Posts Tagged ‘guns’

A pair of stories in recent days pointed up the complexities of modern policing and the tremendous challenges faced by people who work in the field.

The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal recently published a long form article outlining their review of thousands of documents related to federal ATF agents’ duping mentally disabled informants and engaging in other troubling behavior.

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to the article, agents went so far as to encourage two teens – one who was mentally disabled – to get large tattoos on their necks promoting a fake store front that agents operated as part of an undercover gun sting.

And that was only one of a series of findings identified in the article. Others included:

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If you’re interested in the technology field at all, you’ve almost certainly heard of 3D printing, which, according to Lisa Harouni, is a technology that “will change and disrupt the landscape of manufacturing, and most certainly our lives, our businesses and the lives of our children.”  That’s a pretty sweeping prediction, but we’re already seeing examples of how 3D printing has clashed with fundamental legal concepts, such as those memorialized in the Bill of Rights.

This is especially evident in printed objects, such as firearms, that raise both First Amendment and Second Amendment issues. A recent TechCrunch article on one company’s efforts to distribute plans for a printable handgun did an excellent job of laying out the various angles, including the relevant legal cases that point up the challenges in deciding these types of Constitutional questions.

Test firing of a 3D printed handgun 

To simplify, on one side are free speech advocates who make the claim that restricting access to printing plans, even for a handgun, amounts to a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantees regarding free speech. Just because a printing plans allows for the creation of a weapon does not give the government authority to censor the plans themselves, the argument goes. The plans are protected speech, even if the resulting firearms may ultimately be determined illegal.

On the other side are those who argue that criminals and terrorists now have an easy, cheap, and effective way of manufacturing nearly undetectable weapons. As a proof of that concept, two reporters in the U.K. actually manufactured a 3D printed handgun and smuggled it aboard the Eurostar rail line undetected. They had no ammunition, and they had also removed the firing pin from the gun, but their point was made: If they could do it, anyone could, including someone with criminal intent.

So, what is your position on this? Vote in this week’s poll and see the results!

I’m a little late on this one, but Happy Friday to everyone. It was a busy, chaotic week – and I fell behind on most things, including this post.  The videos for this week include raw footage of police and bystanders rescuing a man from a burning car, some youngsters terrorizing a neighborhood with guns, and a moving art installation that baffles the Toronto police.

Enjoy!

This one warms your heart (no pun intended).

Ugh.

Toronto Police Officer: “The safety factor is, uh – unsafe.”

Have a great weekend!

If you haven’t seen it yet, the below video footage of officers responding to a man-with-a-gun call at a University of Central Florida dormitory was released this week.  It shows officers quickly and carefully responding to the call and searching for the reported gunman, who turned out to have committed suicide in his dorm room prior to officers arriving.

In addition to the firearms seen in the video, police later recovered explosive materials in bags near the man’s body. Thankfully, those didn’t detonate, and the alleged gunman wasn’t able to carry out his reported plan to corral and kill a number of people on the campus by pulling the fire alarm.

This incident was another reminder, though, of the unpredictability of human behavior, especially when it comes to violence.

Have a safe weekend!

Gun control, and topics surrounding it, have been much discussed in the wake of recent high-profile cases of gun violence in the U.S. One question that arises in this context is the restrictions placed on gun ownership based on criminal conviction status. Are these restrictions appropriate and will they prevent the types of violence we’ve seen in recent months?

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 is the legislation that made it illegal for convicted felons (among other groups of excluded persons) to purchase or own a firearm. This was in reaction to high-profile gun violence, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy early in the 1960s. This law was later modified in 1986 by passage of the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which gave certain powers over gun ownership back to the states.

Currently, all individuals convicted of a felony lose their right to firearm ownership, as do some individuals convicted of misdemeanor offenses. For example, someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence is banned under federal law from owning or possessing a firearm, as are respondents to a restraining orders. Some state laws are even more strict in this regard.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

The goal of all this, many would reasonably argue, is to reduce the likelihood of gun violence by those convicted of serious crimes, as well as by those who have demonstrated a propensity for violence (thus, the domestic violence restriction). This Federal Gun Control Legislation Timeline seems to support the idea of a progression in government control of gun ownership over time as a way to legislatively address gun violence.

The problem with all this is that not all serious crimes are violent crimes, nor are they all committed by violent people. Those convicted of felony-level fraud or embezzlement lose their right to bear arms right alongside people convicted of felony assault or murder. This may seem counter-intuitive if our goal is to reduce violence, but that’s how the system has evolved.

People can and do change, which is partly why some felons can have their right to own firearm ownership restored. Laws and rules about this vary from one state to the next, so some research is required to determine how this applies in a particular jurisdiction. Some states automatically restore the right once the term of the felony conviction is over, while others require the individual to appeal for restoration.

Court
Ultimately, there is little incentive for legislators or lobbyists to argue for less restrictive gun laws that would allow non-violent felons to retain the right of firearms ownership, especially in the current climate. To many people, a felon is a felon is a felon, and the exact circumstances of the offense don’t matter all that much. Also, some studies have shown that restricting a felon’s access to firearms reduces the likelihood of future violent crimes by 20-30%.

I suspect that as long as that’s the case, the situation will change little, if any at all. What are your thoughts on this, though? Are there any viable reasons to modify existing laws to allow non-violent offenders to retain their Second Amendment rights? If so, how might we do that effectively and what might be the possible consequences?

Mass murder is not a new phenomenon, of course, but it’s one that’s stirred considerable public worry and outrage in recent months. That the most recent spate of high-profile killings have been the result of gun violence has also renewed the debate about the limits of gun ownership in the U.S.

Like other divisive topics – such as abortion, government spending, and the like – debate over firearms generates strong emotions on all sides. The result is less an actual debate than a sort of public scrum, with everyone talking past each other to ensure that their side’s viewpoint winds up on top.

Real solutions too often get shouted down in this age of 24-hour “news” cycles that consist largely of talking heads tearing each other apart for the entertainment of their viewing audiences. Reasonable ideas, such as one published in the Wall Street Journal, Mike Thompson: A Middle Path to Reducing Gun Violence, get lost in the maelstrom.

Even compromise approaches like Thompson’s that simply stress better background checks, enhanced access to mental health records, and improved law enforcement and prosecution of gun cases only begin to scratch the surface of what actually needs to be done to curb gun violence.  It focuses too much on government and its processes and regulations.

The problem isn’t guns, you see, it’s people.

What’s really called for is a comprehensive plan of systemic prevention that integrates individual, family, community, institution, and cultural factors into a coordinated effort that focuses squarely on reducing the overall risk of all types of violence.

This is no different than the public health approaches used to reduce the risk of contagious diseases. Brandon Keim does an excellent job of laying out this argument in his Wired article, Is It Time to Treat Violence Like a Contagious Disease? This approach, combined with elements of Thompson’s middle path concept, could significantly reduce the risk of future acts of mass murder.

Ultimately, we don’t need to further limit the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, and we probably don’t need to post armed guards in every school or on every corner either. We just need to stop and consider the real underlying issue – that violence is a human problem that spreads and infects very much like a germ – and then garner the political will to actually do something constructive, comprehensive, and coordinated to address it.

That’s always the hard part: actually doing something about the problem instead of just talking about it. It’s time for reasoned action, though. Our very lives are depending on it.