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Laws don’t stop criminals

I would like to start by saying that I agree with Daniel Entrikin’s opinion on gun-related crimes – something has to be done to reduce the number of them committed in this country. However, I don’t believe tighter regulations are in order.

Entrikin said “The same sale that is illegal at a gun store is completed easily and legally at a gun show.”

This was in reference to the hypothetical situation of an “escaped mental patient” who could go to a gun show and “legally” buy a gun. The claim was that since private sellers are not required to conduct background checks on the buyers, the escaped mental patient could buy the gun legally. What is misleading about this claim is that Entrikin himself said earlier that, “Persons convicted of a felony or involuntarily committed to a mental institution are among those that cannot legally own guns.”

If persons involuntarily committed to a mental institution cannot legally own guns, then how can they legally buy a gun from a private seller? They can’t. By even attempting to buy a gun, the mental patient is committing a crime and the transaction cannot legally take place. Entrikin goes on to say that, “The laws are often broken by private sellers.” If laws are being broken by private sellers, how are more laws going to change the behavior of those same sellers?

We already have laws on the books that prohibit felons and mental patients from so much as holding a gun, so what we need is more enforcement rather than more laws. If private sellers are transferring guns to out-of-state buyers or mental patients, felonies are being committed. There is no “legal loophole” here.

Claiming there is a loophole with gun-show regulations is similar to claiming there is a loophole with traffic regulations. Every state in the nation has laws governing how fast you are allowed to drive your car, but these laws do not stop the vast majority of Americans from going over the speed limit. Should we make a law requiring every driver to have a GPS chip installed on their car to monitor their speed? Speeding tickets could be issued automatically, and I’m sure it would have some effect on the number of people who speed.

The problem here is free will. Laws do not physically prevent a crime from being committed; they inform the population what behavior is not acceptable and what the punishments will be if a law is broken. If someone is determined to break the law, they are going to do it no matter how many sets of laws we have prohibiting their actions. We need to enforce the laws we already have, not create new ones.

With regards to Entrikin’s escapade to New Hampshire in an attempt to purchase a rifle at a gun show, I have to say that the only thing he proved was that if laws are broken, then anyone can buy a gun. A federal felony was committed by the person who sold the rifle, and I am shocked that Entrikin would knowingly assist in committing a felony. Federal law prohibits the private sale or transfer of any gun between the residents of two different states. It also prohibits anyone from bringing a gun privately purchased across state lines back into their home state. It is for this reason that there is no legal “loophole” allowing Massachusetts residents to travel to New Hampshire to buy guns. In light of these clear federal laws, I do not see how Entrikin’s claim that “easy access to guns is but a short drive away” is valid. If several federal and state laws were to be broken then I agree it is possible, but there is no legal way for it to happen.

Again, laws do not prevent things from happening if the participants are determined to break the law. Entrikin demonstrated this himself when he allowed an illegal gun transaction to take place in New Hampshire. U.S. Code Title 18 Section 2(b) states that, “Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.” By willfully allowing the New Hampshire resident to sell him the rifle in violation of federal law, Entrikin violated this statute. I suggest he reevaluate the legal counsel he sought before traveling to New Hampshire to conduct his investigation.

In Massachusetts, we have the most complex and restrictive gun laws in the nation. Yet criminals are still able to get guns within this state. In 2008, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 290 of the 890 illegally owned guns seized by police in this state came from Massachusetts; only 91 came from New Hampshire. If criminals in Massachusetts, a state that “has essentially closed the loophole” and that “has strict gun laws” could get three times the number of guns from within this state than they could in a neighboring state with “lax” gun laws, wouldn’t that indicate having more laws doesn’t solve more problems?

Matthew Ryder is a UMass student. He can be reached at

5 Responses to “Laws don’t stop criminals”
  1. Daniel Entrikin says:

    The ATF, however, were not as shocked when notified by NH police that day, when I turned the gun in. I was not detained, and left after a pleasant conversation about local gun laws.

    Nor did NH ATF take any action when I contacted them myself soon after and explained my situation. This was in October of last year. Of the numerous police officers I have spoken to about this issue, this alleged felony has never been mentioned.

    The continued assertion that I committed a felony is patently false and borders on defamation. The advice I received from UMass Legal Services has proven completely correct. I encourage readers to see these accusations for what they truly are; no more than an effort to discredit me.

  2. Robert says:

    Thank you, Matthew, for bringing a clear viewpoint on this emotionally charged subject.

    It seems so obvious that “one more broken law” will not matter to someone that is willing to BREAK the law.

    Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of licensed gun owners in Massachusetts not only understand the law, but obey the law.

    This is a view that should be considered by Daniel Entrikin before he unwitting breaks another law.

  3. “Should we make a law requiring every driver to have a GPS chip installed on their car to monitor their speed? Speeding tickets could be issued automatically, and I’m sure it would have some effect on the number of people who speed.”

    I realise that this is an example, but an insane Statist (but I repeat myself) could very easily read this and think it’s a great idea. I’ve stopped giving such examples myself, because I don’t want to give those people any more ideas than they already have.

    Nevertheless, you’re absolutely right on. I mentioned Entrikin’s experiment to a friend of mine who is well-acquainted with firearms and the laws surrounding them, and he said basically what you did – the seller and Entrikin committed a crime, pure and simple. There is no “loophole.”

  4. Matt says:

    Dan, I didn’t say you committed a felony. The person who sold you the gun did. What I said was that you broke the law I cited. I’m sure that law isn’t a felony and I don’t know what the punishment is.

    Consulting law enforcement about firearms laws is generally not the best idea. If you talk to many MA officers you will find that maybe 1 in 10 actually knows the laws in and out. I’ve never dealt with Umass legal services so I can’t comment on their firearms competency, but a lawyer who specializes in MA/federal firearms law is usually your best bet.

  5. Robert says:

    Daniel, notwithstanding your claim that you broke no law (which you may want to investigate further in view of the cite in the article) you cannot possibly claim that the transaction was legal. It was not. *Somebody* broke at least one law. What, you’d like it to be MORE illegal than it already is? 🙂

    That the police chose not to make an arrest simply means they chose not to make an arrest, not that there was no crime. There is no law that says they have to arrest lawbreakers!

    You have fallen into the trap of making the story fit your prejudice. You should objectively research a subject before writing about it!

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