This is what happens when one partakes of the Kool-Aid without first examining the ingredients.
The claim made for the numbers of firearms transferred without background checks is a myth based on a misguided interpretation of a study conducted more than 20 years ago. The chart below shows the actual responses.
Roughly 60% of gun transfers go through licensed dealers including gun shops, sporting goods stores and pawn shops. Note that the percentage of handguns acquired from licensed dealers is higher than the percentage for long guns (rifles and shotguns).
The next-largest group of transfers is gifts and sales within a family. Even states that require universal background checks routinely exempt transfers between family members, especially blood relatives and immediate family. Even federal laws are reduced when it comes to bequests from one family member to another.
Next comes gifts and sales between friends.
Adding up the percentages, roughly 90% of firearm transfers (gifts or sales) fall into these categories. Dealer sales and family transfers alone account for about 78% of the total.
Out of more than 2,400 people that participated in the telephone survey, only 251 responded to the questions about gun acquisitions in the previous two years. One of the study’s authors, Professor Philip J. Cook, noted that the sample could not be interpreted as being statistically valid for a nationwide conclusion.
There was never any question asked about background checks. The reason for this is quite simple: the study was conducted in November and December of 1994. This means the two-year window would have covered transfers from late 2002, all of 2003 and most of 2004.
Background checks were not required until February 1994.
Moreover, the 4% of respondents that said they got their gun at a gun show were not asked if they had to complete a Form 4473, which would have indicated that they had bought their firearm from a licensed dealer. This would have covered the entire period as the form has been mandatory for all sales from a licensed dealer since October 1968 when the Gun Control Act of 1968 went into effect.
Subsequent surveys have revealed similar results.
A recent study of expanded background checks in Colorado and Washington state concluded that the laws were largely ineffective.
In fact, background checks themselves have a fairly poor record. Of the mass shootings in which the source of the firearms used was published, 76% of the killers passed one or more background checks. In three incidents, disqualifying information was not on file with the FBI, so the killers were allowed to make purchases that should have been blocked. In the first case, records of a disqualifying mental health issue was concealed. In another case, a sale was determined to have been made in error. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI had two months in which to retrieve the gun or direct a local or county law enforcement agency to seize the gun, but did not do so. In the last case, military justice practices prevented disqualifying information to be transmitted to the FBI because a certain type of discharge was not classed properly. In every other case, the sale was allowed because the killer had not violated any laws and had not been determined to have a disqualifying mental condition.
In the Parkland shooting, Nikolas Cruz was not only able to buy several guns but even to get away with posting his intentions on social media. It is not a stretch to say that the deaths and injuries at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School were enabled not by Smith & Wesson or Sunrise Tactical but by the Broward County Board of Education, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. The policy of diversion prevented arrest and prosecution of Cruz for violent acts, which would have led to a prohibition on firearm possession, and the FBI’s failure to forward two tips about Cruz to its Miami office for follow-up meant that local authorities were unaware of his activities.
The fact that gun control advocates seem to minimize or ignore these things in order to focus solely on the gun Cruz used is not only disingenuous, it’s deceptive.
The “porous borders” excuse fails the reality test.
Buying a firearm in one state and selling it to a resident of another state is a federal offense which can carry heavy penalties. This has been the law for nearly 50 years. Sanctions are also available for licensed dealers with a pattern of allowing questionable sales. One gun shop in Wisconsin was stripped of its federal license when it was determined that a large percentage of crime guns were originally sold in that store.
This means that people who conduct straw purchases and illegal sales are taking great risks of heavy fines and long prison terms if they are caught. Obviously, there must be some incentive to stay “in business.”
That incentive is money. There is a large market for guns in cities and states with strict gun laws. Gangs and drug dealers provide a steady source of income for gunrunners. This is true not only in Chicago but cities like Baltimore and Washington, D.C., too.
It’s also true elsewhere. France has strong gun laws so the terrorists who killed 130 people in Paris in 2015 got their guns in Belgium.
The porous border excuse is a deflection; an attempt divert attention away from the fact that gun control laws don’t, in fact, control guns. It’s also convenient to cover up the fact that governments have failed to address the factors that drive the shootings, the stabbings and the beatings.
Incidentally, Chicago’s excuse that guns used in crime come from outside the is very amusing. The guns used by Chicago’s police come from outside the city, too. There are no licensed firearm dealers in the city of Chicago.
Guns should be kept safely stored when not in use. This is quite true. How often to police check to see if they are properly stored? Other than in a couple of states like Massachusetts, only when they have a warrant.
Estimates of the number of U.S. households where there are one or more firearms range from 40 million to 57 million. The government doesn’t have any data on which households those are in most states. There were more than 126,244,000 U.S. households in the U.S. in 2017, requiring law enforcement in most states to make a determination of which households are the most likely to have guns, obtain a search warrant based on probable cause, which requires police to have a reason to suspect guns are not being stored properly, execute the warrant and, if violations are found, arrest the gun owner and charge them with what most likely would be a minor misdemeanor, especially if it’s a household without younger children.
The laws would have to be enacted on a state-by-state basis because the federal government would have a hard time persuading courts that it had the constitutional authority to enact such a law.
Furthermore, since just about every county sheriff in nearly every state would assign a priority to enforcement somewhere below jaywalking (if they enforced it at all), the burden of vigorous enforcement would fall on the federal government. The assignment would probably go to the ATF, which has 2,623 special agents and 828 inspectors that focus on the firearms industry.
Prosecutions for attempted fraud in firearms transactions, including lying on the Form 4473, fell during the eight years of the Obama administration. It’s too early to identify a trend under President Trump, but it’s likely to have remained a low priority.
It is unlawful to be under the influence of intoxicants while carrying a firearm. Most states have laws that prohibit carry guns in bars and some prohibit carrying in any location that serves alcoholic beverages. When infractions are observed or reported, law enforcement is fully capable of making an arrest. How often are these laws enforced? As often as violations are observed and reported.
Both the statements about storage and alcoholic beverages seem to assume some sort of magical, omniscient police agency. Such an agency does not exist, would violate the Fourth Amendment, and it is unlikely that we would be willing to live under a government where it did. For one thing, such an agency would require an intrusion into the private lives of citizens far beyond anything previously witnessed in human history. For another, we can thank the Roman poet Juvenal for “Qui custodiet ipsos custodes” or “who guards the guardians themselves.”
The assertions presented by the response do not hold up under close examination. Furthermore, the position taken demonstrates a possible lack of knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and the limits it places on federal authority.