published Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The logic gap on guns

  • photo
    The San Mateo County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department shows some of the guns offered during a buyback program in January.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and his Bradley County colleague, Sheriff Jim Ruth, seemed proud Monday to publicly declare that they oppose stricter gun control laws. But their logic and constancy dissolved after that. They leave constituents to guess how the nation should move to shut down the now-legal gun sewer that -- in the absence of background checks on 40 percent of gun sales -- helps arm criminals and fuels illegal gun-running from low-regulation states to strict-control states.

Speaking on Monday as President Obama issued a national appeal in Minnesota to tighten gun-control rules, Hammond said he supports better background checks, but not checks that include mental health reports, which are considered crucial to braking gun-massacres. He also declined to say whether he supports a revived ban on semi-automatic assault rifles. He mainly observed, without an apparent sense of his inherent contradictions, that law-abiding citizens didn't need more gun laws; that society just needed to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

Ruth said bans on (assault) weapons do not work. Since the nation has never had a leak-proof ban, we wonder how he knows. He parted ways with Hammond on mental health background checks, however. He said law enforcement agencies should be able to access databases to identify mental health records of would-be gun purchases.

Their confusing remarks clearly lack much standing among their peers. As of Monday, they were the only two Tennessee sheriffs, among the paltry national total of 267 sheriffs, to have signed on to the grandstanding Texas-based Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association website, which is apparently devoted to resisting sensible gun-control reforms. But their views illustrate clearly why their muddling obfuscation allows criminals to continue to get guns.

While every state requires compliance with federal background checks for gun purchases from licensed dealers, the background check falls apart after that as a cohesive standard. Most states otherwise allow gun sales without background checks between private sellers and purchasers. And many sellers and buyers connect for such sales at wide-open public gun shows, which typically only require background checks to be run by licensed dealers. Hence the illegal gun sewer.

Many purchasers, diligent investigative studies have found, end up illegally selling their guns out of their trunks in cities with strict legal purchase rules. Such voluminous black market sales route guns from southern states -- Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina chief among them -- to criminals in New York City and Chicago, for example. That's one reason why New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg formed the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, which has drawn support from some 800 mayors, including Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Littlefield is well aware that the Colorado felon fugitive who shot and killed Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin last April had, just days earlier, traded three stolen pistols to a private illegal dealer for an M-4 assault rifle at the R.K. Gun Show in Chattanooga without having to go through a background check. Such a check might have prevented the sale and alerted police to the fugitive's whereabouts.

It's not enough, of course, to tighten the background check and to apply it broadly to gun shows, Internet and all other personal gun sales. It needs to be broadened to mandatory mental health background checks, because less than a third of states consistently contribute to the voluntary mental health reports. The background check data also should be permanently stored -- not discarded within hours, as it is now due to NRA lobbying -- and the data, and guns sales details, should be made available to all law enforcement agencies.

It's already apparent that far too many Democrats, as well as Republicans, are unwilling to put much political capital behind a renewed ban on assault weapons, large capacity magazines and armor-piercing ammunition -- the death dealers in the majority of gun massacres of innocents. If they had stronger spines for justice and sensible gun control, they would step up. But broad, consistent reform of mandatory background checks should be easy to support. They would do no disservice to law abiding citizens. And over time, they would close the gun sewer to criminals and the mentally deranged.

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AndrewLohr said...

Was "Fast and Furious" a "gun sewer?

Good for our two, and 267, sheriffs.

Better background checks, probably. Magazine limits, mmmmm--how many shots does a homeowner need against a group of intruders? How many did the 71-year-old in the wheelchair need against two thugs at a restaurant? (He wounded both; they fled but were caught later.) Armor-piercing ammo? The bad guys rarely bother.

Mayor Littlefield? His 2nd term has been a series of failures, revealing his 1st term to have been a cover-up, a whitewash.

February 6, 2013 at 12:27 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Thank you Jim Hammond and Jim Ruth for standing up for the 2nd Amendment.

February 6, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
conservative said...

Owebama's opposition to background checks for mental health reports stems from the fact that Liberals wouild not get guns.

February 6, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

Good article. My thought exactly.

February 6, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Sheriffs who run for election are afraid of the NRA. What would that organization do to a candidate who supported reasonable background checks, universal registration and/or a limit on magazine capacity? The NRA rabidly opposes anyone and anything that would curtail mass murders with assault weapons or hollow point bullets.
Too many local sheriffs toe the NRA line out of fear, gun mania, or ignorance. Meanwhile, national law enforcement organizations are rising above the petty politics to support sane measures that will prevent further mass massacres. Too many local sheriffs don't care about saving lives as long as they can get re-elected with NRA money. Unfortunately, even sheriff's deputies must face the proliferation unregulated firearms, and sometimes die for it.
Thank you for a fine editorial.

February 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
Shareesta said...

And why would anyone need an assault rifle or a semi-automatic? Are you hunting with them? We need to get rid of those and we be on our way.

February 7, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
Shareesta said...

Jim Tracy-who is paying for the ultrasounds? The abortion issue comes up again and again to deflect from other issues. We need to be more concerned on our literacy rate and high infant mortality rate in TN-how embarrassing for us.

February 7, 2013 at 1:27 p.m.

Herein I proclaim greatest honor to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and his Bradley County colleague, Sheriff Jim Ruth! Gentlemen, You are keeping our nation and cities free. You are of historic and monumental value as Constitutional Sheriffs. Thank You.


February 7, 2013 at 8:58 p.m.


Would You prefer Molotov Cocktails instead of 'so-called' assault rifles? Prefer to see toddlers burn slowly to death? These maniacs make a decision to commit mass murder...then go do it. They will find a way, that is the nature of evil. If I had to die violently, I would rather go quickly! Hope to God this will be remedied. Hope to God we will all be able to live in safety.

Ken Orr

February 7, 2013 at 11:34 p.m.
Easy123 said...


You're a moron.

February 8, 2013 at 2:25 a.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...


I'm sick and tired of hearing that "it won't work, so we can't try" Seatbelts don't always save your life in an auto accident but smart people still buckle and the law says you must.

February 8, 2013 at 7:45 a.m.


Please understand that I would be the first person to support the Lib. Demo's gun control measures IF they had merit or any remote possibility of effectiveness. I have six children who I want protected at all costs.

Taking away basic rights/freedoms does not remedy the situation. should this administration, our country, ban cigarettes and alcohol? Abortion? These are the 'TRUE' MASS MURDERERS!

Peace to You and Yours Hunter_Bluff,


February 8, 2013 at 9:05 a.m.
Easy123 said...


"Please understand that I would be the first person to support the Lib. Demo's gun control measures IF they had merit or any remote possibility of effectiveness."

How can you know the merit or effectiveness until you try them? You don't care about the merit or the effectiveness. You just spew your WingNut propaganda.

"Taking away basic rights/freedoms does not remedy the situation."

No one is advocating taking away any basic rights or freedoms.

"ban cigarettes and alcohol? Abortion?"

All three of those things are highly regulated with cigarettes and alcohol being heavily taxed as well.

Your god has killed more babies and humans than all three of those things. Let's ban religion too!

February 8, 2013 at 9:44 a.m.
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