Count me in on Gun Show Five Day Wait

There are certain discussions I try to avoid because the contesting sides are so intractably opposed there is no room for discussion.  Pro Life/Pro Choice is one.  National Security/Freedom of Speech is another.  Redskins/Cowboys is right up there.

But one that also ranks is high second amendment rights, and in the wake of the Virginia Tech Massacre Governor Kaine wants to take the five day wait currently in place for purchasing a handgun at a gun store and extend it to a gun shows.

Pure Second Amendment advocates say this is further erosion of individual liberties; advocates of the waiting period say it keeps guns out of the wrong hands.  The Second Amend guys come back and say it only delays guns getting out, and as such the wait is effectively useless for a person determined to use it; opponents say that during that time that person may change their mind.  The Second Amend guys reply that “people kill people, not guns”, and talk about alternative weapons; opponents note the difficulty in killing a bunch of folks with, say, an axe.

Let me weigh in, based in both my long held position and perspective from the last few days…

You likely don’t know it, but I am your typical Northern Virginia office dweller, and for the last eight years I have shared my office space with the same person…a remarkable record for longevity up here.  We have been through several births, a divorce, a remarriage, promotions, promotions that didn’t happen, wins and losses, triumphs and tragedies.

So, you can imagine my shock when I found out yesterday morning that at 7:45 PM on 1.13.2008 my office mate of eight years held a .357 magnum to his head and pulled the trigger.

We all knew he was being treated for depression, and had been for several years.  We knew a recent holiday trip had been by his lights a disaster.  We did not know that he had walked to the edge of the edge of the abyss…and that the abyss was staring back at him.

I understand in a situation like this, there is no one to be blamed.  My officemate had gone off his meds, had begun drinking, had not been seeing his therapist.  The illness that drives so many to suicide pulls their thinking into a land  where rage or helplessness drives their thinking and everyday standards of conduct and communication and morality are often jettisoned.  It is an act that can be driven by desperation or revenge and even both, and can seldom be derailed by logic but can be stopped by insignificant things, like a song that reminds them of a special time.

In a sense, my office mate was not too much different than Cho Seung-Hui of Virginia Tech…and that is what scares me.

My office mate didn’t walk into the office and go postal, but he could have.  Like Cho he had decided to end his life, and we can only speculate on what drove him.  What we don’t know is how far he might have been ready to go.  A receipt shows he purchased the gun on 1.7.2008.  What went through his mind during the interval while the gun check ran?  He was going to get the gun-he had no criminal record or anything in his treatment that would trip up the purchase…and throughout the week he came to work and seemed the same old guy…and come monday he could have walked into the office with a handful of firepower and wrought some powerful damage.

Maybe he never planned to do something like that.  Maybe he thought about it, but the wait period cooled him out in that regard.  I will never know, but I cannot help but think it a good thing the five day wait was in place.

I believe in the Constitution, and I believe it is a foundation document for our society.  However, I don’t see where a cooling out period and background check for a gun purchase is a bad thing.  The same risks of rage and mental illness that prompted the legislature to enact a cooling off period for buying a handgun at a gun store exist-and are perhaps even more in evidence-at a gun show.  You get to own and bear arms-just not right at the moment you plunk down your cash.

I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the world of psychiatry and what is proper to be revealed about patients and whether it inhibits their treatment and recovery.  But I do know that outside of collectors people buy handguns for the purpose of killing.  It may be in defense of their home, and it may not.  It might be w/in the law, it might not.  But for those of us who might be inadvertently in harms way, that cooling off period does just that-gives that gun buyer a chance to stop and think before picking up blue steel.

I don’t know that the cooling off period prevented my office mate from doing damage to others-it certainly didn’t have that effect with Cho…but maybe it did.

The libertarians will say we cannot protect anyone.  True, but we can protect some.  The conservatives might call it unnecessary government intrusion-I call it consistent government regulation.  I know what Rudy G calls it-sensible.

Extend the cooling off period to gun shows.  It may be a constitutional issue, and it may be a commerce issue.  But it is also a public safety issue.

Extend the wait period.  It won’t bring back my officemate-but it will almost certainly diminish the amount of collateral damage-and isn’t that worth it?


25 thoughts on “Count me in on Gun Show Five Day Wait

  1. Condolences on your loss, but perhaps, bwana, you should have exercised a five-day waiting period before exercising your First Amendment rights on this issue.

    Your argument wouldn’t carry much weight with the Dale City Marine who, ’bout ten years back, purchased a gun under the Insta-check system and THAT VERY NIGHT used it successfully to defend herself against a stalker.

  2. No question about that…

    I have no doubt that were this a wider read blog (In the RK/NLS/Kos category) that there would be anecdotal evidence offered for and against the five day wait via stories about those who bought a gun without a wait and saved lives almost immediately, and those who bought a gun without the wait and took lives almost immediately…

    …shoot, we might get such posts anyway…and that is perhaps why the questions like this that sit pretty narrowly at half and half arouse such emotion.

  3. Bwana:
    I am also sorry for your loss. Many years ago (college years and since you and I are about the same age, you know how many years ago that was), a good friend of mine, actually at the time he was one of my best friends, did the same thing. It has stayed with me for a long time and you think what more could I have done to help.
    My only question is that would a five day waiting make them any less dead? If your answer is yes, then you have more faith in the law and people than I do.
    Sorry again Bwana, but please remember that time heals all wounds.


  4. Bwana, I want to reiterate what many have said here already–that I am very sorry for your loss. Violent death is difficult to handle under any circumstances, but I think it may be especially difficult in cases of suicide. Suicide is not a rational decision, yet the rational bystanders are left behind to try and make sense of what would lead someone to make this decision. At least in cases of homicide, we’re left with a motive and a third party that we can heap our blame and anguish upon, an easy answer to rationalize the senselessness of violence.

    As a firearm owner, I agree with your thoughts. Owning a firearm is a responsibility that should be taken seriously and considered carefully–it’s not really the sort of thing people should get as an impulse purchase–and I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re going to take the time to carefully consider getting a firearm, there’s no harm in being given an extra few days after you start to purchase to keep on considering.

  5. Your argument is inherently flawed as it is based upon opinions and assumptions rather than a factual basis for its reasoning.

    To illustrate this, I’d like to tell you a fictional story about Joe:

    Joe went to a car dealership and bought a Hummer. He probably didn’t need such a large vehicle, but he chose to buy one anyways. There was no waiting period, and he was able to drive the car off the lot that very day.

    One day, after a series of unfortunate events, Joe decided to run his vehicle into the local Farmer’s Market, killing many people and eventually himself in the process.

    For this reason, we need to ban all vehicles from the roads that are larger than an AMC Gremlin. (All other cars have the potential to cause too much damage, and a Gremlin is all the car you’ll ever need anyways… as determined by me).

    We also need to have a five day waiting period on all car sales so as to give the driver time to reconsider any ideas of mayhem that may be perverting his mind on the day of purchase.

    Such a proposal may upset the libertarians and the silly people who agree with the 2nd Amendment… but I have decided that this is a “public safety” issue, so I’m clearly more right than they are!

    Yes, it’s true that these changes won’t bring back the people at the Farmer’s Market-but it will almost certainly diminish the amount of collateral damage caused by large vehicles-and isn’t that worth it?

  6. Let’s see…my opinion is flawed because it is based in assumption and opinino, and your is correct because you can back yours up with a fictitious story?

    AV-Thanks…that is the first chuckle I have had in a couple of days…

  7. I don’t believe that I actually asserted an opinion in that posting Bwana… I just took advantage of the flawed logic you put forth, and identified its lack of reason and credibility.

  8. Yes, I often encounter folks who attack logic with borderline preposterous hypotheticals for no reason simply to attack logic rather than for the purpose of taking an opposing position.

    All the time…

    Of course, your hypothetical would likely have more validity and find more favor if your weapon of choice was an item whose primary purpose was for killing, and not for transportation.

    Ah, but there I go again talking common sense…

  9. I have no doubt that you would dislike those who can identify the lack of intelligence you choose to put forth, as a means of supporting your ideals. (It’s much easier than using logic). Perhaps you should work on putting forth more of a justified analysis of your position in future blog postings.

    Contrary to the dictates of liberal ideology, which you apparently adhere to: The primary purpose of guns is NOT to kill innocent people. In fact, I have yet to see a gun show, nor gun manufacturer who sells guns explicitly for this stated purpose.

    You can buy guns to protect your home and loved ones from bad people. You can buy a gun to hunt animals (not people), and you can buy a gun shoot (non-human) targets.

    And so, you can buy guns for protection and recreation. The purpose of guns is not to kill innocent people, and anyone who chooses to use a gun for this purpose would be doing so out a perversion of its intended purpose.

    Likewise, a vehicle is intended for multiple purposes, and none of them include killing innocent people. Can a car be used for this purpose? Absolutely. But this too is a perversion of what it is intended for.

  10. most gun shows are two day affairs, the 5 day wait is just another tactic for the left to hurt gun manufacturers, now that gun makers are protected from frivolous lawsuits

  11. Oh, AV, now you go from creating out of the blue hypotheticals to making claims I said things I didn’t say.

    I don’t dislike folks who use intelligence in creating their arguments, I am simply waiting for you to do so…saying my reasoning isn’t logical doesn’t mean it isn’t logical…it just means that you don’t think it is logical.

    I don’t recall that I ever said guns were produced to kill innocent people. I said they were manufactured to kill. Apparently you have been taking spin lessons from the RK gang.

    It doesn’t much matter whether they are used for protection, hunting, or robbing…they are made to kill…and the leap from a gun being used to kill to a gun being used to kill innocent folks is a much more likely jump than your strained hypothetical where someone uses a car for the mass killing of innocent parties.

    In fact, none of the purposes you cite as far as protecting your home or property or anything else are unreasonably impaired by a five day wait. While Brother Young has above cited via anecdote someone who defended their house the same day they bought a gun, I am still waiting for the story about the person hurt by an assailant at home while waiting for a five day wait to expire.

    Five Day waits provide a reasonable cooling out period. If a Cho is bound and determined to take folks out, that five day wait won’t matter. But if you have an unstable person who has not made plans, that time might be enough to cool them out and save lives…which I suggest is a much more reasonable hypothetical than the mad truck driver choosing to take his life by driving through a crowd.

  12. Bwana: a very sad story. I feel for you and for the poor guy who felt this was the only way for him to address his problems.

    I’m a gunowner who has no problem at all with considerable government regulation of my possession and use of a firearm. If the will of the citizens is that their governments ensure that only competent, responsible people have access to firearms, I’m not offended. If they want to test me for firearm competence – fine. If they want to issue licenses/permits based on background checks and competence testing – fine. If they want to require open carry (a system I think is preferable to concealed carry) or require skill-based permits for concealed carry – fine. If they want to insist that I maintain some status with the National Guard as a condition of maintaining my eligibility to carry a firearm – fine.

    Of course, all of these concessions are based on the idea that the requirements are rational measures designed to ensure responsible firearms use and maintain well-regulated militias (which, as we all know are essential to etc.)

    I see no compelling reason why gun shows should be treated differently than gun shops in terms of waiting periods and background checks. Having said that, I doubt that a waiting period was the difference between your friend “going Postal” and just doing himself in. The poor guy turned his despair on himself rather than others. A waiting period wasn’t the difference. In his heart, his despair was with himself, not with others.

    Again, I cannot say enough in terms of the sympathy I feel for everyone who knew this guy.

  13. A Voter, allow me to point out the flaw in your reasoning with the following fictional story about a guy named Jim.

    Jim bought a toilet bowl brush to clean a toilet, and after a few days he just sort of flipped out and started beating people to death with the toilet bowl brush. And a brick. Let’s say a brick. It’s easier to imagine. In fact, let’s say there was never a toilet bowl brush at all, only a brick which was purchased to build a wall.

    Well, he bought several bricks because one brick does not a wall make (nor iron bars a cage?) but you get the idea. My point, and I do have one, is that when the police finally caught up with Jim, they discovered that he had been body-snatched by Xorgon, a malicious space-hobo from the planet Zarnax. And Zarnax said he bought a toilet bowl brush–er, sorry, I meant a brick–and then flipped out and killed people with the brick because it was cheaper and easier to purchase than a handgun, with which he could have killed significantly more people. Because guns cost several hundred dollars (a good one can cost a thousand) and there was a waiting period for that. But not for a toilet bowl brush. BRICK. I meant brick.

    I think you see where I’m going with this.

    Now let me supplement that story with a few facts and statistics, all of which I am also making up to illustrate a point:

    A> FACT: Space alien ray guns don’t work in the Solar System because of our yellow sun. It’s not just for Superman anymore.

    B> FACT: Space aliens abduct people and make them do crazy things–with handguns if possible–an average of 97 times PER DAY worldwide. 84.5% (or nearly 17 abductions out of 20) take place in the US because of our lax gun laws.

    3> FACT: Waiting periods have demonstrated successfully that while we can prevent guns from getting into the hands of all alien-abducties, Mulder and Fox and the Men in Black can at least prevent SOME of them–as much as 2(pi)R% by some estimates.

    Q.E. friggin’ D.


    Okay but in all seriousness, it wasn’t the part where you deigned to disagree with Bwana that you looked like A Moron instead of A Voter. It was the part where you critized him for basing his position on “opinions and assumptions” instead of “a factual basis” — and then you started just making stuff up! We practically ought to make you change your nickname to Mr. Rogers; you walked in, switched shoes, took off your cardigan, and hopped right on that trolley to ride out to the Land of Make-Believe. I’m amazed Bwana is even bothering to engage in conversation with someone who just makes thinks up, but it frustrates me because you’re making gun owners like me look stupid by association.

  14. As a gun dealer, I’ll tell you right now that I’m happy there are some checks in place. I have had people denied on their NICS check when purchasing a weapon. Keeping firearms out of the hands of idiots and criminals is a good thing. I have no desire to see a 5 day wait, though. The idea of a “cooling off” period is not sound. There is no evidence to support the belief that criminals, or suicidal people, have enough premeditation about their actions to support a five day waiting period. Most violent crimes are crimes of passion or crimes of opportunity. Very little planning goes into them. This has been supported by volumes of research – just google it and wade through the thirty million returns. Suicidal people who purchase a firearm for the task are rarely acting on impulse, as well. Most suicidal people have been symptomatic for quite a while before successfully killing themselves. This is also well documented. Thus, enacting a law that makes people wait five days “just because it MAY stop something bad” is not a good idea. My opposition to this has nothing to do with a person having to wait five days – that’s not a big deal. What really bothers me is that people want this law and it is not supported by ANY facts. If they wanted to force dealers to perform NICS checks at gun shows, I think I would support that. At least the NICS check has a real function – to determine if a firearm buyer has the legal right to possess the weapon. I would also like to see people who do not have a Federal Firearms License not be allowed to sell at gun shows. Those two things would be great – but skip the five day wait. It’s useless.

  15. John Lott (More Guns Less Crime) has decisively shown (using an enormous data set) that restrictions on private gun ownership lead to increases in violent crime. Decreasing restrictions, making it easier to get guns, leads to decreases in violent crime rates. I believe his study included waiting periods.

    There have been many cases where waiting periods have led to loss of life when a threatened person was unable to protect herself/himself in time.

    I don’t know offhand if he looked at suicide. Suicide is horrible. My uncle hung himself last fall. I have a friend whose father used a circular saw. My father in law was present at the site where a man tied a cable around his neck that was anchored to a bridge and drove away. Suicide is always horrible. There may be some we could prevent with gun restrictions, but this is questionable and must be weighed against the harms of teh same restrictions.

  16. Bwana:
    You have definately stirred the pot with this one! Well good for you, it needs to be stirred every once in awhile to keep this exciting. You are the better educated of the two of us, so you might remember the scholar/philosopher whose quote this actually was (I remember it from the play “1776”, when Ben Franklin was talking to John Adams & Thomas Jefferson) “Those who would surrender some of their liberty to secure safety, deserve neither liberty or safety”
    When I have looked at laws and how they effect us, I try to remember those words. That is my only point. I think you make a well reasoned and well thought argument, I just cannot totally agree with you on this one. Take care my ol’ friend.


  17. Sam,

    I am strongly in favor of laws against illegal aliens… especially those from foreign planets. Those people get all the breaks!

    What you and Bwana are missing is that the fictional story I gave is a basic lesson in logical deduction. I was hoping you kids would pick up on that, but let’s go back to the more elementary components of logic, and see if it helps…

    Bwana put forth the following logical deduction-

    Officemate went nuts (A) and killed himself with a gun (B).
    If A then B

    Bwana found no direct correlation between a “cooling off period” (C) and its influence that would cause officemate to kill himself with a gun (B).
    *C (does not =) B

    Therefore, despite this and the possible legal implications a “cooling off period” (C) will diminish the amount of collateral damage!
    *Therefore C = D!

    If A then B
    C (does not =) B
    Therefore C = D

    Nothing in your logic makes sense! You have put together a rag-tag of variables and decided that it is true. Had you made a better connection between these variables, a logical deduction may have been possible, but does look as if this was even attempted.

    I was hoping that the goofy analogy I created would shed light on all of this, but I guess I was wrong. I hope that this makes up for it.

    And Bwana – whereas you may desire a heart-felt sob story about guns, I have no interest in getting into an anecdotal pissing contest today.

  18. Apparently others did not see the basis of your hypothetical either, as noted above. I will leave that at that.

    My point is simply, as stated above, that the cooling off period cannot hurt.

    Logically documentable? Nope. But we are dealing with human conduct. The next time logical conduct is can be logically imputed to human conduct will likely be the first time.

  19. My point is simply that there is no proof that it would help.

    Changing things on the basis of you not feeling that it would hurt, with no discernible benefit to the action is just lunacy.

  20. Bwana, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Having once worked for a crisis hotline and having had some college level training on suicide prevention and crisis managment (although I’m far from an expert), I can verify that suicides are often planned. Paradoxically, one of the symptoms is that the victim often exhibits calm and cheerful behavior before committing suicide. That’s because they’ve resolved their dilemna and decided on their course of action. And they are at peace with it.

    Sometimes, they will give away their possessions and appear to be wrapping up their business affairs. But most of these signs can only be recognized in retrospect.

    I’m not sure whether a waiting period before purchasing a gun could help. But it might because so many suicides are not done on impulse the way crimes of passion are. They are indeed planned.

    In any case, erring on the side of caution is not a bad thing. Nor is denying somebody with mental problems access to a weapon.

    I generally support the Second Amendment and recognize that you can’t legislate or plan for every crisis. But it seems like a no brainer that there are things that can be done to keep people safer without taking away their legitimate rights.

    And again and most important, I am so sorry for you.

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