The San Francisco Chronicle in a rare burst of actual journalism traced the path of a single weapon, a 9mm Hi-Point semiautomatic pistol that was purchased in Walsenburg, Colorado, by Sanae Quiroz-Jones and Jerry Jones. The Joneses gave the gun to their nephew Travis Price, who was conveniently in the gun-trafficking business. Price mailed the gun to his girlfriend Wendy Gardiner in Fairfield, California. Gardiner sold it to a marijuana grower in Laytonville, Mendocino County, California, who sold it to an casino employee in town. The casino employee traded it to a high-school student named Aaron Campbell, in return for a pit-bull puppy. Several months later, Campbell, distraught over the death of his mother, used the gun to kill himself.
The Chronicle’s reason for telling this complicated story is apparently to explain the elaborate legislative efforts being made crack down on “straw purchases” like the Joneses’s in order to reduce tragic suicides like Campbell’s.
I can’t help shaking my head at this foolishness. The original purchase was certainly unlawful, but so was almost everything else that happened. Giving the gun to Price was unlawful (since he had a felony record), mailing a gun like that was unlawful, the three unrecorded sales were unlawful, the pot-growing was certainly unlawful, and even the puppy-for-pistol swap was adorably unlawful. Heck, the casino where the only person in this story with a legit job worked would have been illegal almost anywhere in the country, except the Indian reservation it was on.
But the politicians — “lawmakers” the reporter calls them, inevitably — believe, or claim to believe, that one more law is going to make a difference. The attempts listed in the article itself are stunningly irrelevant: President Obama is proposing background checks on all private sales of guns; California state senator Mark DeSaulnier is pushing a bill that to require people to report guns lost or stolen within 48 hours. Neither of those laws, if passed, would be at all applicable here.
Because guns aren’t the issue in a suicide! If poor Campbell had been unable to find a gun, if guns were utterly illegal, if they had never been invented, the boy would still have killed himself.
Oft-derided Jerry Brown vetoed an earlier version of DeSaulnier’s bill, saying “I am skeptical that this bill would change those behaviors.”