CITY LIFE

Published on January 4th, 2016 | by Joe Korbuszewski

6

Let’s talk about guns: a gun owner’s perspective on gun control

I am a gun owner. I currently own five firearms, but I have owned more. I am not an NRA member and I fully support making firearms more difficult to get. In the wake of recent tragic events, it has become clear that state gun laws are useless, and I’ve had enough. 

It is business as usual across America; one side wants to enact a bunch of laws which make a firearm more difficult to get, the other mentions something about mental health or prayers and refuses to move an inch on the issue.

The people who want change tend to be horribly uninformed on the workings of firearms regulations, while gun owners offer no solution to gun violence other than, “More Guns.” We are at a stand-still.

I am in a unique position: I’ve spent many hours at gun ranges and on pro-gun message boards. I have intimate knowledge of what drives the interests of gun owners and why we choose to own firearms. I am not a fan of the NRA and the control they have placed over our nation’s politics. I believe that the NRA has painted a dark cloud over the act of gun ownership.

If you and I really want to see any change, then we have to be more organized and more informed. It is time for us, the gun owner and the non-gun owner, to have a long and uncomfortable conversation.

Get yourself a cup of coffee or a beer (depending on what time it is) and have a seat. I’m about to give you a crash course on firearm ownership in America.

Let’s Talk About Guns…

Gun enthusiasts speak in very technical terms. This is a tactic used to make people like you (the non-gun owner) feel ill-informed and unable to have a conversation. It is also a tactic used to skirt the left and their definitions placed on firearms. (Remember this word- definitions.)

We can start here- This is one of my rifles.

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Let’s discuss what this gun is and isn’t.

This is NOT an AK-47 assault weapon. An AK-47 assault weapon is a fully automatic rifle used by militaries, terror organizations, and rebel/guerilla groups across the world. The AK-47 (and its variants, the AKM) is the single most produced firearm in history. It is a very efficient killing machine, prized for its durability and ease of use (a child can be taught to use one very effectively, and unfortunately, many have). The terms assault weapon and assault rifle are frowned upon by gun enthusiasts because technically, to be labeled either of those things, the gun must have select fire capability. In other words, it must have the ability to operate in a fully automatic mode. (See?  Definitions).

I digress. Stay with me, this has a point.

My rifle is a CAI Romanian GP WASR-10 sporting rifle, or an AK that has been modified to be sold to civilians in the U.S. This gun began life in Romania as a military weapon. It was produced at the Cugir arms factory and maintained by the Romanian military. After the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) expired in 2004, many of the guns sitting unused in old eastern-bloc armories were stripped down and sent to the U.S. This gun was imported by Century Arms International (North America’s largest surplus weapons importer). Once on U.S. soil, the rifle was modified and rebuilt to be compliant with our gun laws. It was then shipped to dealers that have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and sold to the public.

So, what is it that makes my rifle legal for sale in the U.S.? It’s semi-automatic; this means that I have to pull the trigger every single time it fires, and thus, according to gun enthusiasts, it’s not an assault weapon. It also has fewer than 10 foreign made parts on it. That’s it.

This gun is advertised and sold as a sporting rifle, but make no mistake- I’m telling you as its owner- this gun was invented and produced as a weapon of war and it essentially remains so.

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My AK has a bayonet lug (as you can see). It also has a threaded barrel to accept different accessories such as flash suppressors, muzzle brakes or (if I wanted to break the law) a sound suppressor. It has a side-mounted rail fitted with a red dot scope. I have added a folding stock and it takes standard AK magazines (those are both 30 round magazines in the photo and that is 30 rounds lined up, to give you a visual of the firepower that I legally possess). If I were so inclined, I could replace the wood furniture with composite pieces which have more tactical rails. This would allow me to fit flashlights, laser sights, bi-pods or any number of firearm accessories. Every feature on this gun is legal in Washington State as well as most of the U.S.

In 2006 I walked into a gun store in Seattle and purchased this AK. I pointed at it, held it, cycled the action, and placed three hundred dollars cash on the counter. I provided my Driver’s License, filled out the required paperwork and within thirty minutes my new AK and I were going home. There is no waiting period for an AK in Washington and there are very few restrictions on which accessories I can and cannot have. (The only wait that Washington has is a five day period for handguns.)

This is not the only AK I have owned. I also purchased a Yugoslavian made AK with an under-folding stock at a different store in Seattle. I sold an SKS (another surplus semi-automatic rifle) to a friend to purchase the Yugo AK. I later sold the Yugo AK to another friend in 2007. The SKS and the Yugo were both private party sales which means no paperwork had to be filed. I simply took cash and handed a firearm to someone. Looking back, I regret my lack of responsibility. I don’t know who has either of those guns now, as I have lost contact with both of those people. This has since been remedied in Washington State; I-594 passed in 2014 (which I voted for) making private party sales illegal. If I were to sell my Romanian AK today, I would have to meet the buyer at a gun store and they would have to pass a federal background check in order to purchase my gun. (Private party sales are still allowed in many other states).

The Background Check…

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (or NICS) has been used since 1998. The paper form (you can see it here) requires you to answer sixteen questions regarding your criminal record, history of drug use and mental health. After you fill out the form, the person at the store gets online and contacts the FBI with your info. Most of the time you are approved in a matter of minutes and you get a new gun.

Things that would cause you to fail a background check are the following: If you have been convicted of a felony or domestic violence, if you currently have a warrant out for your arrest or a restraining order against you, if you are not a U.S. citizen or have renounced your citizenship, if you have ever been committed to a mental hospital or declared mentally ill, and finally, if you are currently a drug addict or have pending criminal drug charges against you, you cannot buy a gun.

(It should be noted that having your name on a no-fly list or the terrorist watch list does not disqualify you from owning a firearm. Neither does openly being a member of a hate group or terror organization.)

The information that is used to determine whether or not you qualify to own a firearm comes from a federal database of criminal and medical records. The problem with this database is that it is incomplete and underfunded. State, county, and city police forces are not required to submit criminal data, just as states are not required to submit mental health records of their residents. It’s voluntary. Essentially, the entire system hinges on the hope that you won’t lie on your form, and that any criminal or mental health information about you gets entered into the system in a timely manner, and as we know, this doesn’t always happen.

(This is all due to a Supreme Court case in 1997. In Printz v. United States, it was argued that requiring this information was a violation of state’s rights and that providing the necessary information should be voluntary. The two plaintiffs were Jay Printz and Richard Mack. Jay Printz is now a board member of the NRA and Richard Mack is known for his role with the Oath Keepers.)

If there is a problem and the FBI needs to contact a police agency about you, they have three days to do so or the sale proceeds anyway. Read that again. If there is a problem and the FBI needs to contact a police agency about you, they have three days to do so or the sale proceeds and you walk out of the store with your gun. If the FBI receives information that you were indeed ineligible to possess a firearm, it is now up to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to retrieve that weapon. (This is the loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to legally acquire the firearm used to kill nine people in a church).

The Legal Gun Market…

Ok, so you walk into your local gun store, pick an AK off the shelf and pass your background check. (Or maybe you buy 2-3 AKs, WA has no limits on how many firearms a person can purchase at a time). Now what?

It’s time to accessorize. The AK and The AR platform are both endlessly customizable, this is what makes them so popular. Message boards like AR-15.com and AK-47.net are filled with threads where enthusiasts post photos of their rifles in different configurations. For the industry, the money is in the accessories, and the beauty of the accessories is that they are in large part 100% unregulated and untraceable.

(For the sake of time, we’re going to focus on the AK because that is what I currently own, but be aware that the AR platform has all of the same options, if not more.)

Here’s where things get interesting. Take your new gun or guns home (you can walk down the street with your new rifle in Washington as long as it is visible) and fire up your laptop; the options are endless- Guns America, K-Var, Atlantic Firearms, Cheaper Than Dirt, Surplus Ammo

These sites just scratch the surface. There are hundreds of other websites selling the exact same things, but the key here is that you can buy anything you want that isn’t an operable firearm and have it shipped right to your front door. Some sites may require a copy of your driver’s license for certain items, but most will give you the benefit of the doubt and send your order with no oversight.

Do you want 2,500 rounds of ammunition sent to your home with the swipe of a debit card? I’ve done it. It’s perfectly legal in Washington, so why stop at 2,500? You want body armor? No problem. It’s legal in 49 states. No questions asked. Just know that it’s a felony to use body armor in the commission of a crime.

Let’s talk about magazines (we hate it when you say clips). Your newly purchased AK probably came with two 30 round magazines. That means that you can fire 30 bullets as fast as you can pull the trigger, replace your empty magazine with a full one and repeat. Maybe that’s not enough firepower for you. You can get a 75 round drum shipped right to your door. Now you can fire 75 bullets at something without having to reload. (If 75 still doesn’t get the job done, you can get an old Chinese 100 round drum in an auction but they are more expensive.)

Now that you’ve got all of this firepower, maybe you’d like to increase your rate of fire (I’m serious). You can get a Slide Fire Stock for about $160.00 sent right to your house. It takes two screws and about five minutes to install and gives you… well it gives you this:

Twenty-Seven Words…

So this is what we’ve come to; I can arm myself in such a manner as a civilian with little to no oversight. Almost all of us can. It is not up to us as citizens to provide sound reasoning for owning such weapons. It is up to the government to prove why we shouldn’t have them. This is because of the Second Amendment.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

These twenty-seven words are used by some as an end-all to any argument which would suggest even slight restrictions on gun ownership in America. In their eyes, the Second Amendment is not open to interpretation and gives them not just a right to own firearms, but the unlimited right to own as many firearms as they want.

The major issue with this thinking is that none of our rights are limitless.

Freedom of speech has plenty of limits; I am not allowed to make statements which incite murder or violence. I can’t libel people that I don’t agree with. I can’t say the word “FUCK” on television and I definitely can’t yell the word “BOMB” in an airport. Freedom of assembly/association has limits as well; just try having a protest march without a permit. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t mean that my luggage can’t be seized and searched at any time in an airport and our freedom of religion doesn’t give me the right to use my religion as a reason to discriminate against other citizens.

(The ongoing theme here is that your rights tend to stop when the safety of others is in question.)

We have to take a step back and look at the big picture.

The NRA proudly estimates that there are now more guns than people in the United States. We have reached a point where it is acceptable for civilians to possess unlimited amounts of ammunition and firearms, and the gun industry is providing us with the capacity to kill with fantastic efficiency. These same firearms are being legally acquired by dangerous people to commit horrible acts of violence. We have reached a point where the right for me to own a 50 round magazine for a handgun trumps anyone else’s right to safety.

Gun owners will give a handful of reasons to own these weapons ranging from defense against looters and riots, burglars and other criminals, and of course, to protect themselves from the inevitability of a tyrannical government. And clearly; if I have to defend myself against someone wearing body armor and the ability to fire thirty bullets at me, then I need equal or more firepower.

We have created our own arms race.

We have reached a point where we are being told that the answer to all of this madness isn’t less guns; it’s MORE guns, and when anyone brings up the idea of gun law reform they are met with shouts of “unconstitutional” and “gun laws don’t work!”  

The power of the NRA and lack of regulation have created a mess of state, county, and city laws, so much so that one can be fully in-line with the law and then commit a felony for simply driving across a city limit with their rifle. This is why the argument of, “Chicago banned guns and look at their crime rate!” holds no water.

Chicago’s gun ban means nothing if I can drive outside city limits and purchase any gun I want. California has more gun regulations than most states but what purpose does it serve if I can buy an AR-15 in Nevada or Arizona? (Both of those states allow private sales with no paperwork.) No regional gun law can be as effective as a federal one.

Where we go from here…

Well, we’re not going to ban all firearms in the United States. That would most likely result in another civil war and the dissolution of the union (trust me, I’ve read plenty of posts in gun forums fantasizing about it). Besides, the majority of the firearms that are owned in America are not being used to commit crimes.

What we can do is draft gun laws that actually make sense.

Let’s start with universal background checks and funding to bring the NICS system up to speed. Most NRA members support this, however, the heads of the organization have made it clear that they will allow no gun control laws to pass.

If you have ties to a known terrorist group you should not have access to a firearm. The NRA is fighting this because they are afraid that patriot movement groups (who pointed guns at federal agents at the Bundy Ranch and are currently occupying a federal building in Oregon) could someday be defined as terror groups.

Bump fire stocks, like the one shown in the youtube video above, should be made illegal, period.

Magazine capacities need to be limited. The issue of magazine capacity will eventually be decided along with the ban of assault weapons by the Supreme Court, and while they recently decided against hearing the case to overturn one such ban in Illinois, they will be forced to rule on the issue soon. By not ruling on the case, they are currently giving the go-ahead to more cities, counties, and states to enact their own bans.

Allow the CDC to study gun violence; not because I believe that guns are a disease, but because we, as a nation need to know the true cost of gun violence. While we have compiled mountains of data on the monetary costs of cancer, obesity, and heart disease, there is little to no information on how much money gun violence actually costs us as a nation. (Although, here is a pretty good estimate.)

Be proactive: contact your representatives, get a hold of your senators, call your Governor’s office. The NRA has full control of this issue and there is no longer any middle ground. Inform your local and state politicians that it is time to stand up against the organization.

Finally, we as a nation need to take real action with our current mental health system. The lack of mental health care in this country contributes not just to gun violence, but also homelessness, drug addiction, and many other issues. It is time to stop paying lip service to mental health and do something about it.

As a gun owner, I am supposed to tell you that changing a few laws won’t end gun violence. It’s true: these changes won’t stop all shootings. They won’t put an end to crime or suicides. But they will lessen them, and we have to start somewhere.

I will no longer accept that the murder of twenty children is just the cost of liberty.

I cannot justify that my right to fire 75 rounds without reloading is more important than the safety of the people around me.

More guns aren’t the answer. It can’t be. I want to leave my children a nation where owning a firearm is an option, not a requirement.

If you would like to read further about the NRA’s reach and power over United States gun policies, I highly recommend this article.  

 

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About the Author

"I don't know much. But I know I love Washington. And that may be all I need to know." Internetter, Writer, Husband, Dad, Belgian Beer Snob.



6 Responses to Let’s talk about guns: a gun owner’s perspective on gun control

  1. Bill Schlanbusch says:

    Way to be, Joe. Nicely done. Overthrow the NRA. Tyrannical, anti-American demagogues.

  2. Mary Lynn says:

    What a thoughtful piece of writing. Thank you.

  3. Ben says:

    Yes let’s strip people of their rights to due process through the use of secretive government lists while ignoring the fact that the NRA has been trying to expand NICS coverage of mental health. Or the whole bit where the ATF has been trying to reduce the number of dealers.

    See: NICS Improvement Act of 2007

  4. Sally Alger says:

    I agree that this is a thoughtful article. I am curious about the writer’s own motive for owning guns. What isit that satisfies about owning firearms?

  5. Newscat says:

    Canada stands as an example of effective, commonsense gun laws. In Canada, a prospective gun owner must take a class in gun safety, and pass a written and physical skills test to receive a license. In five years, they must pass it again to retain the license. Obviously possession of a gun is not immediate. Also, when being considered for a license, family members or spouses who feel threatened by the individual have a chance to weigh in on the wisdom of granting him or her a license.

    I don’t think such a system in any way impedes the ‘freedom’ of a gun owner. We need to stop emotional resistance to laws with real teeth in them, and admit the illegal, immediate sale of weapons that takes place at gun shows. No real progress can be made until we shut them down, or enforcel legislation that applies to them as well. I have seen the words “Obama is coming to take your guns” from emotional yahoos for the last seven years. It’s time that good gun owners pressure the NRA and lawmakers to take our safety seriously. We’re becoming ‘Number One’ in gun deaths.

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