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Old January 7, 2011, 09:42 AM   #1
spookygeek
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The Tale of Two Guns

I found this story at the Washington Post and thought it might be a good read for others on the TFL.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...112103202.html

It tracks how two guns go from dealers to being used in crimes where they were used to kill police officers. The most interesting item in the story to me is how the first two purchasers who started the chain of events, while both purchasing the weapons illegally, had no particular nefarious intent. The handguns work their way through multiple hands until they reach people that cause the fatal shootings.

It illustrates fairly well how chaotic and haphazardly guns are moved from dealer to the streets. This is not a network of clandestine russian mobsters supplying weapons to criminals but instead a loose group of friends who are either too dumb or ignorant to understand the potential outcomes from their actions.

I hope we can leave any discussion of the role of gun "tracking" or background checks, etc out of this thread, that has probably been discussed on this and other forums in enough depth and is not really pertinent to the point of the article.

This was also my favorite quote:

"'I know it's not legal to have guns in Chicago," Jeter said. "But who doesn't have a gun? That's Chicago.'"
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Old January 7, 2011, 11:12 AM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spookygeek
It illustrates fairly well how chaotic and haphazardly guns are moved from dealer to the streets.
I think this statement is a significant over-reach. Anyone who has ever purchased a gun from a dealer would be hard pressed to consider the process "haphazard".


The problem of "straw purchasers" is a real one, however, and something substantial should be done.

My first thought is that straw purchasers should be charged with any crime that results from their purchase, even many years and multiple owners later. It would be very similar to a bank robber being charged for his accomplices death, or a dangerous driver being charged for a fatal crash that he caused but was not directly involved in.
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Old January 7, 2011, 11:47 AM   #3
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To clarify, my comments regarding the "chaotic and haphazard' were not meant to be with respect to the actual transactions by the dealers, but once those guns left the dealers.
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Old January 7, 2011, 11:56 AM   #4
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I could follow with the tale of multiple guns that moved in legal commerce to my possession and have never been used in any crimes, much less involving a Law Enforcement Officer. The process was never haphazard.
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Old January 7, 2011, 12:42 PM   #5
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Proving that someone made a straw purchase can be difficult.

The government has to prove the purchasers present intent at the time they filled out the form and answered "yes" to question 1 on the 4473.

It's a difficult thing to prove. The amount of time they actually owned the gun is evidence but it is not dispositive.

You would pretty much need the person they bought the gun for to testify against them.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
My first thought is that straw purchasers should be charged with any crime that results from their purchase, even many years and multiple owners later.
It's a federal offense, punishable by a 10-year prison sentence. In addition, several states also have laws specifically punishing the offense.

The Washington Post article, while trying its best to appear "balanced," does its best to portray gun dealers as being complicit.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:19 PM   #7
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Straw purchase vs gift

It is legal to purchase as a gift, though, correct?

IIRC, there is a block on the 4473 for that.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
My first thought is that straw purchasers should be charged with any crime that results from their purchase, even many years and multiple owners later.
What is your second thought?

Actual strawman purchases are sales done to people who know they are getting a gun for someone who cannot legally buy it. Tough to prove, and tough to enforce.

Other than certain specific places in law, we are not our brother's keepers. Nor should we be. Multiple owners down the line a crime is committed, the original purchaser is no more responsible for than the gun maker or seller.

ALthough some folks think that they should be. THis is not just a slippery slope, its a very short steep one with a drop strait to hell at the end.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:23 PM   #9
Bartholomew Roberts
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Quote:
My first thought is that straw purchasers should be charged with any crime that results from their purchase, even many years and multiple owners later. It would be very similar to a bank robber being charged for his accomplices death, or a dangerous driver being charged for a fatal crash that he caused but was not directly involved in.
You can make death by firing squad the punishment for straw purchases; but if you aren't going to prosecute straw purchasers, why bother? In the second story, two guys admit to a straw purchase. Heck, the felon in the straw purchase even later claims to police that the gun was stolen out of his car (instead of being sold for heroin money as actually happened). Apparently someone was able to track down the problem children here; but nothing happened?

If you fail to arrest and prosecute people for crimes, crimes will continue to happen no matter how strict the laws get.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
What is your second thought?

Actual strawman purchases are sales done to people who know they are getting a gun for someone who cannot legally buy it. Tough to prove, and tough to enforce.

Other than certain specific places in law, we are not our brother's keepers. Nor should we be. Multiple owners down the line a crime is committed, the original purchaser is no more responsible for than the gun maker or seller.
Well, you or I selling a gun (legally) that ends up two or three purchasers later being used in a crime is an entirely different scenario than someone INTENTIONALLY buying a gun for a KNOWN felon.

We are not responsible, he is.

As for my "second thought", I haven't had one yet on this topic. I'm not convinced that my first thought is wrong... not convinced it's right either... but I don't see a better answer right now.

Yes, it's hard to prove. Sometimes though, it can be proven. When it can, the penalty should be very, VERY high.

If someone over the age of 21 knowingly supplies alcohol to a minor and that minor kills someone in a car accident, the supplier of the alcohol should be charged with AT LEAST Criminally Negligent Homicide.

I don't see why a straw purchaser selling a gun to a cop killer is any different.
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Old January 7, 2011, 01:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
The Washington Post article, while trying its best to appear "balanced," does its best to portray gun dealers as being complicit.
I disagree, I think the article skirts this topic and neglects to focus on the issue of the culpability of the dealers for good reason. Its a much broader discussion and not one relevant to the limited scope of the article. While the article did not provide much discussion, it implied to me that the dealers were in compliance with the appropriate laws. Now whether you agree that those laws are adequate is another question entirely and one I think this article (smartly) avoids.
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Old January 7, 2011, 02:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
It is legal to purchase as a gift, though, correct? IIRC, there is a block on the 4473 for that.
There isn't a specific block on the 4473 for it. However, you are legally entitled to buy a gun for yourself, then gift it to someone else.

It becomes a crime when you buy the gun with the express purpose of giving it to someone who's not legally allowed to have it.

Quote:
I disagree, I think the article skirts this topic and neglects to focus on the issue of the culpability of the dealers for good reason
Actually, I was a bit disingenuous. The specific article you quoted is fairly neutral, but it's part of a broader expose called "The Hidden Life of Guns." The broader piece is graced by such articles as:
  • Gun Store Under Investigation
  • NRA-Led Gun Lobby's Powerful Influence
  • Sellers Shut Down by ATF Find Other Ways
  • Maryland Gun Store Tied to 2500 Crime Guns
  • How Politics Protect Gun Dealers

Of interest, however, is the interview with Jim Cavanaugh. He actually comes across as far more even-handed than history would suggest.
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Old January 7, 2011, 02:21 PM   #13
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Laws only work on the Law Abiding.

Quote:
The problem of "straw purchasers" is a real one, however, and something substantial should be done.
Why there oughta be a LAW!

There are laws..... and laws on top of laws. They just are not enforced very well. Even in the small percentage of straw purchasers that are prosecuted and convicted, how many do serious time? The prisons are full: they can't lock everybody up that deserves it. Instead of building more prisons, or going to Porfiriato-style Justice (Just shoot lawbreakers.), it is easier to say "Something substantial must be done! Pass another Law!" Make it ...... what? More "illegall-er-ish-ness-ism" to make a straw purchase? That is of no use....... A felony? What? Another Felony? What, pray tell, can a felon not do that a non-felon can? They can vote. Join the Military. Get jobs. The one thing they can not do is buy or posess a firearm legally..... but they were not too terribly concerned with the legalities of firearm ownership in the first place, now were they? Where is the stick? Why would somebody not inclined to follow the law be any more inclined to follow it after they have been busted?

There is not enough distance between a pat on the back and kick in the pants anymore.
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Old January 7, 2011, 03:16 PM   #14
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Tom Servo...

.... I thought there was a block for "I am buying this for myself." Yes or no.

I'd have thought, if buying as a gift, I'd check "No" and then annotate that it's for my mother, etc. (IE, a recipient who may lawfully own it.)

How would one execute a gift purchase?
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Old January 7, 2011, 04:25 PM   #15
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This is one of the anti-firearms establishment's main arguments. "All guns start their life as a legal purchase" so the sales to lawful buyers must be restricted. It is a straw man argument and falls apart under scrutiny. They simply want to restrict all firearm sales, to all persons, under all circumstances while they claim that they are not trying to do so.

This is right up there with the hunting purposes argument, and how they do not seek to restrict firearms, while all the while attempting to restrict firearms.
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Old January 7, 2011, 04:52 PM   #16
Bartholomew Roberts
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Quote:
NRA-Led Gun Lobby's Powerful Influence
Yes, that one was a particularly bad piece of propaganda.
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Old January 7, 2011, 05:27 PM   #17
spookygeek
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Quote:
This is one of the anti-firearms establishment's main arguments. "All guns start their life as a legal purchase" so the sales to lawful buyers must be restricted. It is a straw man argument and falls apart under scrutiny. They simply want to restrict all firearm sales, to all persons, under all circumstances while they claim that they are not trying to do so.
I think it may be worthwhile to explain my take on this issue. I am far from an expert and tend to be fairly middle of the road when it comes to politics.

I think the crux of the issue is what effective strategy exists to minimize the illegal buyers of firearms. Clearly I think there is room for discussion on improving measures that minimize the occurance of illegal gun transactions while at the same time preserving the right for lawful transactions. My concern is that your logic relies on the belief of a slippery slope - that any one action in a direction opposite from one extreme must inevitably lead to the other. While I concede that there any many anti-firearm groups that wish to abolish legal gun ownership, taking the stance that any regulation must be moving towards the same extreme ignores the existence of a middle ground.

For more reading (and yes I am a nerd):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
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Old January 7, 2011, 07:01 PM   #18
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimBob86
Why there oughta be a LAW!

I didn't say anything about more laws. There are enough laws. Some laws need harsher penalties and better enforcement. Straw purchasing of firearms is one of them, particularly if the firearm ends up being used in a violent crime.


I have always believed that in virtually all cases a sequence of events that is initiated by and can be demonstrably linked to a crime should held to the account of the person who initiated that sequence.

We already do it in many cases. Serving alcohol to a minor is one example. If you stab someone and they end up dying due to doctor negligence, it is you the stabber that gets charged and not the doctor, at least in some states.

Straw purchasing a firearm should be the same. If you knowingly purchase a firearm under illegal circumstances and set into motion a chain of events that leads to murder, YOU should be responsible as well as the guy who pulled the trigger.
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