Gun control activists are quick to demand that the “gun show loophole” be closed in order to reduce the number of firearms related fatalities and guns in the hands of criminals. Their thought process is fairly logical, but very closed minded: criminals have to get their guns somewhere, and since private party sales aren’t subject to a background check then obviously that must be the point of entry for illegal guns! If only we could force everyone to get a background check to buy a gun the problem would be solved! There’s just one issue with that line of thinking: it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the reality “on the street.” Criminals aren’t buying their guns from gun shows or legal sources, at least according to a study released a couple days ago.
The study, titled “Sources of guns to dangerous people: What we learn by asking them” and released in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, is a survey of criminals to determine where they got the guns they used in crimes. Unlike those “news” sources that have an axe to grind in the gun control activism arena, I’m going to outline the limitations of this recent study right off the bat. This latest study was an (admittedly preliminary) survey of 99 criminals between the ages of 18 and 40 detained within the Cook County jail. Not only is that an extremely small sample size, but that’s also an extremely specific location. In order for this study to be applicable to the entire nation we would need samples from multiple locations and a much larger pool, and hopefully that’s what we will get in the future. But for now, we’ll work with what we’ve got.
In the study, the researchers asked their participants about the source of their firearms. The following table illustrates their results.
What is incredibly important to understand is that only 1.5% of the respondents purchased a firearm from a gun store or FFL. The vast and overwhelming majority either obtained their firearm from a person they knew (either a family member or gang member) or from a friend of a friend. These transactions are impossible to stop, even with a “universal background check” system, simply for the fact that there’s no way they would follow that law given their relationship with the seller and the already illegal nature of the transaction.
There’s something that really stuck out to me from the selected quotes and reinforces the idea that universal background checks won’t stop this activity. A good number of these individuals reported that there were people within the community who were buying the guns elsewhere and knowingly providing guns to criminals.
People with an FOID card supply others. R17 opined that “All they need is one person who got a gun card in the ‘hood’ and everybody got one.” R58 noted that people with gun cards buy guns, report them stolen, and then resell them. “That’s how we get them person-ally ourselves.”
Local people buy guns out of state, sometimes on behalf of gangs. R32: “Six out of 10 times, people go out of state and brings them back. ” R69: “The gang leaders, they’ll choose and pick who to goout and get the guns and bring ’em back.” There is also somemention of outsiders who bring guns into the neighborhood, either from other neighborhoods in Chicago, or from out of state. R8: “Iknow the person, they purchase a lotta guns, it’s called a crate” (which are then distributed within “the organization”). R85: “Some people getting on a train and bring them back, can be up to 5 or 6 guns depending on how much risk they want to take.”
What is important to note is that the behavior outlined by these statements is already illegal. Selling handguns across state lines without a license is a federal felony, making false statements to the police (“I lost it!”) is a crime, and the state of Illinois makes it illegal to sell a gun to someone without at least verifying their FOID card. In short, Illinois already has a universal background check law in place, but the criminals are already completely ignoring it and continuing to get their guns.
The takeaway of this study, in my mind, is that even when a “universal background check” system is in place the criminals will continue to ignore it. Illinois has closed their “gun show loophole” and yet the illegal guns keep flowing into the streets thanks to people who are *gasp* willfully breaking the law in exchange for money. New laws won’t change this behavior, and they definitely won’t stop the bloodshed in Chicago. And yet, politicians continue to believe that this is something that “must be done.” That this is “common sense.”