Gun Control

Paperwork Can't Stop Criminals From Getting Guns

Why background checks won't stymie ordinary felons or mass shooters

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A lack of background checks for gun buyers plainly had nothing to do with the mass shootings that have grabbed headlines in the last few years. The weapons used in those crimes were purchased legally from federally licensed firearms dealers, which means the buyers passed background checks.

During last week's CNN "townhall" on "Guns in America," President Obama nevertheless continued to tout background checks as a way to prevent mass shootings, which is one of the reasons it is hard to trust him when he talks about "common-sense gun safety." At the same time, Obama hinted at a different, more sophisticated rationale for expanding the federal background check requirement, based on the debatable assumption that new regulations can stop ordinary criminals from obtaining guns.

Obama's emphasis on mass shootings is puzzling not only because background checks demonstrably did not stop them but also because they account for a tiny percentage of gun homicides and an even smaller share of gun-related deaths (two-thirds of which are suicides). Why does Obama keep citing mass shootings as an argument for expanded background checks? Partly because they are scary and get a lot of attention, and partly because his more plausible arguments are more complicated.

Surveys of criminals indicate they rarely obtain their guns from licensed dealers, who are legally required to perform background checks, or from gun shows, where many of the sellers are not. Closing the so-called gun show loophole (which is actually an exception for gun owners who are not deemed to be "engaged in the business of selling firearms") would therefore have little direct impact on criminals' access to weapons.

But Obama argues that it could have an indirect impact. During the CNN special, he suggested the point of requiring more background checks is not so much the checks themselves as the records they leave behind. He said those records could help identify people who buy guns in private transactions at gun shows with the intent of reselling them.

It's not clear how significant such sources are in supplying guns to criminals. A recent survey of 99 jail inmates in Cook County, Illinois, found that they generally obtained guns from friends, relatives, or other people with whom they had prior relationships. The guns were pretty old (11 years on average) and changed hands frequently.

In the Cook County sample, theft was rarely the direct source of weapons, but it might be an important indirect source. Back in the early 1980s, a survey of about 1,900 incarcerated felons in 10 states found that 70 percent had obtained their most recent weapon by theft or from a source they knew or believed had stolen it.

According to the Justice Department, more than 230,000 firearms are reported stolen each year, so millions of such weapons are available to criminals. That source obviously would be unaffected by background checks or the records that accompany them.

In a recent study of guns seized by Chicago police, Duke University criminologist Philip J. Cook and three other researchers found that "15% of new guns that were sold within two years of confiscation and were taken from male gang members were first sold to a woman." That sort of straw purchase, where someone with a clean record buys a gun for someone else who is not legally allowed to own firearms, likewise would be unaffected by expanded background checks.

Cook et al. also found evidence that trafficking of guns originally purchased from Indiana gun stores played a significant role in arming Chicago gang members. Those transactions are already subject to background checks.

It seems the value of expanded background checks in preventing criminals from obtaining guns depends on the extent to which intermediaries who are currently happy to resell firearms with no questions asked will suddenly start keeping records of those transactions if they are legally required to do so. You can see why Obama prefers to talk about mass shootings.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. There outta be a law against criminals not following Obama’s common sense laws !

  2. As anyone knows, mass shootings are an outlier. The vast majority of gun crime is committed by people engaged in domestic, small scale warfare (black market territories). The ease with which those guns are obtained may BE too “easy”. But that’s the price of freedom. Freedom for the 99.X% of those who aren’t criminals, who don’t kill people, who aren’t part of black marketeering. But that’s who the powers that be really want to control in the first place. When the Ponzi’s fall apart, and the dollar isn’t the gold standard of the world anymore, and no one will loan us anymore money, and interests rates can’t fall any further, and anymore debasement can’t occur without runaway inflation, and the Hungry Belly Index hockey sticks upward, The Masters are going to be very interested in who of the 99.X% has a gun. Katrina gave us a flavor of what confiscation will look like. They simply want to make that task easier. They’re using mass shootings as a cover.

    1. Agreed. The powers that be THRIVE off of these scary shootings and the black market. Today’s police state is fed directly by funds generated by the War on Drugs (including legalized robbery from innocent citizens via civil asset forfeiture) and “justified” by the violence sired by the black market created by the police state.

      It’s a vicious cycle where the innocent, law-abiding lose and the criminal outliers on the streets selling drugs and in the capitals selling anti-drug policy win.

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  4. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $83 every hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $17900 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out

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  5. I wonder what gun shows the proggies are going to, where they see all these guns being sold to drug dealers and gang-bangers with no paperwork. The ones I go to have a lot of licensed dealers, and yes they’re doing background checks–I know, I’ve actually bought guns at a gun show. There are also a small number of people trying to hook up with a buyer for one or two guns they have, but they’re typically antique and collector guns that the sellers want to get the best price for.

    The attendees are always military, veterans, cops, retired cops, and good ol’ boys; not exactly the sort of crowd a Crip would feel comfortable in. The booths selling T-shirts and whatnot are not selling “Feel The Bern” or “Ready For Hillary” stuff. They know what sort of folks will be in the crowd.

  6. I think this article underestimates Liberal Logic.

    A liberal sees a statistic like this:
    “…99 jail inmates in Cook County, Illinois, found that they generally obtained guns from friends, relatives, or other people with whom they had prior relationships.”

    And thinks… “Well, see? We need to take guns away from anyone who knows a criminal!”

    A liberal sees this:
    “…70 percent had obtained their most recent weapon by theft or from a source they knew or believed had stolen it.”

    And thinks… “Well, see? If the people didn’t have guns, they couldn’t be stolen, and if criminals can’t steal guns, they wouldn’t be criminals!”

    A liberal sees this:
    “15% of new guns that were sold within two years of confiscation and were taken from male gang members were first sold to a woman.”

    And thinks… “Well, see? We need to prevent women from buying guns!”

    Liberals don’t see things in the light of “Liberty”, but in terms of “What must the government do to keep me safe?”

  7. End the Stolen Cop Gun Loophole!

  8. Paperwork Can’t Stop Criminals From Getting Guns, read the headline. Paperwork never stopped criminals from getting guns before, what is there about about the same “paperwork” that supposedly will achieve a different ending now? I’d appreciate it if the proponents of Paper Work would explain how an idea that has everywhere failed will achieve different ends, success, now.

    1. right some people might bullshit about how doing the same thing and expecting different results is insane, but i think its pretty obvious we just werent trying hard enough

  9. $85 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids. Heres where I went,

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  13. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $83 every hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $17900 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out

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  14. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $83 every hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $17900 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out

    +++++++++++++++++ http://www.Wage90.Com

  15. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
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  16. FEDGOV can’t even keep track of their own guns.

    FEDGOV is “missing” several thousand of their guns,some being full-auto machine guns. that does not include US military arms losses. Then state and local law enforcement have guns stolen from their vehicles frequently. Former Orlando POLICE CHIEF Val Demings had her service handgun stolen from her unmarked SUV in 2009,and years later,it still hasn’t been recovered. OPD has “lost” 2 AR-15 kits,and had 2 machine guns stolen from vehicles.
    Post-9-11,several armed Federal employees have LEFT their loaded handguns on commercial air flights and deplaned,the guns being discovered by other passengers. One guy in Alabama stole rifles (real assault rifles,select-fire) and grenades from Anniston Army Depot.
    guns will ALWAYS be available to those who really want them.

    Jul.14,2015
    in Casselberry,FL,suburb of Orlando,an Orange County Sheriffs SWAT team member had an M4 assault rifle,an HK-UMP machine pistol,a Glock 21 and a Glock 23 stolen from his car. I saw it reported on the local WKMG-Ch6 and Fox35 news. It seems the dummy left his SUV unlocked overnight,with two machine guns inside. the Sentinel claims the M4 is a semi-auto gun.

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  18. In the UK we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world – if you want a gun for target shooting you have to go through many hoops, checks and balances including a getting a letter from your doctor verifying that you have no mental problems.
    Of course if you are a black gang member in a big city you just have to go into a bar with the cash in your pocket.

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