Sunday, December 30, 2012

More on the NY Firefighter Shooter Case

USA Today has a follow up on our story about the NY firefighter shooter.

Around 1:40 p.m., New York State Police, Webster Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives descended on the home where Dawn Nguyen and her mother, Dawn Welsher, were staying. Nguyen was taken out of the home in handcuffs.

Senior Investigator James Newell of the state police said Nguyen was charged with offering a false instrument for filing.

Nguyen is also facing federal charges for allegedly lying about the purchase of the semiautomatic .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, equipped with a combat-style flash suppressor, and the .12-gauge Mossberg shotgun used in Monday's slayings of two first responders and the wounding of three others. Nguyen is not connected to a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol also recovered.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said at a 4 p.m. ET press conference that Nguyen bought the guns on June 6, 2010, from a Gander Mountain store in Henrietta, south of Rochester. He said William Spengler Jr., a former neighbor in Webster who ignited an inferno and ambushed first responders before dawn Monday, picked out the guns and Nguyen bought them.

As as a convicted felon, Spengler was banned from owning guns. He served 17 years in state prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer in 1980. Nguyen lived next door to Spengler for about five years, in the house where he killed his grandmother.

"It is sometimes referred to acting as a 'straw purchaser' and that is exactly what today's complaint alleges," Hochul said.

Hochul indicated that in his rambling suicide note, Spengler revealed how he got the guns.
Pro-gun folks often point out that straw purchasers can easily claim that the guns were stolen. Well, in this case that didn't work.  Also it wouldn't work for the frequent or "professional" straw purchasers.  I mean, how many times can you reasonably expect the police to believe your guns were stolen.

What's needed is a comprehensive plan of proper gun control, including licensing and registration. This would eliminate almost all straw purchasing.

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.


  1. Mike,

    We've already discussed reasons we gun folk are wary of licensing and registration schemes on general principle, so I won't go into that here. As for the idea that they would eliminate straw purchasing, I think that there are a couple of lessons we can draw from various parts of the drug war that show that criminals would be able to circumvent your plan pretty easily.

    Example 1: Sudafed limits. I haven't seen any decline in the number of Meth labs reported in Tennessee, even after we linked sudafed purchases into a national database to enforce the buying limits. The limits and database inconvenience the hell out of me during hay fever season, but they are a minor speed bump for the cookers. They just find a few more people to get the Sudafed. Similarly, criminal arms rings could simply find more criminally minded people willing to make purchases for them. As long as the people were living in high crime areas and they did some other break-ins in the area, they could get away with "stealing" the guns in such a way that they covered the evidence.

    Yes, you couldn't use the straw purchasers for more than one or two times each per decade, but they could probably find enough to maintain a decent portion of their supply.

    Example 2: Theft of Drugs. You have lots of cases of people robbing drug stores to get Oxy, or robbing old people to get it and other drugs. For every bit of reduction in supply due to lack of straw purchasers, you would have that much added incentive to genuinely steal the guns. Like the Oxy thieves, these people would target those they knew had guns, and target the stores that sell them. They can follow people home from ranges or stores to know which houses to burgle, and they can hit gun shops at night. Yes, owners and stores have safes, but these can be cracked by a skilled "tradesman"--a type of fellow that would become increasingly valuable to these teams.

    Example 3: Increased cost: I'm sure that you will note that both of these work arounds would increase the cost of the guns, at least a bit, due to added risk and more palms to grease. However, when we look at the drug war, we see that addicts don't care about the cost of their drugs. If they can't afford the going price, they will just steal and kill to get the money to feed their habit. The same is true of the clients of these criminals. They don't have an addiction to guns, but they have a similarly strong desire for them--they are the tools of their violence. As long as the guns are there, these people will get their hands on them. If it costs more, they'll just have to do more muggings, burglaries, or what not to pay for them.

    Now I know you will say, "So are you saying that because we can't keep bad people from getting guns we shouldn't try?" That is not what I'm saying. We should make attempts to keep these prohibited persons from buying guns. But if we are going to look at a new way to try, we need to look at the costs vs. the benefits.

    The costs of your proposal would be the inconvenience and expense for the honest people (straw purchasers would be reimbursed for their expenses) plus the dangers of someone who DID want to ban guns coming along and utilizing the structure to do it easily, whether all at once or in a piecemeal fashion. The costs would also likely include higher amounts of theft and break-ins, some of which would probably lead to assaults or even murders.

    The benefits, I'm afraid, would be minimal as the criminal element is adaptable and could easily seek out more straw purchasers and more gun owners to rob.

    As I see it, the costs of this proposal outweigh the benefits by quite a bit.

    1. I'm not surprised you think that. I disagree. You're comparing the inconvenience and increased expense to lawful gun owners on the one hand, the cost, with the deaths and injuries of gun violence victims which could be avoided on the other.

      You've got to be completely blinded by your own bias to think that makes sense.

    2. No, we're not talking about inconvenience and increased expense. Your proposals would turn this country into Japan, as your video post describes. That's a major infringement.

      Tennesseean makes complete sense here, and your constant yammering about bias only shows how biased you are. Shall we let go of that insult? Neither side believes the other anyway.

    3. Mike,

      Forgive me for not explicitly mentioning the cost of "the deaths and injuries of gun violence victims."

      Frankly, I thought that it was self evident that when I talked about the benefits of a gun control law, I meant a reduction in crime guns and therefore, hopefully, in victims. I guess I should make these implications painfully obvious.

      So I'll restate, and then maybe you can tell me where I'm wrong in the analysis above:

      Premise of my argument:

      The cost to gun owners and gun rights in general is high. For the reasons explained, the benefits of reducing crime, and number of victims of crime, would be minimal if there even were any. Actually, there might be MORE victims due to the increase in break-ins. Therefore, these proposals fail to measure up since they offer little to no benefit to make up for the harm they would do.

    4. Mikeb wrote, "... the deaths and injuries of gun violence victims which could be avoided on the other [gun control laws claimed to reduce straw purchasing]."

      Mikeb you miss a simple and monumental point. Tennessean explained how criminals will acquire guns regardless of any gun control laws that you can dream up. So your claim that gun control will somehow reduce "gun violence" is absurd. Thus your gun control proposal does nothing of benefit, still costs lives, inconveniences citizens who wish to own firearms, and puts citizens at serious risk for confiscation.

    5. T. and Anon., I'm not surprised you guys deny that gun flow into the criminal world would be greatly diminished with proper gun control laws. You're very position depends on that. And to make your argument even better you exaggerate the inconvenience and cost to law-abiding gun owners.

      I think an objective person would see through your twisted descriptions in a minute. I certainly do.

    6. If you see through my description, explain how it is wrong. Why would the criminals not follow their past pattern and either come up with more creative ways of straw purchasing, or simply steal more guns to supply themselves?

    7. Criminals would do exactly that, but there's no way it could make up for the tremendously easy access they have now.

    8. Why couldn't it? You need reasons--explanation why thefts and international arms markets couldn't make up the slack the way they do in other countries. You keep saying that it couldn't without saying why.

    9. Mexico is a prime example of how an international and illegal gun market works. Legal gun ownership is heavily restricted in that country, and yet, gangs have no trouble being armed.

  2. Here's a high-profile arrest of a straw purchaser. That's exactly what law enforcement is supposed to do. Taking rights away from good citizens isn't.

  3. Man it would be terrible to be like Japan, what with there 12 gun-related homcides per year and higher life expectancies! No! What we need is at least 1 gun for every man, woman, and child in America! Only when we have more than 300,000,000 guns and hefty profits fro Gun Makers will we be FREE!!!!

    1. How terrible it would be to live in a conformist society with a population that is weighted heavily toward the elderly, that has a suicide rate much higher than ours, with a stagnant economy, and the time of greatness in the past.


    3. Yeah, it sound's like a freaking paradise:

      Why can't you guys get it through you heads that you cannot compare countries outright? There are too many differences: cultural, socio-economic, gangs, organized crime, drugs, access to mental health care, etc.

      My example is walking into a room and finding rotten fruit in a blue bowl and ripe fruit in a yellow bowl - would you assume that blue bowls speed decay?? No. But if you put fresh fruit in both bowls you can then discover if there is a difference.

      Similarly, you can look at what happens to violent crime in a given area after a change in gun control laws to discover the effect. And I a afraid the data from this falls on our side of the fence.

  4. Let's assume that criminals acquire a significant number of firearms through straw purchases and that gun control eliminates straw purchasing (which I believe is totally incorrect). What makes you think that it will be hard for criminals to acquire firearms in such a scenario?

    It is exceedingly straight forward to steel firearms, smuggle firearms, bribe "officials" who control firearms, and even to manufacture firearms in the thousands of machine shops in the U.S. Those alternate distribution channels will pick up any slack in straw sales ... which are already illegal and apparently ineffective if you want more laws. And what will make new laws effective when the government is unable to effectively enforce the laws on the books now?

    1. There are many alternative ways to get guns if we shut down the current ones, but nothing will replace the easy access criminals have now.

  5. I wrote USA Today a comment pointing out their error of the .12 gauge shotgun, but I see that they still haven't corrected it. Why are reporters incapable of getting gun facts right?