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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Kids, Guns and Junk Mail

I just read an article from MSNBC titled, “1.7 million kids live in homes with loaded guns” and over 42,000 of those households reported having loaded, unlocked firearms around their children. Alabama had the highest proportion with 7.3%, Alaska next with 6.6%, followed by Arkansas, Montana and Idaho with similar figures. I’m sorry, but this sounds to me like either the parents are morons or unconscious beyond help.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was killed by a mail order gun owned by Lee Harvey Oswald, they passed the Gun Control Act of 1968. The major force in this act was the prohibition of mail order sales of rifles and shotguns. In 1999, Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced the Internet Gun Trafficking Act, which attempted to restrict the sale of firearms on the Internet. As far as I can tell, it is still in the Judiciary committee, or worse…forgotten.

I tried placing an online order for a gun on the Internet and the requirement is that any firearms must be delivered through a licensed dealer, subject to the gun laws of your state. Even if we don’t have an Internet law in place, certain procedures seem to dictate that firearms are not readily available to just anyone on the Internet. Of interest to me was the fact that when I Googled “mail order guns,” 6.6 million sites came up. With “Internet guns,” the number was 12.4 million.

A report was done by the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of North Carolina to evaluate just how much Internet firearms vendors encourage purchasers to conform to firearms laws. The study, “Ready, An exploration of firearms sales practices on the Internet,” concludes that online selling of guns is extremely aggressive and easily accessible but fails in its obligation to encourage buyers to abide by firearms laws. One of the findings was a shock to me: none of the sites posted a warning on its homepage about not selling guns to juveniles. Click on the study, above, for more startling facts.

An excellent site for information on gun laws relating to juveniles is, “State by State Look at Gun Laws in the U.S.” You can search by state with documentation of laws relating to children plus general information such as permits, registrations, etc. As we know, Alabama is on the bottom, but my state, Arizona, falls short in its lack of the Child Access Prevention law which requires adults to use a gun-locking device or store guns in a secure location. Washington, DC, and New York seem to rate highest.

There are fifteen mail order lists on the market, according to Standard Rate & Data, the bible of the list industry. They range from magazine subscriptions to hunters to parts & accessories catalogs. I tried Googling “gun parts & accessories catalogs and came up with 2.5 million sites. One of them, Numrich Gun Parts Corporation, states that they can …”supply everything from pins & springs to barrels and stocks.” Their inventory features over 180 thousand individual items from an inventory of over 650 million parts and accessories. They even supply schematics with the parts layout of firearms.

I don’t know much about guns, but I do know that general parts and accessories are not covered in the normal firearms protection laws. However, the 1968 Gun Control Act does prohibit the sale of parts or “conversion kits” used to make semiautomatic firearms fully automatic. You can get unlimited information on this subject at the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence site, and I recommend a visit there when you have time to spend.

So, we are left with a lot of facts, some protective measures, but still one major problem: kids with access to firearms. I can’t do anything about those parents who are too numb to keep their guns out of the reach of their children. And, I know it’s far-fetched but they are also likely to be the same households where a kid would order the parts and assemble a rifle or handgun. It’s the inherent mentality that worries me, and I feel we should stop this potential threat before it becomes a reality…again.

Please give me your COMMENTS on this.


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