Overregulation Nightmares

Steve Comus

December 1, 2017 —

Benjamin Franklin, among others, has been quoted with the fable:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

For want of some data, innocent citizens are being killed by criminals who should not have been allowed to buy guns in the first place.

Head cases and criminals seem to be finding “sanctuary” in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Does that make NICS a “sanctuary system” in the same way that some cities and states are “sanctuary cities” and “sanctuary states?”

Although there is no apparent common motivation, it is beginning to look like the results are similar: Government safeguard systems are precluded from performing their duties because of an absence of critical data in the right place at the right time.

Sanctuary cities and states seem to be a camp thing to do in some places these days where local law enforcement officers and agencies are systemically handcuffed from cooperating totally with federal officials when it comes to aliens who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

Aliens who should have been turned over to federal authorities for deportation, in some celebrated cases, have instead been turned loose into society where they commit additional crimes, including murder.

As a result, crimes are committed by aliens who should have been deported and not present to commit their further crimes in the first place. This, then, means that the entire immigration system becomes broken – more and more as the days go by. That is because these more local jurisdictions refuse to follow established procedures, and in doing so keep federal officials in the dark until it is too late.

Whether the obscuring of information is deliberate, accidental or negligent, the result is the same: Data is not there and the system that relies on that data breaks down. So it is lately with the NICS. It is estimated that as many as 7 million people who should not be able to buy or own firearms are not in the system, which means they are free to buy guns and wreak havoc on the country at large.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the NICS, which relies on other local, state and national agencies to report criminal history and other kinds of things relevant to that system.

It seems as though these other agencies have failed to supply all of the information they were supposed to, and as a result, people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms have been able to do so, as was apparent last month in a massacre at a Texas church. The Air Force failed to report an earlier conviction of the shooter in that mass killing, which, in turn, resulted in the shooter being able to buy guns that would have been denied him had his name been in the NICS system, as it should have been.

“The system is only as good as the records that are in it,” said National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre.

When it comes to such government systems, numbers are big – sometimes huge. For example, in 2016, more than 120,000 people were denied overall in the NICS.

Matters such as these give pause to consider the big picture. When it comes to government programs of any kind, the scope can be gigantic. Numbers in the millions are common, which means that even if a tiny percentage falls through the cracks, disaster can follow.

Put bluntly, government cannot solve many of society’s problems, regardless how diligently those in government try to do everything exactly right. In private business, there has been a thing called Six Sigma.

The Wikipedia explanation of Six Sigma includes the observation: “A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all opportunities to produce some feature of a part are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defective features per million opportunities).”

If one of the most stringent processes in business allows 3.4 defective features per million, then it would not be unreasonable to expect that there might be 23.8 defects among the 7 million folks who should not be able to own guns, but who are not in the NICS system. Does that mean that we should logically expect that, even if the government system operates as well as the best in industry, that we still could expect to experience 23.8 mass murderers?

What it boils down to is the reality that stuff happens and that the more people there are, the more stuff there is to happen.

That is assuming that the government is as effective as the best in industry. Regardless, there are head cases and criminals who are able to bypass the system and put the public at greater risk.

Which brings us to the old saw: When seconds count, police are only minutes away.

The NICS system, like any other, can benefit from improvements, no doubt. But it never can be 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time.

That’s why, in the final analysis, good guys with guns always will be needed to neutralize bad guys with guns. There can be no “sanctuary” anywhere for head cases and criminals.

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