Paul Helmke (President, The Brady Campaign) gives expert video advice on: Why is there a measure to restrict the number of guns sold per person?; Why is there a measure to raise the age limit for a gun purchase?; Has the federal assault weapons ban amade a difference in crime rates? and more...
Why is there a measure to restrict the number of guns sold per person?
One proposal that a number of states considered is restricting the number of guns that you can buy at any one time. Most people don't realize that you can buy an unlimited number of guns at any one time. And to me, and I think to most people that look at this, someone buying a number of guns at one time is oftentimes an indicator that this person is going to then resale those guns on the black market, out of the trunk of their car. We have looked at various situations, incidents around the country, and found that when someone buys 81 of the same make and model of a gun from a gun store in Dayton, Ohio, within a few weeks you start seeing those guns showing up in murders and burglaries in Buffalo, New York, and other communities around the country. Now maybe folks can legitimally disagree about the number that should be the restriction. Most people talk about 1 gun a month. I hear from the other side, they'd like to buy a set of matching Colt 45s for their grandkids. So, okay, let's argue that maybe it should be 2 a month instead of one a month, but restricting the number of guns that you can buy at one time would significantly stop the black market in guns and would stop the illegal trafficking in guns because it's a lot harder to go around to different gun stores and buy one or two at a time then it is to go to some place and again buy 81 or 100 or even a 1,000 at one time.
Why is there a measure to raise the age limit for a gun purchase?
Federal and state laws are confusing as to whether or not there are age limits. Oftentimes there'll be an age limit that you have to be over 18 in order to not be a prohibited purchaser under federal law, but in a number of states you are allowed to own a gun even though you're under 18. You might not be allowed to purchase a gun, but you're allowed to own a gun, and we end up with a contradictary and confusing set of laws from state to state and federally in terms of this, and this makes it easier for younger people to get guns. I think one of the things that we could do, state by state or federally, is to make it clear that under a certain age you should not be allowed to purchase a gun and you should be restricted on the types of guns that you have access to.
Has the federal assault weapons ban amade a difference in crime rates?
The federal assault weapons ban was adopted in 1994, was allowed to sunset in 2004. Congress and the President didn't push for the renewal at that time. We felt that the assault weapon ban, during the 10 years it was in effect, did make a difference. It could have been stronger, it was too easy to find loopholes in it and get around it. Anecdotally, we've heard from communities across the country that they saw a decrease in violence because of the assault weapons ban and they've seen an increase since the ban expired. Again, when congress doesn't give you the information on what types of guns are being used, it's hard to make that case. It's really a brilliant strategy on the other side. Hide the data. Hide the information. It's hard to make a case pertaining to having something else being done.
Should we treat guns the same way we treat cars?
I think we can learn a lot from how we regulate other industries when we talk about guns. Cars are instrumentalities of a lot of death and injury in this country. Over the years we have analyzed cars significantly. We have tried to figure out what parts of cars can be changed to make them safer. We have looked at what parts of cars are more dangerous. We have stopped the Pintos that exploded on rear end explosions after realizing that that caused undue death and injury. We have added seat belts, shoulder straps and air bags to cars. When people did those things, they weren't considered to be anti-car. So when we talk about regulating guns and making guns safer we shouldn't be considered anti-gun. It is pro safety. The other thing with cars is that we require people to be a certain age before they are supposed to use them. We require that they go through testing before they are allowed to use them. We require them to be licensed before you can use a car. We register cars so we know where they are. Now, the comparisons aren't automatic between cars and guns, but you look at the fact that it is something that different changes in how we make these things can make them safer, that different laws on who uses them can make them more likely to be used more safely. Different ways of regulating them can make them used more safely. I think we have a lot to learn. Again, the fact that we don't regulate guns at all in this country and we regulate toy guns, that we regulate kids' toys, that we regulate anything else more than guns says something significant about our society. We are somehow in love with guns and have a problem with guns and that because of that we end up with a lot more violence than other countries.
Are gun control measures a threat to gun owners?
If you're law-abiding, you're not going to be stopped by a Brady background check. I think folks are willing to put up with a little bit of red tape if it's going to stop the amount of yellow police tape we see in our communities. Legitimate gun owners, legitimate citizens have nothing to fear from common sense gun control.