The importance of facts about gun background checks

PrintThe gun lobby doesn’t want us to know that 40% of gun sales are made without background checks. It doesn’t fit with their mantra that only law abiding people will follow the laws and criminals won’t. What are we to think, then, when new research confirms older research about how many guns go without a Brady background check? I know what I think. It means that we must expand Brady background checks to make sure that all gun sales require background checks.

Arguments from gun rights extremists include that background checks are already required so we don’t need laws to require them on all gun sales. The public doesn’t believe that all gun sales don’t require background checks. When tabling at a recent conference, many people to whom I spoke were surprised to find out that some gun sales are made without background checks.

The only data we really had to go on until now was a 1994 study that found that about 40% of gun sales came from privates sellers with no background check. This is old because the gun lobby has made sure that the CDC and the NIH could not do research into the causes and effects of gun violence. 

But now, others are doing the research. A new study, highlighted in this article in The Trace, reveals that today, the number remains the same. Approximately 40% of gun sales are going without background checks. From this article:

Amid the controversy, a team of Harvard researchers are fast-tracking a major update to this fundamental gun debate statistic. Pulling data from a forthcoming study on gun ownership conducted by the university’s Injury Control Research Center, the scholars have landed on a figure set to corroborate the earlier finding: Harvard’s Dr. Deborah Azrael tells The Trace that of 2,072 gun owners the researchers surveyed, roughly 40 percent said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.

Will the gun lobby admit this to be true? If so, they should be pushing for expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. Why? Because it’s obvious that if no background checks are conducted, sellers don’t know to whom they are selling guns. It could be a domestic abuser, a felon, someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or others on the prohibited purchasers list who are prevented from buying guns through federally licensed firearms dealers.

If the gun lobby does not admit to this fact, why not? Are they not interested in stopping prohibited purchasers from getting guns? Or is it just too inconvenient to go through a background check for law abiding citizens? If so, why? It seems they are willing to undergo background checks when they buy guns through licensed sellers. And it’s just not true that criminals won’t follow the law and try to buy guns where background checks are required. 2.4 million people have been prevented from buying guns at licensed firearms dealers since the Brady Law was enacted in 1994. That means these purchasers are trying to get their guns this way. So why not stop them at the point of sale in the first place?

We all know that there are other ways for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them anyway. But guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchasers and get into the wrong hands through straw purchasing, stealing them from law abiding gun owners or dealers, or trafficking. Just take a look at how easy for guns to be stolen can be in this article about a UPS employee who stole 2 guns from a package at a Baltimore area facility. And straw purchases can also be stopped at the source if we are tougher on gun dealers who knowingly sell guns to people who shouldn’t have them. The recent case of the Milwaukee Badger Guns dealer found responsible for allowing a straw purchase should be a strong message to gun dealers to do the right thing. Guns sold knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them can result in death as it did in this case when on officer was shot by the gun straw purchased for the shooter.

But where do the guns that are trafficked come from in the first place? Someone bought the gun. Stopping one method of obtaining a dangerous weapon designed to kill another human being will save lives.

We now have facts, graphs, charts and reports indicating that stronger gun laws actually work to save lives. What more do we need? The news is full of stories of domestic shootings, mass shootings, shootings in our streets and homes and in public places, suicides and toddlers shooting themselves or others. What more do we need? These are real people losing their lives or suffering from life long injuries and disabilities and we are turning away from them. Where is our moral compass and our responsibilities as citizens and government to do the right thing?

It only makes common sense that we would stop the supply of guns into the pool that could become illegal. Turning off the faucet and draining the pool of illegal guns will keep our communities safer from the devastation of gun violence. Isn’t that what this is all about? Saving lives and public health and safety should be at the top of our priority list. The fact that gun safety reform isn’t at the top of the priority list for our Congress and many state legislatures is a national tragedy. It’s time for that to change. The public is now very engaged and in favor of stronger gun laws but yet, some of our elected leaders support the views of a small minority of Americans.

89 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries. 33,000 Americans a year are dying from gunshot injuries.

We are better than this.

5 thoughts on “The importance of facts about gun background checks

  1. Guy says:

    While 2.4 million denials initially sounds impressive, what percentage are false positives? Of those remaining true positives, how many are prosecuted? These may be important facts/figures to know before extending BGC, to know if such a system is worth expanding with time/employees/tax money/facilities.

  2. J Edwards says:

    I found your comment interesting: “guns don’t just fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases”

    Well that is not altogether accurate either. In reality many people machine their own recievers using lathes and drills in their own garages. For example my first AR15 build, I did not buy a reciever at a gun shop, I machined my own and bought the “furniture” to match it. Barrels, stocks and magazines require no such backround checks. There are many private citizens who manufacture their own firearms. Some of them become so well skilled at it that they get ffl licences and sell thier products to the public. Let’s not forget John Moses Browing, one of the most talented gun designers of all time built all his rifles on a lathe in his own home. These guns were so well built, Winchester bought all his designs. He also created the 1911 pistol, regarded as the finest combat handgun of the 20th century.

    1. Perhaps all parts for guns should also go through background checks. If you are a law abiding person, I assume you mean no evil intent with the guns you make at home. What about a felon? Can we trust that those parts are going to be for a legal gun. And now people can make guns at home on 3D printers. This article is a good one about how easy it is to make a gun from a receiver and parts. They are untraceable in a crime. This seems like a pretty bad idea to me.

  3. I sure hope this discussion on background check laws continues for a while on this blog. It will be quite enlightening. A few thoughts come to mind from the above comments:
    First, given the fact that our peer nations also have garage/basement gun tinkerers with the capability of making anything from a muzzle loader to various types of repeating arms, do these nations see such crafty folks as a potential underground, criminal gun supply source? Granted, most are either serious hobbyists or small commercial outfits (undoubtedly licensed) who serve sport shooters, hunters & collectors. But is there a concern among peer nation authorities that a portion of their production can be diverted to the criminal element? And is there any evidence that such an underground gun making trade has undermined the gun laws, including background checks, of our peer nations?
    Second, could a cottage industry that supplies major firearms components (based on the scheme described in the Mother Jones “AK 47 building party” article) flood our streets with illegal guns to a similar extent that our current, lax gun laws allow?

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