- By Lt. Tim McMillan
A Simple Solution For Both Sides.
On Sunday, October 1, 2017, at 10:05 pm PST, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock committed the single deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
The victims of Sunday’s deadly attack were innocent concert goers- mothers, fathers, police officers, teachers, nurses, and military veterans. All in all, 58 innocent lives were taken and more than 500 were wounded.
In the waning days since Sunday’s attack, understandably the debate over gun control in America has raged. Dug in on either side of this debate are people who question why it is legally permissible for people to own semi-automatic carbine rifles or modifications such as “Bump-fire” attachments which allow for semi-automatic guns to be fired as automatic weapons.
On the other side are the gun enthusiasts or 2nd Amendment advocates who are entrenched in the opinion that any gun legislation is unconstitutional and will be useless to prevent crimes, such as what occurred in Las Vegas.
If history follows its similar course, we will see heated exchanges that will be drawn along partisan lines in the coming days or weeks. Eventually, as soon as another spectacular event captures the American public’s attention, these heated debates will be tabled until the next senseless loss of life occurs. We have seen this same series of events occur over and over, from the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, to inarguably the most disturbing incident in the 2012 deaths of 20 children and 7 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Ultimately, our inability to develop any meaningful outcomes from these horrific tragedies lies in the fact that the only discussion that occurs, happens in a vacuum of extreme polar opposites. To each side, the solutions look like a huge turd in the punchbowl.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we all just eventually throw our hands up and say, “Nothing can or will be done!” Then we all hope that it isn’t one of our family members or us that ends up being killed next time.
However, in an effort to not allow those 58 deaths in Las Vegas to go in vain, and in an attempt to try to retroactively honor the victims of the past shooting deaths in America...
I declare there is a solution!
There is a solution that should be considered doable and workable regardless of what side of the political spectrum one lies on. Will it represent the extremist solutions that a majority of people on each side suggest?
No, it will not.
Instead, it will be a viable solution that will at least represent a legitimate effort to try to prevent what occurred in Las Vegas from occurring again. It will be a comprise between both sides in which no overarching weapons bans will be necessary. However, a layer of protection can be implemented that could likely have prevented the deaths of 58 people on October 1st.
In May of 2013, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen was investigated by the FBI for remarks he had made to co-workers while working as a security guard in Florida. Mateen had told his co-workers that his family was linked to al-Qaeda and that he had joined Hezbollah. Mateen was interviewed twice by the FBI and it was determined that he did not present a threat and his case was closed.
In July of 2014, Mateen was linked to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, an American citizen who had traveled to Syria and committed a suicide bombing in late May of 2014. According to an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS. An examination of Mateen's computer records showed that he frequently watched extremist videos, including beheadings, and had sought out information on the Islamic State.
In May of 2016, Mateen legally purchased a Sig Sauer SIG MCX 5.56 caliber semi-automatic rifle and 9mm Glock handgun. Mateen also attempted to purchase body armor, however, the gun store did not sell the particular type he wanted.
On June 12, 2016, at 2:22 a.m EST, Omar Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire on patrons with the two firearms he had purchased two months prior. Ultimately, police would shoot and kill Mateen, but not before he murdered 49 people and injured 58 more.
Stephen Craig Paddock has been described as a 64-year-old reclusive high-stakes gambler and real estate investor. Though the investigation is still actively ongoing, presently no details have emerged that suggests a motive for why this wealthy retiree would meticulously plot out the deadly mass shooting spree on Sunday, October 1st.
Presently, his family members, neighbors, and girlfriend have been unable to give any details as to why Paddock would stockpile tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, firearms, or explosive compounds, and then engage in mass murder on a crowd attending the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas. There are seemingly no apparent indicators by anyone, including the gun store personnel who sold Paddock a bulk of the 49 firearms recovered from his hotel suite, and two homes.
Investigators have concluded that some of the Paddocks gun purchases extend back more than twenty years. However, thirty-three of the guns used by Paddock in the shooting rampage were purchased within the past year. The majority of the thirty-three firearms purchased this past year were 5.56 and .308 caliber rifles. The guns used in his deadly shooting spree.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires all federal firearms licensees to report multiple sales or other dispositions of handguns to the same purchaser [Title 18 U.S.C. 923(g)(3)] Currently the sale or deposition of two or more handguns must be reported if they occur at the same time, or within five consecutive business days of each other.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has long used multiple sales information to detect, investigate, and prevent firearms trafficking.
However, the G.C.A. only covers handguns.
Presently, since August of 2011, the ATF was authorized by the Office of Management and Budget under information collection 1140-0100 to initiate similar reporting requirements on the multiple sale or disposition of rifles that are semi-automatic, or a caliber greater than .22, in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. This reporting program was renewed in November of 2014 and is set to expire November 30, 2017.
Unlike handguns, presently there is no requirement, with the exception of the above-mentioned states, for FFLs to report multiple rifle purchases.
Federal law requires all FFL licensees to send duplicate copies of all receipts of sales to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). This is mandatory in all states, without variation.
Every Federal, State, County, and City government throughout the United States has no legal restriction on their ability to maintain computerized databases, EXCEPT the branch of the ATF which oversees the receipts from firearm sales. By law, the ATF is prohibited from computerizing the sales records of firearms. The sales records branch is required by Congress to maintain sales records on microfiche reels.
Because the ATF cannot computerize their records of receipts, when members of any city police, county police, state police, the FBI or the DEA want to trace the records of ownership of any gun that they suspect may have been used in a crime based on the serial number, they call or send an email to the ATF offices in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and then the ATF agents have to find their copy of the sales receipt in their boxes of records of microfiche reels.
Presently, the ATF has so many boxes of microfiche reels, they must store many of the boxes in industrial shipping containers in a secure location on ATF property.
Set legislation in place that mandates rifles over .22 caliber also fall under the same guidelines as handguns in The Gun Control Act of 1968.
This would mandate FFL licensees to report multiple rifle purchases just as they do for handguns. Ultimately, had this system been in place, authorities would have been notified in instances in which Stephen Paddock had purchased more than one rifle at the same time or within five business days, as he did in October of 2016.
Additionally, had the rule applied for handguns and rifles, Omar Mateen would have been reported to the ATF when he bought his semi-automatic rifle and handgun at the same time.
Under present guidelines, Paddock or anyone for that matter, who purchases 30 semi-automatic rifles in one transaction does not require the notification of any authority.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
This requirement for multiple handgun purchases HAS been in place since 1968.
In the past forty-nine years since the GCA went into effect, the Federal government has not come to seize anyone’s guns in response to mandated reporting. Additionally, the mandated reporting alone does not initiate some government investigation. In fact, hundreds if not thousands of people purchase or transfer two or more handguns daily in America.
Authorize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to update the receipts for firearm sales to a computerized database.
Presently, microfiche that is being used to archive firearm sales receipts is 1930’s technology. By prohibiting the ATF from using electronic computerized database systems it completely cripples the ATF or any other law enforcement and intelligence agency from being able to proactively be alerted to any potential series of concerning firearm purchases with the U.S..
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
Critics have said that creating a searchable computerized database of records of gun sales, would be a violation of Second Amendment rights. However, the ATF HAS been maintaining these exact same records using obsolete technology since 1968. There has been no declaration of this record keeping on microfiche as being a Second Amendment violation for the past 49 years.
How can it be considered a violation of the second amendment to merely computerize the same records that are already being maintained? I am open to discussion on this.
By mandating reporting for rifles in the same accordance with the GCA of 1968 as handguns and allowing the ATF to computerize the sales data records it allows for law enforcement and homeland security to detect possible threats to national security that are being obtained through legal means.
In the terms of Omar Mateen, based on his past investigation for ties to terrorism, improvements to these two key issues would have allowed for federal law enforcement authorities to be notified when he made his purchases. This would have been a full two months BEFORE he murdered 49 people in July of 2016.
Had there been a system in place in May of 2016, when Mateen made his purchases, this could have changed the entire dynamic of the previous investigations and his ties to terrorism. Suddenly, it would have been known that Mateen had acquired the means to commit his eventual crimes.
Additionally, by computerizing the sales of firearms, it allows for law enforcement agencies to be able to detect noticeable patterns of behavior that could indicate threats to national security.
One very obvious method is through the use of computer algorithms that evaluate metadata of sales records to determine the bounds that fall within patterns of normal distribution. Patterns outside of the bounds of the normal distribution COULD potentially be cause for alarm. These patterns could then be examined to determine if there is additional information indicates a threat to national security.
The examination of metadata on sales records DOES NOT need individual’s names or even particularly what firearms are purchased. Obviously, when it comes to matters of national security, the indicators that can be found in the metadata of sales, cannot be released.
HOWEVER, the name and personal information of individuals can absolutely be concealed using AES Rijndael encryption of electronic data. Essentially, even if an agency detected a potential concern in the metadata it would still have to validate the significance of the concern based on the metadata to the degree to obtain a federal warrant to release a particular name associated with the concerning pattern of purchases.
Only THEN could a law enforcement agency investigate the background or gather intelligence to determine the legitimacy of a threat. These processes occur every single day throughout a multitude of domestic and foreign, law enforcement and intelligence services.
Correctly implemented, these systems could have very easily detected Stephen Paddock’s intentions prior to him executing his plan and murdering 59 people on U.S. soil, using firearms purchased legally within America.
Lastly, updating the ability for law enforcement to determine the origin of firearms being used in crimes CAN help reduce the number of unlawful uses of firearms by detecting focal points of origin and concentrating enforcement efforts to reduce the number of illegal weapons on the streets.
Additionally, these systems can also facilitate in keeping firearms from being legally purchased by individuals who have exhibited serious mental illness concerns. These pre-event behaviors were noted in numerous mass shooting incidents over the last decade.
Ultimately, both of these CAN PROTECT lawful gun owners and non-gun owners in America.
There is no guarantee that either of these systems could have prevented the events that have occurred in any of these mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
Both of these suggestions do not represent the restrictions or prohibitions on any firearms that some people are stark advocates for.
Some individuals have deeply ingrained beliefs of mistrust over the federal government having any records regarding their purchase of firearms. The bulk of these concerns to a significant degree have been installed as a result of extreme politicization over firearm laws in America and are not based on substance. Again, both of these legislative changes suggested DO NOT alter any major existing legislative standards.
Both of these legislative changes absolutely represent positive progression towards meaningful legislation of firearms in America with the sole intent to protect lawful gun owner’s rights while safeguarding national security and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
These systems should alleviate some of the concerns by individuals over one’s right to own semi-automatic carbine rifles, without prohibiting their purchase and use by lawful gun owners and enthusiasts.
There are numerous watchdog and oversight organizations that can be used, including congressional oversight committees to ensure no infringement of American’s second or fourth amendment constitutional rights are violated. Some examples are The Justice Department's National Security Division, FBI's Inspection Division, Office of General Counsel, Office of Integrity and Compliance, or the National Security Division's Oversight Section.
In conclusion, I truly believe the serious consideration of these legislative changes can indeed represent a bipartisan attempt at protecting gun owner’s rights and safeguarding national security. The intricate details of such legislative changes are clearly up for discussion or debate in order to facilitate proper and effortless implementation.
Frankly, everything I’ve laid out here represents more than just arguing or fighting on social media and presents a legitimate effort to see meaningful bipartisan discourse that can be the foundation of unifying a very divided nation right now.
Anyone, who agrees with me, is more than happy to send my entire proposal to their congressional leadership. Ultimately, the passage of something like this can represent a landmark moment in one’s political career. Here you go… It’s all yours. Call it the Paul Ryan Bill, or whatever else if you want, I truly don’t care. If it gets people talking in positive directions, honestly, I could care less who gets the credit.