The "Sabika Sheikh Firearms Licensing and Registration Act" Fails Third Grade Math

The ATF couldn't implement this thing if they drafted every psychologist in the entire country into the Army to process forms.

The gun owning community braced for a fusillade of unrealistic, borderline insane laws in the wake of the 2020 election, but House Resolution 127 is a special kind of nuttery. It’s jam packed with a bunch of stuff that we could talk about for days, including but not limited to:

  • Universal firearm licenses costing $800

  • Licenses for ammunition

  • Full public access to the universal firearm owner database

  • Ammunition bans

  • Mag bans

  • Semi auto rifle bans

  • Ban on gifting firearms without notice to the Attorney General

But let’s shelf all of that, in particular how the public database will turn into an index of which houses to rob to proliferate more illegal weapons into the black market, or how the $800 license is the most systemically racist idea since Jim Crow poll taxes, or how there’s no possible way to get this through the Supreme Court because “rights,” and instead talk about this bit here:

Ownership of a firearm would also be restricted to those 21 and older. Individuals who meet the age requirement and apply for a federal gun license would then be ordered to undergo "a psychological evaluation." That evaluation would also be extended to "other members of the household in which the individual resides ... any spouse of the individual, any former spouse of the individual, and at least 2 other persons who are a member of the family of, or an associate of, the individual to further determine the state of the mental, emotional, and relational stability of the individual in relation to firearms."

An individual's request for a license could be denied should the government find any history of hospitalization for "mental illness, disturbance, or diagnosis (including depression, homicidal ideation, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, or addiction to a controlled substance ... a brain disease ... or on account of conduct that endangers self or others."

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Analysis

The bill requires a psychological evaluation of a minimum of three, likely four, possibly five people before granting each license. Could be eight or more in a big household. Let’s say four on average.

There were over 100-million-gun owners in the United States at the beginning of 2020. The “Covid-19 toilet paper hoarder prepper” gun-buying-spike, the “BLM fear of police” gun-buying-spike, the “suburban fear of police defunding” gun-buying-spike, and the “fear of gun controlling politicians seizing guns” gun-buying-spike, all intersected to increase that number by an additional five million more new gun owners, most of which were liberals, some of which voted for the bill’s sponsor Sheila Jackson Lee. One in 20 gun owners today is a new owner, by conservative estimates. 105-million-gun owners at a minimum, likely more.

This bill would require the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to perform 420 million psychological evaluations within the span of three months. A psychological evaluation takes between 30 to 90 minutes to complete, so let’s say an hour.

There are 106,000 licensed psychologists in the United States. If every single psychologist in the country were drafted into the Army and then repurposed to aid the ATF in their registration effort, each psychologist would have to perform 3,962 hours worth of evaluations in order to handle the load, or approximately two full years of 40-hour work weeks. If, on the other hand, they were required by their new ATF slave drivers to process the full load within the three-month timeframe specified by the law, they would be doing seven million evaluations per day, requiring 66 hours worth of work in each 24-hour day for three months. This is third grade math. Even kindergarteners know there aren’t 66 hours in a day.

And that’s all presuming that you even could draft every psychologist in the country into the ATF somehow, and further presuming that all those psychological patients they’re seeing and helping could be put on hold for two years without serious drawbacks, such as perhaps maybe one of them shooting up a school.

The average psychologist’s salary in the USA is $105,000 per year. There are around 1960 hours in a work year for federal employees presuming they get federal holidays off and two weeks vacation. That means 214,285 work years to process these permits just on the psychological evaluation criteria alone, at a salaried cost of 22.5 billion dollars. This is approximately the same cost as building two manned moon bases, presuming that the ATF is efficient enough to line up eight evaluations per psychologist per day, which they assuredly won’t be.

Further, we happen to already know how many people such an effort would save from homicide. A mathematical analysis I performed for Open Source Defense showed that based on solid science by Michael Siegel at Boston University, almost every gun control measure ever studied had zero impact on gun homicide. And while this bill includes plenty of elements which are scientifically proven not to work, the licensing scheme would in fact cover the only three that did work, if in a ham fisted overly expensive systemically racist way. Those three measures would avert around 1,600 firearm homicides per year in a country of 330 million people. This is an outlay of 14 million dollars per death averted. We could treat 93 cancer patients for that amount of money, even accounting for how our healthcare costs are quadruple the global average. The psychological evaluation piece of this legislation alone costs over five times the entire out of pocket cancer treatment expense for the entire country in a given year.

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Discussion

It’s hard to know what the legislators are thinking with this. It seems likely that this was either a “throw shit at a wall and see how much sticks” play, or a “float an impossible bill to farm campaign donations knowing it can’t pass” play. It could also be a “let’s propose something stupid and then use anyone’s nay vote against them by calling them murderers on Twitter” scheme. It could further be one of these “start with something outrageous and then when you land on a compromise it’s more in your favor” deals we see in standard negotiating tactics. But seeing how that played out in Virginia in 2019, we know exactly what will happen if this comes to the floor. Nationwide sanctuary counties and sanctuary states, exacerbating a culture war already on the knife edge.

But there’s another possibility worth considering. Presuming Sheila Jackson Lee does in fact know third grade math, it’s possible that she and her cosponsors simply have no idea how many gun owners there are. She might want to step out of her house in Texas and look around. She’s not in Queens New York anymore.

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