There was good news and bad news out of West Texas for gun rights enthusiasts last week. 

The good news, according to an analysis piece that was published in the Washington Post, is that public interest in a mass shooting incident usually subsides after a three-week period. The writers of that piece based their findings on the level of internet searches on phrases like “gun control” and “2nd Amendment.” 

Evidently this kind of internet activity spikes upwards during the first week after a mass shooting and then tapers off and goes back to normal three weeks later. So, for future reference, you now have a metric for rationing out those “thoughts and prayers” without seeming too superficial or callous.

And even though we are at the three-week mark for the El Paso shooting, the bad news is that some jerk out in Odessa evidently doesn’t read the Washington Post. Seriously, how can you gun nuts expect the American public to quietly forget about a senseless tragedy if you keep letting it blow up, literally, in peoples’ faces? 

At this rate you’re going to have to start putting a gun to people’s heads to get them to calm down.

Or, we could do the right thing and have a serious conversation about universal background checks and having the ability to conduct them in an effective manner. For starters, I am going to go on the assumption that you do know how to read and that you have made note of the words “well regulated” that are contained in the 2nd Amendment. 

What do these words mean? I can’t think of any possible translation other than the idea that they mean the government — as an extension of the people — can regulate firearms transactions and can pass laws in accordance with the people’s will to do so.

Recent polls indicate that the majority of the American people — during those ever so shortening periods of forgetfulness between massacres — do support the idea of a universal background check but, and this is always the case in a democracy, there’s a catch.

In this case the catch is the Firearm Owners Protection act of 1986. This little jewel — passed at the behest of the NRA — effectively hamstrung the BATF and provided some serious roadblocks to the agency’s doing its job. The truth is that you will get in more trouble selling a kid a pack of cigarettes than you will for giving him a gun. I bet the opioid makers are kicking themselves for not getting in on this action!

One of the provisions of this act forbade the BATF from administering its own electronic database for monitoring firearms transactions. As a result, the folks at the agency have to hitch on to someone else’s database in order to approve or deny a sale. 

This came into play in Sutherland Springs where the shooter, Devin Kelley, was able to buy a gun legally based on what information the BATF was able to access. Unfortunately, because we are so sensitive about the medical records of our vets being released, the fact that the Air Force had red-flagged him did not show up on the FBI’s database.

And maybe the BATF could have spent a little more time digging into those records, but, whoops, the Firearm Act also requires that all transactions be approved or denied within a 72-hour period. Here’s a tip to all you convicted felons who want to exercise your God-given Second Amendment rights — buy a gun on Friday and plan your crime sprees for the start of the following week.

It’s also worth noting that the number of actual BATF employees and level of funding for the agency hasn’t really increased over the last 20 years. Compared the other trends showing the rising level of gun sales to private individuals over that time period (estimated at between 300 and 400 million in this country) and given the fact that the AR-15 is the trendiest fashion statement in the industry today, well, maybe sticking a chunk of sheet metal in Junior’s backpack before he heads off to start the new school year isn’t the worst idea you could come up with.

So you can protest the idea that we don’t need more gun laws but you have to accept the fact that we have effectively hobbled the one agency responsible for enforcing those laws. Put your thoughts and prayers in one hand and empty a box of bullets in the other and see which one fills up faster. 

Will we sacrifice some of our individual rights for the greater good, or will we allow the lives of our friends, neighbors and family members to continue to be sacrificed for nothing?

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