Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley unveiled his policy plan to cut gun deaths in half by 2025 this week. As one might expect from an anti-gun candidate, it’s an epic fail.
I discuss why O’Malley’s plan is so deeply misguided down below, but first check out this op-ed, entitled “My Promise on Guns, NRA,” the former Maryland governor wrote for CNN.
For far too long, Democrats have been too afraid to stand up to the gun lobby.
It’s time for that to change. If I am elected president, I will make reducing and preventing gun violence one of my 15 goals to rebuild the American dream. And right now, I am putting forward a comprehensive policy plan for cutting deaths from gun violence in half — homicides, suicides, and accidents — within 10 years.
My plan starts with expanding safeguards to all gun purchases, whether from a licensed dealer, online posting, or private sale. Under my plan, a background check would be required for each and every gun purchase. And every person seeking to purchase or transfer a gun would have to obtain a fingerprint-based license, including completing safety training and a waiting period. Without such protections, it will remain far too easy for criminals to legally buy guns.
My plan will also cut gun violence by focusing on the largest purchaser of firearms: our government. By adjusting federal procurement policies, the federal government can encourage both gun manufacturers and dealers to prevent trafficking and violence, while spurring innovations that improve gun safety. This means requiring agencies to purchase only cutting-edge guns, such as those that have hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced.
Guns are now the second leading cause of death among children and teens, so I would take steps to require safe storage of guns at home. Because gun violence is committed disproportionately by young people, I would set a national age requirement of 21 for all handgun purchases and handgun possession. And because the U.S. is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence, I would fight to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to own and purchase guns.
Above all, law enforcement must be empowered to uphold these protective measures — by revoking the licenses of dealers whose guns routinely end up in the hands of criminals. And to shut down the pipeline of illegal guns that flow from states with weak gun laws to states with strong ones, we should establish strong federal penalties for gun traffickers. Possessing marijuana can be a felony under federal law; outrageously, trafficking guns is not.
Even as the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding, we know the immense harm that comes if guns end up in the wrong hands. By establishing a national firearms registry, we can track guns to the root cause of tragedies. By requiring all lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement, we can monitor the number of illegal guns in our communities.
My comprehensive plan will not stop every senseless gun death. But it will ensure that fewer families are needlessly torn apart by gun violence.
I am not new to this fight. In 2003, seeing the epidemic of gun violence wash over my city of Baltimore when I was mayor, I called for a ban on assault weapons in our state.
In 2013, after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I made passing comprehensive gun safety laws my No. 1 priority as governor. The National Rifle Association launched an all-out attack: It flooded the Maryland state house and threatened state legislators, who ended up enacting the strongest gun safety laws in the nation — including the assault weapons ban I had started fighting for 10 years before.
Even today, the NRA is targeting me as a “menace” to its cause. I’ve never given in to the NRA, and I certainly won’t as president. I believe that we shouldn’t be taking gun safety advice from groups that only exist to sell more guns.
This work is more urgent than ever. Eight law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty last month. Over Labor Day weekend alone, at least 145 people were killed by gunfire, and twice as many were injured. And yet, Washington still isn’t doing anything about it.
Gun violence can be stopped. As president, I will work with anyone, from any party, with the courage to put the right policies in place to do so. We know what works. We simply need the courage and leadership to act to save lives.
The O’Malley Plan
GOAL: CUT DEATHS FROM GUN VIOLENCE—HOMICIDES, SUICIDES, AND ACCIDENTS—IN HALF BY 2025
Federally licensed firearms dealers are already required to conduct background checks in order to keep firearms out of the hands of people who have committed violent felonies or domestic abuse. While this requirement has effectively prevented more than 2.4 million prohibited people from acquiring guns, large loopholes allow others to easily purchase firearms.
Expand Background Check Protections to All Sales
The biggest and most dangerous loophole is that unlicensed sellers, who account for roughly 40 percent of all firearm sales, are not required to run background checks. Closing this loophole has been proven to save lives: In the 18 states that already require a criminal background check, the number of police officers shot and killed while on duty, the number of people who commit suicides with guns, and the number of women shot to death by their partners is nearly 50 percent lower than in other states.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Require a background check for every gun sale. O’Malley will fight for laws requiring all gun buyers to complete background checks. All private sales would be processed through a licensed dealer or law enforcement agency that completes background checks, as O’Malley required in Maryland.
- End unregulated internet gun sales. Because hundreds of thousands of guns are sold online, people who are prohibited from owning them can easily purchase guns while avoiding a background check. O’Malley will work to require all gun purchases to be completed in person through licensed dealers, who will be required to complete a background check and comply with all other safety laws.
- Strengthen background check protections. O’Malley will work end “default proceeds,” where agents have only three business days to finish background checks before the sale automatically proceeds. Law enforcement should have the time they need to complete background checks: this broken process allows more than 2,500 prohibited individualsto purchase guns annually. O’Malley will also seek to end the “Brady exemption” that allows permit holders to avoid background checks.
- Encourage states to improve information sharing. In order for background checks to be fully effective, states must provide complete and accurate data on persons prohibited from owning guns, including those with felony records and histories of domestic abuse. The Obama Administration has made important investments to support states that share information with the federal background check system. O’Malley will build on these efforts, continuing to provide critical resources to states to help them modernize recordkeeping and share critical data.
Implement Commonsense Safeguards for Gun Purchases
Beyond background checks, commonsense measures like mandatory gun licensing, waiting periods, and age restrictions have proven to dramatically reduce gun-related homicides, suicides, and trafficking. Drawing from his experience in Maryland, where under his leadership the state successfully implemented important safety measures, the Governor will fight to ensure that all Americans benefit from the same basic protections.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Enact comprehensive requirements for gun purchases, including fingerprint licensing. Building from successful reform efforts in Maryland, O’Malley will require all individuals who seek to purchase or transfer any gun to obtain a fingerprint-based license, and complete safety training with a waiting period, in addition to passing a background check. As he did in Maryland, O’Malley will extend these same requirements to private sales by requiring all sales to be completed through licensed dealers.
- Set a national age requirement for handgun possession. A full quarter of gun crimes are committed by individuals 21 years-old and younger, based on data from 13 states; and guns are used in 38 percent of suicides among young people. O’Malley will work to set a federal minimum age of 21 for handgun ownership and possession.
- Require the responsible storage of guns at home. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens, and the first cause among African American children. The responsible storage of guns can prevent suicide, violence, and accidents: 70 percent of unintentional child deaths from guns happened when firearms were stored irresponsibly.
While licensed dealers are already required to make sure that gun purchasers have safety devices, there is far more to be done to ensure responsible gun storage. O’Malley will extend existing safety standards to all firearm sales. He will also issue federal rules clearly defining the gun locks and safes that meet safety standards.
- Reject federally mandated concealed carry. Republicans in Congress have proposed overriding existing state laws regarding who should be able to carry concealed guns within their borders. These laws are enacted by the voters and elected representatives of each state in order to keep their neighbors safe. O’Malley will defend strong state regulations, pushing back against efforts to force every state to recognize the concealed-carry permits issued by other states. Several states’ concealed-carry laws are extraordinarily weak, granting permits to individuals who do not complete safety training, have been convicted of a violent crime, or have a demonstrated history of drug or alcohol abuse.
Protect Women from Gun Violence
America is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence. Domestic abusers can still easily purchase and own guns, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if a firearm is present. Closing loopholes that allow people to buy guns from unlicensed sellers is an important first step to keeping guns out of the hands of men who abuse or stalk women. But additional action must be taken to save women’s lives.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Close the “boyfriend loophole”. People convicted of domestic violence are already prohibited from owning and purchasing guns. However, this prohibition extends only to people who are living with, married to, or have a child with the person suffering abuse—meaning that someone who is convicted of domestic violence in a dating relationship can still own and purchase guns. O’Malley supports the proposed federal legislation that would close this loophole, providing critical protections for women who are targets of dating violence. O’Malley also supports provisions that prohibit anyone convicted of stalking from owning a gun.
- Ban guns for those subject to emergency restraining orders. In addition, current law disarms only people who are under permanent restraining orders—leaving accused domestic-violence offenders who are under emergency restraining orders free to own and purchase guns. The days following the service of an emergency order of protectioncan be the most dangerous, and it can take several weeks or longer for permanent restraining orders to be imposed. O’Malley supports federal legislation that will prevent those under emergency restraining orders from purchasing or possessing a firearm for the duration of the order.
- Disarm and prosecute those who break the law. Existing bans on gun ownership for domestic abusers and stalkers are too rarely enforced. O’Malley will make it a priority to disarm those convicted of committing domestic violence, and to prosecute those who fail to comply with the law.
Expand Reporting Requirements to Help Law Enforcement Fight Gun Crime
Firearm registration helps law enforcement officers identify and prosecute violent criminals, allowing them to quickly and reliably trace firearms recovered from crime scenes. Centralized registration systems and mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms also deter illegal sales, while encouraging gun owners to responsibly use and store their firearms.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Establish a national firearms registry. Although firearm registration helps advance public safety, federal law actuallyprohibits creation of a national system for registering firearms. This makes tracing guns back to their sale a slow, cumbersome, or even impossible process. O’Malley will push to revise federal law to establish a comprehensive, centralized firearm registration system, where records would be maintained electronically and indefinitely. All firearms purchases would be recorded and registered at sale, and re-registered when they are resold or transferred.
- Mandate reporting to law enforcement of lost or stolen firearms. In addition, O’Malley will work to mandate that all lost or stolen firearms be reported immediately to law enforcement. These reports would be registered in the national database, helping law enforcement more quickly trace guns that are used in crimes—and identify individuals who routinely fail to report lost or stolen guns and may be trafficking firearms.
- Require microstamping for all guns. Firearms can be designed to imprint a unique alphanumeric code onto a cartridge case when it is fired. This allows law enforcement to better trace the guns used in crimes, expediting investigations and further deterring trafficking. O’Malley supports a national microstamping law.
Hold Bad Actors Accountable
Law enforcement faces additional barriers to regulating firearms dealers and preventing gun trafficking and crime. Industry-friendly laws limit federal inspections of firearm dealers and ensure toothless punishments for breaking the law. The National Rifle Association and its allies have prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from having the resources it needs to enforce our nation’s modest gun control laws. Law enforcement must have the tools required to ensure gun safety and hold bad actors accountable.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Revoke licenses when dealers break the law. The ATF is often unable to revoke the licenses of dealers who break the law because of certain restrictions and a lack of resources. Even when the agency does find serious violations, like gun sales to those who are underage, it can take one to three years for dealers to lose their licenses. Moreover, the ATF must meet the difficult standard of finding that dealers committed a violation “willfully” —even though dealers who break federal laws are a major source of trafficked firearms.
O’Malley will ensure the ATF has the funding and authority it needs to do its job and keep the American people safe. This includes revising the standard by which dealers can have their licenses revoked, and increasing follow-up so that dealers who lose their licenses do not pass on their business to friends or relatives, or continue to sell guns as unlicensed sellers.
- Ensure regular and unexpected inspections of licensed dealers. Currently, ATF may conduct only one unannounced inspection of each licensed firearms dealer per year. Moreover, because of a lack of federal resources, licensed dealers are inspected only once per decade on average. O’Malley will lift the inspections cap and dedicate the necessary resources to monitoring dealers to ensure that they comply with the law.
- Increase federal penalties for gun traffickers. There is no clear and enforceable federal prohibition on gun trafficking. Rather, law enforcement uses prohibitions from selling guns without a license to go after traffickers—and the penalty imposed is the same punishment for trafficking chicken or livestock. O’Malley supports the bipartisan Senate legislation introduced this year that would make selling guns to a prohibited person a felony under federal law.
Use the Power of the Federal Purse to Advance Gun Safety
Government agencies are the largest purchaser of firearms, accounting for 40 percent of gun industry revenues. By adjusting federal procurement policies, the federal government can encourage gun manufacturers and dealers to work to prevent trafficking and gun violence, while driving innovation that advances gun safety.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- Use procurement contracts to advance gun safety. O’Malley will require manufacturers that seek federal contracts to make simple design changes that advance gun safety and improve law enforcement’s ability to trace firearms. These include hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced, microstamping, magazine disconnect mechanisms, and other safety improvements.
Ensure Gun Manufacturers Act Responsibly
Holding gun manufacturers accountable when they contribute to gun violence can help break the pipeline through which criminals and dangerous individuals obtain and traffic guns. Yet, manufacturers have little incentive to encourage bad actors to reform: they continue to profit from dealers’ unscrupulous sales, while Congress protects them from any liability for contributing to criminal or deadly behavior.
As president, Governor O’Malley will:
- End immunity for gun manufacturers. Every state holds manufacturers accountable for producing and selling products that cause harm. But in 2005, the Republican-controlled Congress protected gun makers and dealers from most liability when their firearms are used criminally: the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act effectively wiped out gun liability laws in all 50 states. O’Malley will fight to overturn the Act, allowing states and cities to better protect their citizens from negligence, and giving victims of mass shootings the ability to hold irresponsible gun manufacturers and dealers accountable.
- Ban sale or distribution of assault weapons. Assault weapons are designed to be extraordinarily deadly. So it is no surprise that mass shootings involving assault weapons are 50 percent more deadly, resulting in 155 percent more people being shot. O’Malley will ban the sale and distribution of all military-style assault weapons, including assault pistols and long guns, as he did in Maryland. He will also ban the sale or distribution of large-capacity magazines and “cop killer” ammunition through federal regulation.
Why It’s an Epic Fail
I’ll start by saying O’Malley’s policy plan does nothing to save lives and everything to chill the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. Yes, as a gun-rights advocate I’m a bit biased in my assessment, but just think about what he’s proposing relative to the problem at hand.
Let me break it down, there are 32,000 gun deaths each year in the United States, almost two-thirds of which are suicides. If O’Malley was serious about cutting the number of gun deaths in half by 2025 his plan would include specific measures and detailed initiatives that focus on suicide prevention. Right? Think about it. If approximately 20,000 people kill themselves each year with firearms, then one would assume tackling the issue of suicide by firearm would figure prominently in the plan. But it doesn’t. In fact, the word “suicide” is rarely mentioned.
The only mention of suicide is in the context of policies relating to storage of guns at home, universal background checks and a national age (21) requirement for handgun possession. But let’s be honest about these measures, while they might help to keep guns out of the hands of young children, their ability to dissuade a suicidal individual from taking his own life are highly suspect. To draw an analogy, it’s like trying to prevent drunk driving by lowering speed limits or banning SUVs.
What O’Malley is essentially doing is focusing on the rules of the road and the types of vehicles people drive instead of the drunkard behind the wheel. It makes no sense. If we want to lower the number of gun deaths we need to primarily focus on the man with suicidal ideations — not so much oblique concerns like background checks, age requirements for handguns and storage laws. It seems obvious, but for some reason O’Malley completely misses the mark.
But all of this speaks to a larger, fundamental problem with O’Malley and his plan, which is that the problem is not gun deaths or gun violence — but death and violence. People kill people. People kill themselves. Guns just happen to be one of the methods by which people kill other people and people kill themselves. Our policy solutions, therefore, ought to target people who have the intention to hurt themselves or others regardless of the tool or implement at their disposal. To phrase it another way, we have a people problem — not a gun problem. We need to find solutions to fix broken and dangerous people.
How do we fix broken and dangerous people? There are many answers to that question (educational assistance, mental health treatment, job opportunities). Of course, none of those answers include stripping away the freedoms and liberties of the law-abiding. Sadly, that’s exactly what O’Malley is suggesting we do. He wants to ban widely popular and commonly owned firearms (AR-15s) and accessories (magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds). He wants to create a national gun owners registry. He opposes a federal concealed carry standard so certain state’s can maintain their Constitutionally dubious ‘may-issue’ practices. He wants to terminate the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which safeguards gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits, among many other baleful policy objectives.
O’Malley’s plan is completely misguided. It really is. Any “gun violence prevention plan” that doesn’t seriously discuss suicide and ways to stop it is not worth the paper it’s printed on. There are other big omissions too, like policy measures to target gang culture and widespread drug abuse both of which drive up the gun homicide and violent crime rates. Anyways, you get my point. It’s an epic fail.