The problem with barring felons from buying guns is that almost every felon knows someone who isn’t necessarily a law-abiding citizen but is someone who just hasn’t been caught at anything serious. While we make it illegal for the felon to buy the gun himself, he can easily send a buddy of his into a store to buy a gun for him. It’s not difficult.
Then, to top it off, there’s not even significant penalties for doing it, apparently.
Some Georgia lawmakers want to change that.
You don’t have to pull the trigger to face prison time. At least, that’s what some lawmakers are hoping to get on the books.
Meg Heap, the Chatham County District Attorney, State Rep. Jesse Petrea, R- Savannah, and Alderman Julian Miller, District 4, met outside the Chatham County Courthouse Thursday afternoon to discuss an amendment to the Straw Purchase Law they are hoping to pass.
The statute targets people who buy guns “knowingly and intentionally” for a convicted felon or first time offender on probation. The current charge is a misdemeanor, but legislators are pushing for a harsher punishment.
“All the other crimes, if you commit an armed robbery, and you were charged also with possession of a firearm by commission of a felony, that’s a five year sentence. We want it to equal all the other charges involving firearms,” said Heap.
The bill seeks to level a five-year sentence on straw buyers, which they believe will bring the punishment on par with many of the crimes being committed with these illegally purchased guns.
The question is, will it work?
Well, these folks aren’t deluded enough to think it’ll make everything all better and make all the bad people go away. Good for them.
Instead, they see it as just one layer in an overall strategy to combat gun violence. I don’t think that’ll make a damn bit of difference, but they’re not exactly creating new laws and turning previously law-abiding people into criminals, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it.
The problem is that they’re still looking primarily at guns as an evil rather than making any effort to combat the roots of violence in our communities. Take those out of play, and there are no straw buyers in the first place. People aren’t looking to get guns for illegal activities.
Well, not as many, anyway.
Meanwhile, more severe punishment sounds good, but I’m not sure these folks understand the subcultures we’re dealing with. Most of the problem goes from subcultures that view prison time as a rite of passage, something prestigious. Doing time means status.
It’s entirely possible that rather than reducing straw buys as intended, it actually makes it easier to find someone to buy a gun. The greater the risks, the greater the reward. In this case, status in the neighborhood. If you get caught and do time? No big. You’ve done time now. You’re someone in the neighborhood.
Yes, you take them out of circulation for a while and make them ineligible to be straw buyers, but someone will take their place. Either way, the violence will remain.
It’ll always be there until you deal with the roots.