1,000 rounds of ammo
It didn’t take a fortune teller to guess that Congress would leave town without acting on Senator Frank Lautenberg’s (D—N.J.) Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012. The bill would have required reporting of online ammo sales of 1,000 rounds or more, along with a number of other restrictions designed to reduce the anonymity of purchasers. The bill also called for ammo dealers to become licensed, along the line of legislation now in place in Illinois.
“Currently, there is no requirement for those who purchase ammunition, even in large amounts, to undergo background checks or present identification,” according to Ben Van Houten, of the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, as quoted in the L.A. Times.
Though the bill represents just one approach to restricting the purchase of massive quantities of ammo, it would have represented a good set of talking points, even if that were all it was destined to become. Americans polled by the Pew Charitable Trust in the wake of the killing of the week in Colorado registered almost no movement on the topic of gun rights. They stand split on the issue with 47 percent supporting more controls and 46 percent supporting current or expanded gun rights. As closely divided as that split is, there is no chance that Congress will take any action anytime.
Nonetheless, the issue of anonymous access to ammo should be framed along the lines of proliferation. These quantities of ammunition can easily end up in the hands of Mexican gangs, drug lords, psychotic militias, or crazy loners. We should prohibit online sales of more than 500 rounds of ammunition. And online ammo sellers should be required to report sales in excess of 250 rounds, not 1,000. As Senator Lautenberg said, we’re not talking about the sale of shoes here. Ammunition is considered a hazardous material [I know—duh!] by the Department of Transportation. It must be shipped according to HAZMAT standards by trained shippers for UPS or FedEx.
Opponents of such measures, like Ohio gun enthusiast Chad D. Baus, Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, writing for ammoland.com, claim such measures wouldn’t stop shooters like Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes from committing mass murder. While true, such measure would provide a measure of deterrence.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 required recording of ammunition sales, the licensing of ammo dealers, and it banned interstate ammo mail order sales, but the aptly named Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 repealed these measures. If we take a new look at these laws, we should reject out of hand any argument that says such and such a measure wouldn’t have stopped such and such an act because the only argument the other side wants to posit is universal armament under the “good shooter” theory that armed citizens will stand up in, for example, chaotic, darkened theaters and with one well-aimed shot reduce the shooter to a pile of hardware and a Joker mask. Never mind that every good shooter can be mistaken for another bad shooter by some third party shooter two aisles down…
What we ought to be talking about is restricting the anonymous hoarding of vast quantities of ammunition, because eventually, it will hit the streets in one form or another, often through private resale, which is presently unregulated. As Senator Lautenberg put it:
“This legislation is a simple common-sense step that would put safeguards in place to detect suspicious activity, helping to prevent the sale of ammunition to a terrorist or the next would-be mass murderer.”
One online commentator, “Jonesy,” writes of the Lautenberg initiative:
Yet another liberal display of symbolism over substance. The sheer lack of logic our legislators demonstrate when it comes to these arguments confirms to me that they really don’t care if their laws actually work. This will not prevent a single shooting in the future…not one. You can’t legislate behavior by restricting physical items.
Jonesy, of course, misses the point of the proliferation argument. Cheap, readily available lethal ordnance makes the shooter’s job that much easier. Take 100-round clips, for example. They should be outlawed period. But every gun enthusiast in shouting distance will tell you that determined shooters will still kill. Yes, they will. But not with the same lethal capacity. (And as to whether such clips are prone to jamming, who cares, guys?)
So, for starters, no anonymous online ammo, okay? And no humungous quantities in a single transaction. And no gargantuan clips. These measures won’t stop a determined criminal, but they at least reduce the convenience factor and represent a baby step in the right direction.