Over the last year or so Teen Vogue has shifted their focus from pop culture, make up and the latest fashions to talking about political issues. In a recent column, author Lincoln Anthony Blades argues that while California's gun laws are not perfect, they're a step in the right direction. You know, towards full on gun control.
Buying A Gun In The Golden State
Blades attempts to explain the gun-buying process in California, but it's evident that he's never actually gone through the process.
Even in states like California where reasonable gun laws exist, gun violence can still occur for myriad reasons. Anyone who knows a gun owner and has access to their weapon can take it, with or without permission, and use it for harm. As in most states, children can also be gifted weapons in California: Reveal explains that from 2010 to 2015, at least 51,672 guns were transferred among family members in the state, where the law does not require a background check on a new receipient [sic] until after the gun changes hands.
Correction: "Children" cannot be gifted a gun. Anyone who is 18 — the age in which the government deems someone a legal adult — can be gifted a gun.
I was one of those 51,672 people who was gifted a gun between 2010 and 2015. When I went through the process, here's what happened:
1) I was at least 18 years old.
2) I had to be legally allowed to own the firearm (not a prohibited possessor).
3) The firearm could not be an assault weapon (by California standards).
4) I had to take the Firearm Safety Certificate test at my local federal firearms licensee (FFL) and pass with at least a 75 percent.
5) I had to fill out the Report of Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction and send it to the DOJ.
Making it sound like a father goes to his gun safe, pulls out a firearm and hands it to his kid is not only wrong but it's seriously false. It's because of narratives like these that Americans are so uneducated on firearms and firearm policies. In fact, most of the policies that gun control advocates demand — like background checks — are already on the books.
The Typical Gun Control Arguments
Blades wasted no time making the typical gun control argument that crimes happen in gun control strongholds like California and New York because people go to other states to purchase their guns:
Secondly, strict gun laws don’t stop the transfer of weapons over state lines; many of the guns used by criminals in California were actually brought there from outside of the state. Approximately 6,000 guns used by criminals in California in 2014 alone were purchased in neighboring states like Arizona and Nevada, where there are considerably fewer restrictions. In other states with tougher gun laws, including New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, gun traffickers subvert the laws by smuggling guns legitimately purchased in states with lax laws across the state lines of jurisdictions where tough gun laws exist. Only federal gun reform or, at the very least, more stringent state-sponsored gun control could eliminate illicit gun buying.
There are so many flaws with this logic (or lack thereof). For one, gun control advocates seriously give criminals way too much credit. If a person wants to commit a crime and they decide they need a gun to carry out that crime, they're going to do whatever they deem necessary to get their hands on a firearm. These criminals aren't leaving states like California or New York to go and buy a gun because it's "illegal" for them to buy one in those states. They're getting their guns on the black market and guess what? There has to be someone or a group of someones with a clean record at the other end of the purchase (or end of the chain) who is legally buying these firearms. Making the assumption that the legal purchaser is buying them out-of-state is absurd. There's no way to know if John Doe is buying their guns for the black market in California or Arizona. That's mere speculation.
More gun laws can be put on the books but that's not going to suddenly keep the guns out of the hands of criminals. You know why? Because you'd still have that one person with a clean background buying guns for criminals (known as straw purchases). Until those straw purchasers are caught committing a crime, they're going to continue to skate by untouched.
The Well-Intentioned Attack
Of course, a gun control OpEd wouldn't be pro-gun control if the author didn't take a stab at the National Rifle Association (NRA) and law-abiding gun owners.
Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the "liberal gun reform doesn't work" ideology that comes after a shooting in a state like California is the idea that a singular method of preventing gun violence exists. In reality, there is no panacea to prevent gun violence in America: Its prevention requires a massive commitment to various strategies, enacted concurrently, from reforming the sale process, to restricting access to people on the terror watch list, to banning bump stocks, to leading organized social and political action.
Restricting a person's access to firearms if he or she appears on the terror watch list makes sense until you really look into the process. The major problem with determining whether or not someone should be allowed to possess a firearm based on the terror watch list is the lack of due process. A person can be put on the terror watch list for almost any reason and he or she has no means of fighting the determination. Not only is that unconstitutional but it's dangerous. If a person's Second Amendment right is going to be taken away then they deserve to have a trial.
But what must end in this debate regarding the effectiveness of America's gun laws is the dishonesty with which we allow gun advocates to present themselves as well-intentioned advocates who want to end gun violence, just with divergent strategies. This isn't a struggle between two sides both interested in ending gun violence, but rather one side attempting to save lives and another side attempting to protect the National Rifle Association by derailing the conversation. The NRA is not an institution committed to the safe handling of weapons, but rather a wealthy organization that uses the most heinous tragedies in the nation to protect the sanctity of weapons like the AR-15 while demonizing video games and stigmatizing mental health.
The worst argument that gun control advocates, like Blades, make: that gun owners don't care about anything other than themselves and their guns. That logic is the furthest thing from the truth. Gun owners are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. They have children. They want to make sure their families are protected, which is why most people with concealed carry permits carry on a daily basis.
No gun owner wants to see children shot in schools. No gun owner wants to see gang members use and abuse a tool that should be used as a last resort.
Gun owners want one thing: to have the ability to utilize their Second Amendment rights without being labeled "terrorists" or blamed for criminals who commit crimes with firearms.
While it's quick to blame the NRA for "derailing" the gun violence conversation, gun control advocates need to understand something: the NRA is one of many gun right advocacy groups who are all fighting for the same thing. The NRA is powerful because of its members, not in spite of them. These anti-gunners are quick to blame the NRA for anything and everything gun-related but all they're really doing is placing the blame at the wrong people. They're placing the blame on 5 million law abiding gun owners and not the criminals.