The Federal Gun Control Law is Taking Shape

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The bipartisan efforts to curb and limit gun violence, especially the extremist mass shooting events, is starting to take form and details are emerging. This will determine what efforts that we as gun owners and second amendment supports have to voice to change in our favor so that the time, efforts, and funding go to places where we can make a positive difference.

Given the political makeup in Washington though, it will be an uphill battle.

What’s in it?

  • Extreme Risk Protection Order – “Red Flag” Funding
  • Expanded NICS Criteria
  • School Security Funding
  • Mental Health Funding

What isn’t in it?

  • Change the age requirement to 21

The ERPO expansion.

Especially in the format of federal funds for state programs, this is an easy avenue that can be made to achieve broad support. By making funding available, but leaving the format to the states PPO and ERPO programs, the federal government keeps its efforts very hands off and lowers the chances of offending voters. If all Congress does is fund the states, they pass the buck while doing something at the same time.

The problem remains what it has always been, ERPOs only work sometimes, when conditions are right, and are an extreme risk for generating false positives and abusing rights. I’m seeing the headline today that California’s was used 58 times to prevent mass shootings. I would be very curious to see the case data on those 58 incidents and compare them to similar verbal or written events where ERPO was not invoked. Any ERPO abuse will be costly for the state and harm the people the laws are in place to help. Liken it to a false rape accusation, it is false accusation of violent actions or intentions. It significantly negatively impacts those it is leveled against, and “We’re doing it to protect people or to save kids.” doesn’t do much to offset the loss of a job, thousands of dollars in litigation and time recovery, or the reputation you previously had before being ERPO’d. The existence of overreach or perceived overreach will itself be a major friction point. ERPO “Red Flag” laws are the one of the lowest measures though, and to be fair to them there are avenues and methods where they can increase positive outcomes.

On that can generate a positive outcome thought track, most of these proceedings must have some evidentiary basis for initiating from law enforcement, a prosecutor, or a medical professional. The counter-point is, if the ERPO is needed why are they still free to act and not being placed into some status of state custody to monitor their actions? This evidence is in front of the law and behavior professionals so why isn’t a greater custody status warranted but disarming them is?

These positive outcomes come with negative outcomes, there will be negative consequences with ERPOs and lives will be negatively impacted. That is a consequence we are accepting with ERPO expansion. Without careful monitoring and course corrections these have the potential to vastly outweigh the theoretically prevented incidents of violence, and even trigger tangential events. We cannot utopia ourselves into believing that these well intentioned ERPO programs, like every government program, will not be the target of abusers looking to leverage it in their favor.

We equally must not delude ourselves that, no matter how many flags we hand to the monitors, even to the point of flagrant rights violations, we will stop all incidents of extreme violence. We won’t stop any incident that doesn’t have enough precursors, doesn’t stay engaged and followed up upon by officials, doesn’t get properly entered into denial systems like NICS, doesn’t hit any one of a number of failure points that could allow a violent actor the freedom to act.

We’ve seen these failures, repeatedly. We’ve seen the laws passed and fail to prevent the next incident, and the next, and the next. We’ve seen the stress and anger in the nation rise, and our response seems to be ‘make being angry against the law’, but only in certain specific and quasi-unenforceable manners.

Refresh NICS

Honestly, this has merit. Refreshing what we consider a prohibited person deserves looking at from a number of angles, to include petty situations like use of marijuana. Prohibited persons needs a modernization.

But, I know that isn’t what they are talking about. My guess is this will focus on having state and local agency reporting mandates updated. The system will still be only as good as its oldest and least accurate data. Remember that 77% of mass killers who used firearms passed their checks, this includes the worst offenders like Vegas, Pulse, and Virginia Tech.

I have yet to see a criteria update and a method of database verification that looks like it is going to catch these problematic persons and deny them at least the dealer avenue of buying a firearm. That denial is unlikely to mean much either, as denial follow ups are a small percentage of denials, most initial denials are false positives, and the number of cases brought to court of accurately caught prohibited persons being tried and convicted for attempting to acquire a firearm are a miniscule percentage of the total denials.

Why?

Law enforcement does not consider them a significant threat or high priority in the vast majority of cases. They aren’t worth the time. So when the new criteria again fails to stop someone, or when someone gets denied and not followed up on, we’re just going to see another headline proclaiming “Known to authorities.” next to the picture of a shooter.

School Security

Here is where we can make headway, significant headway. But here we also have a hard limit on efficacy with diminishing returns.

We have to handle school types differently, for elementary and middle schools the threats tend to be exterior and in high schools the threat is more often interior. For both types the most safety can come from controlling where people can go and how they can get there. Elementary and Middle schools are attacked by someone outside, High schools are often attacked by an enrolled student. Faculty can also, sometimes, become a threat and faculty tends to have increased access. There are a many school districts who do not trust their faculty. They will not openly admit this, but find a district where classroom doors do not lock and you have found one where they do not trust their faculty.

Bath, MI. and Fort Hood are relevant examples of faculty or staff attacking their own.

The best thing we can do for schools is control access and maintain that control. What was originally reported as a propped open exterior door in Uvalde seems now to have been a maintenance failure. Doors only keep people out if they can stay closed. Controlling access with entrance management, making sure students don’t open the doors for strangers if asked to, man trap access during hours of operation. Making sure parents know to use the main entrance and check in and out, making sure there are no exceptions to this and that gate jumping won’t be tolerated, getting staff, students, and parents on the same sheet of music. A challenge but not impossible.

And if you, like me, are thinking that people could still get through, you’re right. This isn’t a perfect solution. There is no perfect solution, especially if we don’t want to ‘imprison’ our kids inside a school building.

School security gets ‘benignly’ violated every day. It is done by parents, students, and teachers who can’t be bothered to wait, or who prop open a door for convenience, or who politely hold a door open for someone coming in behind them, or who are really super extra in a hurry. In most cases there is no negative intent, people are simply impatient. But someone with negative intent can exploit these same avenues that an impatient parent or careless student can.

Mental Health Funding

Especially in the pandemic era, mental health resources for teens and young adults need as much support as we can possibly leverage. Teens and young adults are not the medically vulnerable population to things like COVID, but they are the most susceptible to the depressions involved with massive debt and inflation leveraged against their low income brackets.

Young people are convinced, not without reason, that the world is going to slowly collapse around them and it is the older folks who set this dumpster fire up for them. They aren’t necessarily wrong either. Millennial and Zoomer humor is dark for many reasons.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom either, we have problems but they are decidedly first world problems. We just grew up in an era in which we were told, in the shortest of terms, that we wouldn’t have problems. That we wouldn’t have serious problems. That as long as we went to college we’d get a good job and that managing finances would be easy. The amount of ‘lied to’ resentment from the younger two generations towards the elder two is high.

All this leads back to mental health funding, having the medical staff and facilities to take care of the stressed generations that, after being called lazy good for nothings for the past couple decades, are about to shoulder the burden of carrying the world. I am well aware that each generation has its clashes with the previous and the follow on, but the resentment between Millenial/Zoomer and X/Boomer is deep. This is prior to splitting that into the political factions and the varieties of chaos that all brings as everyone seeks validation for their existence.

Federal Firearms Age Limit

This is honestly the item I expected in the bill that appears to not be within it, but may become its own bill. It has some developmental merits to stand on that both pro-gun and anti-gun people can acknowledge. The devil is in the details, as usual, and I wouldn’t expect them to write it in, especially initially, in a way that I would support but raising the age of ‘Adulthood’ in the nation to 21 is not off the table as a discussion item.

But that’s the real sticking point. We aren’t talking a restructure of adult privileges and responsibilities in this nation, to include voting age, age to serve in the military, age to start paying taxes, age where parental benefits and protections run out, and so forth. We are only discussing firearms and that is a fundamental problem. We keep telling these kids they are only partial adults. Quasi-adults. That they can be trusted with X but not Y, and not really with Y until Z. It’s a mess.

So could changing the age to 21 for semi-auto firearms in general, and not simply handguns, produce a positive change?

Yes. It could.

Could being the operative term. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it won’t by any stretch of the imagination eliminate, or significantly hinder, extreme events. But it will put regulated firearm sales further down the mental maturation arc as we understand it, and from that sole standpoint (combined with other benefits that young adults should have, like tax exemption prior to voting age), it should be on the table for discussion.

Would 18 year old me be sad I couldn’t get my rifle? Yes. I would, especially since I was a Marine and had a work rifle. But I didn’t end up buying my own rifle until 21. Why? I was terrible at financing. That whole ‘budget’ thing took a minute to figure out. I’m far from unique in that circumstance so while I very much appreciated my right to arms, what I lacked was ability.

The question gets more complicated than that though, we aren’t just talking about a barely out of highschool teenager doing something stupid with a gun, we are talking about radically curbing the right of everyone in the 18-21 bracket to protect themselves if they are living outside a typical home structure where an adult figure can be.

We aren’t just telling a wild-with-new-freedoms 18 year old boy they can’t have an AR yet with their fast food job earnings. We’re also telling the boy who lives on their own they can’t have one. The young woman who lives on her own, is in a new space, a new city, a new situation, that she cannot have this means of protection. Maybe they don’t need it because they are still home, or in a safer and more monitored space like a campus. But what if they aren’t? We’re also telling the soldier, sailor, airmen, or Marine that they’re adult enough to go to war with these things but not adult enough to protect their home with it.

There are problems, lots of problems, with adjusting an age marker of adulthood. If we choose to change this age, we must do so while addressing all the problems in some mitigatory manner.

In short. The best case scenario for the law is that it funds school security and is otherwise fairly status quo on firearm regulation. Worst case, it makes a mess of firearm regulation for no gains whatsoever.