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When US Gun Laws Aren't Enforced

There is a great deal of debate in the US regarding gun control. This is an emotionally charged issue, so it is difficult to use logic and facts to offer explanations. Too often, people want to disregard the facts in favor of emotions. However, all we can do is try. One way is to explain that more gun laws are much less of an answer than enforcing existing gun laws.

A lot of folks don’t understand what gun laws aren’t enforced. I recently read a wonderful explanation, giving an example of a gun law that isn’t enforced. I’m paraphrasing it here.

It should be mentioned that there are presently over 20,000 gun laws in the US, and that is being conservative. These deal with everything from what guns can be purchased, where they can be purchased, who can purchase them, how they can be purchased, and how they are to be used. So what is the example of a gun law that often isn’t enforced?

Let’s say that “Tom” is a convicted drug felon. By law, he can’t purchase, have, keep, or own a gun. So his girlfriend, Nancy, buys a gun and gives it to Tom. This is called a straw purchase and it is illegal. People can only buy guns for themselves.

So Tom has a gun and while making a drug purchase gone bad, he shoots and kills a police officer. In apprehending Tom, a gunfight ensues and Tom is subsequently shot and killed. An investigation is conducted and it is discovered that Tom got the gun from his girlfriend, Nancy.

By law, that makes Nancy an accomplice to murder, even though she didn’t know that Tom was going to kill a policeman or anyone else. She is brought up on charges and when she goes to court, she is given a year of probation, during which she must wear an ankle device.

This isn’t a made-up scenario. It has happened, many times. Lawyers often refer to this situation as the “girlfriend clause”. 

According to the law, an accomplice to murder (Nancy) is just as guilty as the person pulling the trigger (Tom). That means that the minimum sentence for Nancy should be incarceration for no less than 5 years. Clearly, this law hasn’t been enforced, which isn’t particularly consoling to the dead police officer’s wife and children.

I personally have an issue with a number of gun control laws, for various reasons. However, I still follow them, even if I don’t agree with them. However, when laws aren’t enforced, it does absolutely no good to have the law in the first place. Adding more laws isn’t going to change anything, particularly if laws continue to not be enforced.

Consider; it is illegal to manufacture, sell, buy, possess, or use illicit drugs. This amounts to a total ban on illicit drugs. Yet, the problem with illicit drugs in the US continues to grow, as it does in most other countries as well. The existence of laws banning illicit drugs obviously hasn’t had a positive impact on the abuse of drugs.

Additional gun laws would be no more successful in the US. More laws that aren’t enforced are also not worth the effort. All it really accomplishes is to make lawmakers look foolish. They aren’t trying to resolve a problem, they are trying to gain popular support.

  • Did you previously understand was meant by “gun laws aren’t enforced”?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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9 Comments

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  1. We certainly have different philosophies on either side of the Pond. In the UK we are subjects of the Queen , who – in theory – exercises her authority via the Government, which is always “hers”.

    But in practice, governments of all kinds make laws, and the people they govern are required to obey them.

    One huge difference, of course, is that we don’t see any value in allowing individual citizens to have the power of life and death over other citizens. If a law is broken, it is not the citizen’s duty to deal with that breach – that is what the Police are for and it is illegal to take the law into your own hands.

    I can see, however, that the British system would not work in the United States. Your problem is surely what to do when guns are used not to prevent crime but to commit horrendous ones. That must means taking guns away from people who should not have them, and taking certain weapons – such as automatic rifles – out of circulation altogether.

    • You nailed it in your last paragraph. That is exactly the issue that needs to be resolved. It isn’t the tool that is the problem, it is the person who should not be allowed to have the tool. THAT would be focusing on the criminal or person most likely to commit a crime, rather than on the people who aren’t committing crimes. That is exactly what is needed. Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy and clear-cut ways to do it, but that is the real issue in a nutshell.

      As for automatic rifles, they have been illegal in the US for quite some time. Only the military, the police, and certified gun collectors can legally own them anywhere in the US. Those laws have been in place for over 40 years. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be purchased on the black market…almost anything can be bought on the black market; hand grenades, bazookas, tanks, mortars, and so forth, but it isn’t legal to private citizens to own them.

      That would also be unconstitutional, except for one thing. I can think of no instance at all in the past 240 years when a tank or mortar was necessary for a private individual to protect themselves, their families, or their possessions, within the US. It was necessary at one time in Europe, but it still wasn’t private individuals that needed those weapons. Likewise, owning a nuke would be going way over the top and would be unnecessary.

    • Specifically which legislation would you suggest that isn’t already in place? Did you know that almost all of the mass murders in the US in the last 10 years happened in places where guns were totally banned? Were you aware that since gun laws were relaxed in the US, as a whole, over 50 years ago, gun violence has actually dropped considerably in the states? The states that have the highest incidence of gun-related homicides are those with the most restrictive gun laws. That is pretty telling.

  2. I get the impression that gun laws are a mess in the United States, for lots of reasons.

    In the United Kingdom we have avoided the mess very simply, namely by making gun ownership illegal except in very specific circumstances, such as the ownership of shotguns by farmers. Handgun ownership is completely illegal.

    As a result, the incidences of death from firearms is extremely low. Do people fear for their lives at being burgled in the night and unable to defend themselves? Oddly enough – no, we don’t!

    • Gun laws in the US are a mess mostly because there are too many of them, many serve no purpose at all, and quite a few of them are unconstitutional (but haven’t yet been brought before the Supreme Court. The new laws that keep being proposed usually fall in one of that category.

      Put in a different way, it is already illegal to kill someone with a gun or any other way, unless it is done in protection of life and property. Even then, it must be proven that the action was justifiable. However, people still kill, rape, and maim others, despite the law.

      Nearly all of the gun laws in the US are aimed at the people who aren’t committing the crimes. Probably the most efficient way to cause a rebellion in the US would be for the government to violate the Constitution and attempt to take away all legal guns. It is estimated that about 100 million Americans own guns and there are in excess of 300 million legal guns in the US. Like most countries, there is also a huge black market in illegal guns (such a black market also exists in the UK).

      Still, American citizens aren’t subjects of the government. The government here exists to serve the citizens, not the other way around. It doesn’t always work that way, but that is the idea. Even a lot of Americans that don’t or won’t own guns understand full well that the first step for a government to take control away from the people is to remove their guns. There have been far too many examples in recent history. Americans won’t allow it.

      Something interesting to note is that even counting all homicides in the US in a year, and there honestly aren’t many, it is estimated that over 3 million violent crimes in the US are prevented by citizens who legally had a gun. Countless lives are saved because of it. A gun is an equalizer. Most 100-pound unarmed women would be no match for a 250-pound man intent on raping them. However, if that woman has a .357 mag and knows how to use it, the man is usually no match for her. Usually, not a shot will be fired, either.

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