Sensible Gun Laws

Below, a friend of mine describes a tragic event that occurs across America every day but happened here in Charleston in January.

"I just got some very f-d up news....
Me and a friend just started a GED program. We got two young boys as the two first people in the program.
Both were looking to leave the streets and use this program to start a better life. In fact they had a job offer on the table pending them passing their GED exam
Yesterday one of them got into an altercation and instead of fighting or shooting, he took the high road and walked away. And as he walked away he was shot by a coward. He died.
We lost one of our cubs over some BULLSHIT! 
Rip Lamonte Simmons
Please help keep my friend lifted in this situation. He was very close to the young man. Anybody who has info on This murder please contact police. This young brother was going to be somebody."

I admit, a few years ago I dismissed violence like this as “just gang-bangers killing each other” and didn’t see it as a problem for the rest of us in America. Like so many people who have economically insulated themselves from unpleasant parts of our society, a few years ago I didn’t see this as a tragedy because it was too far away from me. But over the past couple years, I’ve come to know the parents, brothers and sisters, children, and now tutors of people killed by senseless gun violence and I recognize any needless death as a failure of our society. A failure I want to fix.

Gun violence is a complicated problem. Some people might say it’s a family problem - “I raise my kids right so they don’t get into trouble like that.” But it really does take a village to raise a kid and I think we ALL have a responsibility to raise ALL the kids in our village right so they don’t get into trouble like that. But try as we might, some kids will have what it takes to kill another kid for little more reason than just an insult. And handguns make the hot rush of testosterone driven rage so much easier to cause permanent damage. Now, in the case of Lamonte Simmons, one kid who was working to turn his life around is dead and at least one more kid will spend his life in prison, probably wishing he’d never gotten that gun. This is a tragedy.

In 2015 I helped form the non-profit organization “Gun Sense SC” which is educating South Carolinians on the efficacy of universal and comprehensive background checks on ALL gun purchases. Background checks, when implemented with no leaks in the purchase process, have been proven by their implementation in a number of states around the country, to reduce gun deaths by half. That is the goal Gun Sense SC has adopted - reduce gun deaths in SC by half - from more than 600 to closer to 300 every year. Given the evidence from other states, this is doable in South Carolina.

As an engineer and economist, I couldn’t help but dig down into the mechanics of how background checks work so effectively. I discovered background checks are simply the first step America could take toward reducing gun deaths to a tiny fraction of what they are today. But, like so many solutions to complex problems, the process is a bit too complicated to easily understand. I’ve been struggling over the past few months to reduce what we must do, down to the simplest possible terms. So here it is.

What is boils down to is, we must not support the “bad guys”. The goal of gun purchase background checks is to identify “bad guys” - people who have proven they are not safe and/or sane enough to handle the deadly force that guns enable. Universal and comprehensive background checks will keep the bad guys from purchasing guns from any unsuspecting “good guys” - the people who have proven they ARE safe and sane enough to carry guns. The only way a bad guy could then buy a gun is from another bad guy - someone who is willing to go to prison for selling that gun. That’s called the black market for guns. Our goal is to shut the black market off from getting any new guns, then drain the black market of most of their existing guns.  Like in any market, scarcity increases prices. Reduce the number of illegal guns and the result will be an increase in the price of the guns available for sale on the black market. We want to make guns too expensive for most bad guys to purchase. We want the same five hundred dollar handgun sold by a gun shop to a “good guy”, to cost ten or twenty thousand dollars when sold by the black market to an identified “bad guy”.

Universal and comprehensive background checks are the first step toward that goal. But no action occurs without causing a reaction. If bad guys can’t afford guns on the black market, they’ll simply steal guns from the good guys who own guns. With a ready supply of more than 300 million guns sitting in drawers and cabinets in the homes of good guys, it’s easy pickins. We could see a crime wave of gun thefts like nothing that has ever been seen, flooding the black market with a new supply of cheap guns. The only way to stop that theft from happening is to require the good guys to keep their guns in gun safes, like so many countries around the world now require. If you don’t want to keep your gun in a gun safe, you’re helping the bad guys by making it easy for them to get guns, and you should probably be penalized for helping them. Don’t help the bad guys. Get a gun safe and keep your guns off the black market and out of the hands of the bad guys.

The final step in the process of reducing gun deaths in America is to institute a nationwide gun buy-back program. If you want to keep your guns, go ahead. But with an offer for just a hundred dollar grocery coupon, Los Angeles had thousands of guns turned in. It’s conceivable that if enough of us felt safe enough with the implementation of universal and comprehensive gun purchase background checks, and enough of us felt safe enough knowing gun safes will keep guns from being stolen and used by the bad guys, it’s quite possible that millions of us would sell our unused guns in a buy-back program.

Since so many "bad guys" aren't really "bad", but are troubled boys just trying to earn a living anyway they can (and for some people at the edges of society that happens to be illegally), I suspect a lot of bad guys will trade in their unused guns also. (Especially if they have an option like the American Jobs Program, have the kind of education the American Kids = Global Citizens program would provide, are offered local investment to start their own businesses that the Local Community Mutual Funds would make available, and have the kind of inspiration that the Search for Planet "B" would provide.) 

With millions fewer guns finding their way to the black market, the price of the remaining guns would increase even further putting them out of reach of even more people who shouldn't have guns.

When handguns are too expensive for most bad guys to purchase, it’s very likely the poor kid who shot and killed Lamonte Simmons would have punched him in the face instead. Let's not help the bad guys. Let’s keep tragedies like this from happening. Let’s give everyone a chance to be somebody. When in Congress I will support all sensible gun legislation that allows the good guys to keep guns, but identifies and keeps guns out of the hands of the bad guys.