Monday, April 22, 2019

Gun sales in America: both repugnant and protected transactions

Two stories remind me of the special status of gun sales in the U.S., and the corresponding political divisions between those who would like to see them more regulated (i.e. those who regard at least some gun sales as repugnant) and those who see regulation as a threat to the special protections offered guns by the U.S. constitution, whose second amendment states
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

From the NY Times:
When Sheriffs Say No: Disputes Erupt Over Enforcing New Gun Laws

"New Mexico’s governor is feudingwith county sheriffs, accusing them of going “rogue” by refusing to enforce new gun control legislation. Counties in Oregon are passing militia-backed measures against stricter gun laws. Washington State is warning sheriffsthey could face legal action if they don’t run enhanced background checks approved by voters.
"As states have approved dozens of restrictive gun control measures since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year, efforts to resist such laws have gathered strength around the nation as rural gun owners say their rights are being violated.
"In New Mexico and elsewhere, the disputes generally reflect tension between cities that support stricter gun laws and rural areas that want to bolster protections for gun owners. The pushback against new laws generally seeks to maintain existing gun ownership rights; most have not yet been challenged in court.
"The disputes around the country over the gun control measures raise vexing questions about the rule of law. Governors claim that local sheriffs cannot pick which laws to enforce, but some states have already grappled with low compliance with other gun laws.
A different aspect of the story is addressed by the New Yorker:

"in recent years, burglaries at gun shops and other federal firearms licensees have increased, from three hundred and seventy-seven, in 2012, to five hundred and seventy-seven, in 2017. This is partly because guns are so readily available. There are some sixty-three thousand licensed gun dealers in America—more than twice the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks locations combined. These retailers operate out of storefronts, pawnshops, and homes. (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives doesn’t specify how many dealers are based in homes, but officials say that the majority of thefts occur in brick-and-mortar stores.) Federal regulators have set strict security protocols for other businesses that deal in dangerous products. Pharmacies must lock opioids and other controlled substances in fortified cabinets. Explosives makers have to keep volatile materials in boxes or rooms capable of withstanding explosions. Banks, in order to maintain federal deposit insurance, have to hire security officers. But there are no such requirements for gun stores, and criminals are taking advantage. Between 2012 and 2017, burglars stole more than thirty-two thousand firearms from gun dealers. 

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