back to school, gotten his GED, has gone through drug treatment, has the support of the original judge that presided, the support of the US attorney that charged him, the support of the warden, has a family that loves him, and in that situation the fact that he had twenty years earlier, an enhancement because he had a firearm is different than a situation where somebody is engaged in armed robbery and shot somebody. In those cases, that is still something that — that — that I’m concerned about. Our focus really has been on people who we think were overcharged and people who we do not believe had a propensity towards violence.
If you listen to the statement, not only does the president seem capable of determining who does and doesn’t have a “propensity for violence” but he clearly contradicts the executive orders he issued earlier this year. Back in January, those symbolic, but ultimately meaningless, executive actions on gun control included the following (emphasis added):
2. Make our communities safer from gun violence.
The Attorney General convened a call with U.S. Attorneys around the country to direct federal prosecutors to continue to focus on smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.
The President’s FY2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws.
ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
ATF is finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
The Attorney General issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.
In Obama’s own executive actions, barely six months old, the president vowed to make our communities safer from gun violence by hiring more ATF agents to enforce gun laws currently on the books
In Obama’s home state of Illinois, gun laws include the following:
To legally possess firearms or ammunition, Illinois residents must have a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, which is issued by the Illinois State Police to any qualified applicant. Non-residents who may legally possess firearms in their home state are exempt from this requirement.
The state police issue licenses for the concealed carry of handguns to qualified applicants age 21 or older who pass a 16-hour training course. However, any law enforcement agency can object to an individual being granted a license “based upon a reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others, or a threat to public safety”. Objections are considered by a Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, which decides whether or not the license will be issued, based on “a preponderance of the evidence”. Licenses issued by other states are not recognized, except for carry in a vehicle. Open carry is prohibited in most areas. Without a concealed carry license, a firearm must be unloaded and enclosed in a case when it is being transported.
There is a waiting period to take possession after purchasing a firearm — 72 hours for a handgun, or 24 hours for a rifle or shotgun. For private sales, the seller must verify the buyer’s FOID card, and keep a record of the sale for at least 10 years. Lost or stolen guns must be reported to the police. Possession of automatic firearms, short-barreled shotguns, or suppressors is prohibited. Possession of short-barreled rifles is permitted only for those who have an ATF Curios and Relics license or are a member of a military reenactment group.
Illinois has state preemption for certain areas of gun law, which overrides the home rule guideline in those cases. Some local governments have enacted ordinances that are more restrictive than those of the state in areas not covered by state preemption.
And if one looks at Illinois statues concerning gun law penalties, we see the following:
(1) Aggravated unlawful use of a weapon is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent offense is a Class 2 felony for which the person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 3 years and not more than 7 years. (2) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (3) and (4) of this subsection (d), a first offense of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon committed with a firearm by a person 18 years of age or older where the factors listed in both items (A) and (C) or both items (A-5) and (C) of paragraph (3) of subsection (a) are present is a Class 4 felony, for which the person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than 3 years. (3) Aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a person who has been previously convicted of a felony in this State or another jurisdiction is a Class 2 felony for which the person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 3 years and not more than 7 years.
Yet criminals who violated these laws, despite not having a “propensity for violence” according to the president, are given commuted sentences.
There are clearly laws on the books that deal with illegally owning a firearm, including in the commission of a crime, even if the weapon is not fired. And the president is correct when he says current gun laws need to be enforced.
The problem is: they often aren’t.
In Milwaukee, Wisc., those arrested on suspicion of non-fatal gun crimes are often sent to “gun court” which is a revolving door that overlooks violations of pretrial supervision rules, laughably low bail, an extremely slow judicial process, and short (or no) sentences.
From the same article on Milwaukee’s failed gun court:
As authorities launched an aggressive search for the killers of Laylah Petersen, the 5-year-old Milwaukee girl who was shot twice in the head while sitting on her grandfather’s lap inside her own home, one of the alleged murderers was already in gun court: For another shooting that occurred the month before Laylah was slain.
Carl L. Barrett, Jr., 20, allegedly shot 31-year-old Richard Stewart as he walked down West Hampton Avenue, court documents say. Stewart, wounded in the left ankle, dripped blood as he ran into a store. Barrett and another man were allegedly angry at Stewart because of an old feud that resulted in a stabbing. Laylah’s shooting also allegedly resulted from another round of street justice all too common among gun offenders in Milwaukee; Barrett and a co-defendant were allegedly upset that a third man was acquitted in another homicide, and shot up the wrong house.
A month after Laylah died, Barrett was charged in the Stewart shooting, as authorities hunted for the girl’s then unknown killers and the community convulsed in outrage. Stewart’s shooting barely made the news, although non-fatal shootings are far more common than homicide; he was one of582 people shot in Milwaukee that year who didn’t die.
Meanwhile, law abiding gun owners and the National Rifle Association, who themselves do not have a “propensity for violence” and have not been convicted of any crime (with or without a gun) are routinely admonished and attacked by the very administration that just put over 50 criminals convicted of firearms crimes back on the street.
We need to submit to more intrusive background checks, limits on ammunition or the types of weapons we’re allowed to own, and even gun registries in order to legally possess a firearm. When a gunman shoots up a school , a theatre, a night club— despite having no affiliation with the NRA — the NRA and all gun owners are somehow responsible. In 2013, the president took a not-so-subtle dig at the NRA at its millions of members:
“As long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun, then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children. We’ve got to be ones who are willing to do more work to make it harder.”
This is also the same administration who engaged in gun walking to Mexico so the ATF could use operation “Fast and Furious” to enact tougher gun regulations in the United States. Many of the firearms were used in violent crimes in Mexico, and two were used in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, in 2010.
When the president says we need “common sense” gun control, shouldn’t that include not intentionally walking guns to violent and dangerous drug cartels in Mexico? What about not commuting the sentences of people who have committed crimes while possessing a firearm and, thus, enforcing gun laws already on the books? One would think so.
Gun control remains largely unpopular. So unpopular that — despite Democrat majorities in the House and/or Senate until 2012 — the Obama administration failed to pass any sort of “common sense” gun legislation. In June, several Democrats voted against expanding universal background checks and ending private gun sales online and at trade shows. They know voting in favor of so-called “common sense” gun control legislation will likely cost them their next election. Meanwhile, crime is at historically low levels despite an increase in gun ownership.
If Obama was so concerned about those without a “propensity for violence” being overcharged with firearms enhancers, he could push for legislation to get rid of firearms enhancers for those who didn’t shoot anyone, couldn’t he? He shouldn’t, but at least he would be more logically consistent than he currently is. Instead, he’s released convicted criminals with absolutely zero guarantee that they don’t have a “propensity for violence” and if, heaven forbid, they do it’s guaranteed Obama and the Democrats won’t blame them, but the guns. And the NRA. Obama has lost what little credibility he had left on the gun control issue. It’s still about control, but not about controlling those who shouldn’t have guns. It’s about taking guns from law-abiding citizens and demonizing the organization(s) that protect our Second Amendment rights. What he’s done is reveal that all his talk, his tearful pressers, all his passionate rhetoric on the need to save “just one life” by enacting “common sense” gun control are just words.