Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine introduced a new piece of legislation aimed at holding gun dealers liable for illegal sales to prohibited persons. As The Hill reported, the Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act would “apply to both federally-licensed gun dealers and private sellers.” They added that Kaine blamed lax gun laws that allow prohibited persons from buying firearms. Additionally, he says this legislation is sensible gun control.
“As recent tragedies in Virginia and across the country have shown, the gun laws in our country have done little to stem senseless gun violence,” he said.
The problem is that criminals rarely* ever buy their firearms legally. In fact, most criminals obtain their firearms through straw purchases, which we can’t do much about. Yes, shady gun dealers with federal firearms licenses are another source in which bad guys get guns, but in both cases it’s against the law. A person who helps someone obtain a firearm who is not allowed to own one is breaking the law. A person who knowingly approves a gun transfer to someone who is barred from owning a firearm is breaking the law. It’s an offense that carries serious jail time.
In Maryland, Jonathan Sutton was indicted for obtaining six firearms for felon Daniel P. Welch; Welch was sentenced to ten years in prison. Sutton faces up to five years imprisonment for his actions. In some states, like Pennsylvania, jail time for straw purchases could land you up to 12 years in prison.
Lastly, Vester Lee Flanagan, the perpetrator who murdered WDBJ’s Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on live television in August, bought his firearms legally, as he didn’t have a criminal record, nor was he mentally adjudicated by the state. There’s evidence that he might have been mentally disturbed and fraught with anger issues. When he was fired from WDBJ in February of 2013, he reportedly killed his cats.
Expanding background checks that somehow incorporate mental health is a legitimate issue, and a debate that everyone should welcome. At the same time, it’s going to be a long process, as every person exhibiting signs of mental illness isn't necessarily a danger to the general public. Additionally, it might be able to place a magnifying glass on the overall support system, which commentators have noted is in horrific shape.
At the same time, that’s not what Sen. Kaine is discussing here. It’s just redundant regulations that will have minimal impact in curbing gun violence. What he’s proposing with this bill is already a crime. As U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said of the Welch and Sutton indictments, “It is illegal to help a criminal get a gun.”
Silver lining: This bill is going nowhere.
*Yes, I know I’m stating the obvious. It’s a sad commentary that gun control supporters still haven't accepted this basic fact.