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Preventive Medicine recently published a study of 99 adult offenders living in Chicago or nearby entitled Sources of guns to dangerous people: What we learn by asking them. As Nick pointed out, the paper reinforces what we already knew: criminals “obtain most of their guns from their social network of personal connections. Rarely is the proximate source either direct purchase from a gun store, or theft.” Nick highlighted some of the study’s methodological limitations. Here’s something else to consider . . .
The authors seem nearly as ignorant about guns as the criminals they interview. They use the terms “assault weapon” and “machine pistol” without any definition, and little knowledge. From . . .

Of the primary guns, just five would be classified as assault weapons, including a TEC-9, TEC-11, and AK47. As has frequently been reported, assault weapons play only a small role in everyday crime (Koper, 2013). Several mentioned a strong preference for large-capacity magazines for their firearms, noting that a magazine holding 30–50 rounds would give them a tactical advantage in a firefight . . .

Others reported what appeared to be one-time events where they sold extra guns. For example, R17 reported that he had robbed a cell-phone store and recovered several guns which he sold. He reports “not needing a lot of guns.” R22 sold the first gun he owned, which had been in his possession for two years (since age 18), for $200. R31 was persuaded by a “homie” (fellow gang member) to trade his TEC-11 (a machine pistol) for a car — he did not want to part with the pistol, but needed the car.

The double reference to a “TEC-11 (a machine pistol)” is rather peculiar. I haven’t heard of such a firearm, though I am willing to be educated. It may be related to the mythical AK-15, a mishmash of AK-47 and AR-15. There is a TEC-9 and a MAC-11, so perhaps that is what occurred. Real machine pistols are rare.

The researchers relied on the interviewees for the models of the guns, and it is clear that the interviewees are rather ignorant. Still, determining the model of a firearm is rather important; it should be worth a three minute Internet search. There is a Kel-Tec P-11 pistol, but it is an ordinary pistol, nothing like a machine pistol.  I do not believe that it is on any government list as a “assault weapon”.

Similarly there are very few actual AK-47 assault rifles in the United States. There are quite a few AK-47 type rifles, and the researchers would have done well to mention that.  Simply calling the firearm an “AK-47 type” rifle would not have taken much effort. It was the only rifle in the entire study.

Technical mistakes do much to mar what otherwise appears to be an interesting bit of research.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

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  1. I recall seeing a documentary interviewing a drug dealer or whatever who called his Hi Point a “Glock 40”.

    • In certain circles, “Glock” is the generic name for a semi-auto pistol, just as “aspirin,” once a brand name, has become generic. I have actually been asked what kind of Glocks I own, meaning “what brands of pistols” do I own.

      You will see references in TTAG to “GLOCK-brand Glocks. The author is making an oblique reference the the generification of the name.

      • It might be common, but only among morons. Who calls a car a “Ford”? It’s not even like “Glock” came before 80% of the existing market.
        All it really means is that they’ve been brainwashed.

        • That’s very common here in Texas, especially in the smaller towns and rural areas. First time I went out of state and asked for a coke at a restaurant, unsurprisingly they brought me a coke. I look back at it now and realize I must have sounded crazy when I told them that’s not what I wanted.

  2. Laying more bricks on the foundation for requiring all personal transfers to go through a FFL, nothing more.

    “Look, the gangs are selling guns face-to-face! We need to stop that, as it makes the guns impossible to trace! I know, we’ll pass a law prohibiting it! Problem solved!”


  3. The diagram illuminates an aspect of the problem; however, the bit of the report reproduced here sheds very little light on the interesting aspect.

    I think we already have a handle on the general types of guns that show-up as crime-guns. The overwhelming majority are handguns. A small minority are rifles or shotguns. NFA weapons are nearly unheard-of. There would be very little value in learning how one or another type-of-gun circulates among criminals as contrasted with another.

    We have a heavily regulated primary market conducted by licensed manufacturers, importers, distributors and dealers. We have a relatively lightly regulated secondary lawful market conducted by law-abiding 2A-able collectors, traders and occasional users who have occasion to buy or sell a gun. Then, there is the black market where one or another party is 2A-disabled; i.e. a prohibited-person.

    Apart from home-made guns and possible smuggling, all guns leave the lawful market and enter the black market at some point. Theft; straw-buying; trafficking; non-regulated sales by 2A-able sellers to prohibited-persons; corrupt FFLs or employees. It MIGHT be informative to learn more about the volume of transfers by each of these methods.

    So far, I have seen very little to illuminate this “point of entry to illegal market”.

    It is nearly useless to interview criminals to discover where they got their gun. From what we know or surmise, it’s highly likely that the average acquisition is a “Secondary Transfer” as illustrated by Step #4. I.e., the acquirer has obtained the gun from someone – a Mr/Ms #3 where #4 does not know much – for sure – about Mr/Ms #3’s point-of-access.

    It’s very likely that the gun in the hand of a prohibited-person has passed through the hands of several prior prohibited-persons. Someone needs a car more than he needs his gun; so he re-sells it. Simply knowing that a gun was acquired “on the street” or “from a friend or family” tells us nothing about the “point of entry to illegal market”. In fact, there are apt to be some such transfers that are legal on the part of the seller! E.g., a legal owner sells a gun – in good faith – to a cousin whom he believes to be 2A-able. Alas, the cousin has but only recently become a prohibited-person and the seller has not yet learned of this fact and didn’t have probable cause to suspect it.

    One credible article I’ve read explains that the supply of guns to the illegal market could easily be met by the volume of annual gun thefts. For a moment, let’s suppose that this is the real answer; 99% of illegal guns are stolen. What are the public-policy implications? UBC isn’t the least bit promising. Probably, some safe-storage law would seem to be worth considering.

    Alternatively, suppose the supply is 99% straw-buying at FFLs. That also would contra-indicate UBC. Rather, it would suggest pursuing aggressively the 1st retail buyer in the primary market; a possibility already well provided for by the FFL 4473 form. Who are these straw-buyers? Suppose they are single-mothers; what are the policy implications of sending these culprits to prison? If the implications are unacceptable, then we can’t close-off this major channel of trafficking.

    The clamor for UBC implies a suspicion that the major channel for entry into the illegal market is collectors/traders/users of guns who sell without a BC. OK; then let’s entertain this possibility. This target – collectors etc. – would clearly stop selling without a BC; they would only sell with a BC. All that would be required to frustrate UBC would be a class of straw-buyers beyond the reach of acceptable public policy. I.e., single-mothers could attend gun-shows, browse classified ads and the internet and find the entire supply of (supposed) guns. As the diagram implies, we would have gun-laundering:

    FFL -> 1st Retail buyer -> Straw-buyer -> Prohibited-Person buyer

    The straw-buyer is a member of a protected class; just as a minor used as is a drug-runner is immune from effective prosecution.

    • I think this statement is a bit of a reach: “Apart from home-made guns and possible smuggling, all guns leave the lawful market and enter the black market at some point.”

      There are millions upon millions of lawfully purchased and owned firearms in the country today. Yet there is a relative handful that are in the hands of criminals or actually used in crimes. The statement above seems to make a case for registration – which is known to be useless for either preventing or solving crimes. To make the assumption above, one must assume that either – all gun owners will eventually have all their guns stolen, or all currently legitimate gun owners will eventually fall to the Dark Side and sell off their collections to felons or straw buyers. Huge assumptions ensue.

      Unless – MarkPA meant to write that “all guns currently in the black market (with the noted exceptions) were, at one time in the lawful market”

      • You are correct; thank you. I failed to proof-read my statement before posting.

        In my own mind I had it fixed that the context of my remarks was the inventory in the hands of prohibited persons. My sentence did not make this clear and read literally gives rise to the interpretation you rightly criticized. I’m sorry.

        While we have some reasonable handle on the inventory of guns in civilian hands we don’t have much of a breakdown between those in the hands of the law-abiding vs. prohibited-persons. It’s pretty clear to all of us that the law-abiding have the great majority whereas prohibited-persons have a large number but a small fraction of the total inventory.

        At the juncture where we find ourselves, the numbers and ratios of legally-/illegally-held guns don’t matter any more. Both markets are pretty well saturated. This is to say that the demand for guns in both markets is pretty well satisfied at the prevailing cost of supply (counting the costs of manufacture, distribution, retailing and taxes). (By way of contrast, we couldn’t have made the same statement about .22 rimfire ammo last year).

        From an article I read recently, the black-market price for handguns is in the vicinity of a modest discount to a modest premium relative to retail prices at licensed dealers. This suggests that the supply from thefts is sufficient to minimize any black-market premium.

        Therefore, the problem society faces is to persuade prohibited-persons to refrain from using the guns they already have for unlawful purposes. The choking-off-the-supply horse has left the barn long ago.

    • @MarkPA: “Probably, some safe-storage law would seem to be worth considering”. We already have too many of this type of law on the books. It should be up to the owner of a firearm to decide how and where it should be stored. Too often the so called “safe storage” laws are used to make a firearm difficult or impossible to get to in an emergency which is the very time when you to get to it quickly. This type of law has also been used in some cases to prosecute otherwise law abiding citizens and in some cases to justify an illegal search of a person’s home. NO, I don’t think more “safe storage” laws are the answer. In fact, all of these laws that pretend to fix problems are NOT the answer but often are just another way for the Statists in our government to limit our freedom and take more control for themselves. This type of law also serves as an excuse (and a distraction) for not fixing the more relevant problems like keeping Offenders in jail and away from the rest of us.

      • I agree with your critique. My remark was not intended to challenge the orthodoxy of opposition to all new gun control laws. Rather, it was merely an off-hand remark to suggest that If the supply of illegal guns comes from one or another place then logic would lead in corresponding directions as to counter that source.

        I believe in individual responsibility; and it’s logical counter-part “self-regulation”. For example, some sage from the community of the PotG compiled the list of “4 rules”. The community dully considered, refined and restated his 4 rules until they became – more or less – orthodoxy in the community. RSOs formally enforce these rules under the authority of the ranges’ proprietorship. In the field, shop and home, we enforce these rules on one-another. This is the epitome of self-regulation by the community of its own members.

        What is the best-practice for “safe-storage”? I think that a consensus has yet to form; but it’s a topic worthy of discussion. I can’t bring myself to criticize leaving a long-gun visible in the window rack of a pick-up in the West; whereas, will criticize leaving a handgun in the glove compartment of a car in PA. (One of my trainers – an NRA Master Trainer – acknowledged that this is his practice.)

        I think – albeit I’m still tentative about this – that we ought to seriously consider pursuing a best-practice to minimize gun thefts. I know I could do better than I am doing; I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack. I think it would be – on balance – about break-even for gun owners (cost of gun safes less cost of thefts avoided). I think it would be good PR for our community.

        In this vein, I think that property owners in general would reduce the profitability of pursuing a life-of-crime by armoring-up on their homes. The harder it is to break into homes from which valuable property might be stolen the fewer criminals will begin their careers via property crime. The long-run impact of lowering the society’s total-cost-of-crime might offset most if not all the cost of armoring-up the majority of our homes.

        What “safe storage” means – whether it be for my guns or my wife’s jewelry – is something for each householder to decide with input from our collective wisdom. Government can play no net positive role here. In fact, its efforts are almost certain to be counter-productive. Imagine any reasonable proposal – e.g., a safe for handguns. If a government passed a law many of us would object and refuse to comply. Conversely, if the NRA (NSSF, GOA) promoted that same proposal as a “best practice”, most of us would take notice over the course of a few years, buy a strong-box and get out our tool kits to bolt it to the floor.

    • “One credible article I’ve read explains that the supply of guns to the illegal market could easily be met by the volume of annual gun thefts. For a moment, let’s suppose that this is the real answer; 99% of illegal guns are stolen. What are the public-policy implications? UBC isn’t the least bit promising. Probably, some safe-storage law would seem to be worth considering.”

      Trying to stop the supply side of illegal guns is a fools errand, IMHO. It is trying to prevent someone from getting water by guarding the coastline.

      David Kennedy’s approach works much better, and has a proven track record. Work hard to make the police more legitimate in the trouble communities where the crimes occur. Let the bad actors know they are being watched. There are only a small number of them, and they are known where they live.

      There are only so many resources. Switching the emphasis from the object to the actor is a better use of resources.

      I believe it would be far more productive to concentrate on known dangerous felons. Either keep them in jail, or do as David Kennedy suggests,

      • I agree with you whole-heartedly. It occurs to me as a supply-side vs. a demand-side approach to “prohibition”.

        In the 1920s our nation decided to take a stand against alcohol and attempted to control its supply while neglecting entirely the demand. Didn’t work very well, did it? That’s the problem with approaching the problem from the supply-side. Muslim societies approach exactly the same issue from the demand-side and seem to have more success.

        It’s a fool’s errand all right. Now, how do you get someone to recognize that this is the case? It’s pretty obvious to most of us that the supply-side is a sieve. Choke-off one hole and the others will accommodate the demand.

        My exercise here is to toy with the alternative supply-side approaches to get the uninformed voter to engage in the thought process. What if we could control the supply-side? Then we would need to know where the supply is coming from, wouldn’t we?

        What if it’s coming from stolen guns? Does UBC help to stop guns from being stolen?

        What if it’s coming from straw buyers? Then arrest and punish the straw-buyers? Who are these straw-buyers? Are we willing to put them in prison? No, well, then, how will UBC help stop straw-buying if the straw-buyers are immune?

        If this line of reasoning gets the voter (considering the obvious “wisdom” of UBC) engaged then perhaps it gets him to the point of realizing that UBC won’t buy much. Doesn’t help with thefts. Doesn’t help with straw-buying. Doesn’t really close-down the private-sale channel as long as there is a plentiful supply of willing straw-buyers.

        We understand full-well that guns will be manufactured as a cottage industry or smuggled if every other channel of supply could be choked-off successfully. Singapore and Japan don’t have problems with gun crimes notwithstanding their immense capacity for industrial production and smuggling. They have solved their gun crime by seriously addressing the demand side. (It’s amazing how a length of hemp can persuade a miscreant.)

        • US Attorneys always accept probation for FEMALE straw purchasers. They believe everyone’s sad story that he would beat her if she didn’t break the law. So the responsibility is on the naive prosecutors and their bad decisions.

          • I didn’t know this; makes sense.

            This is the sort of dirty laundry we need to air. We need to get the voters to understand that enforcement of the gun control laws, even the gun crime laws, are toothless.

            Gun control is intended exclusively to destroy the lives of peaceable folks like Shaneen Allen.

        • Economists rock! My son is pursuing his degree in economics at Ohio State – I’m snipping this entire exchange and shooting him a copy. I’m sure he’ll be delighted

  4. “clear that the interviewees are rather ignorant” Ya think?! Boyz in the hood not the sharpest pencils in the box. While watching video of big momma accosting wannabe gang bangers by pointing a handgun at them, could not understand a word they said or the mom either.

  5. Nice stats, nice OP, but if you take one step back and look at it, it should be evident that YOU come very close every day to being a person who illegally obtains, illegally possesses, illegally transfers, a firearm, and the very people you’d likely need the firearm FOR, are the same people making it illegal. (This is a liberal problem / just another problem we have with liberals).

    I for one would rather arm-up felons then put up with another blessed second’s actions against me by a gun-grabber. If we finally ever do have all the guns confiscated, we will only be moments away from a ground war with one of our neighbors (like the current one with Mexico) or with China, or Russia, or Islamic State of Insidious Sh_t (ISIS). Tough to give out the guns then, but you can bet your a_ _ that you’d even want the felons to have them.


  6. The Tec-11 machine pistol is the forerunner of the Tec-12 .50 caliber machine gun which is widely desired for its concealability. However, it has been known to fire by itself, if looked at longer than 9 seconds at a time, necessitating the homie deep carry preference.

    • Is that the one that can shoot down planes? I FEEL they should be BANNED for the CHILDREN. Its COMMON SENSE.

      • There are reports in the news of a growing number of incidents involving:
        – laser pointers aimed at the cockpit windows of planes; and,
        – unmanned drones in commercial air-space

        Nevertheless, there has yet to be any cry for prior restraint or licensing of possession of either of these devices. Let’s see now. It suffices to prosecute a misuse of either of these devices – if you can catch him – after he causes a crash of an airliner full of passengers in a metropolitan area.

        God forbid a vulnerable person should be allowed to carry a six-shooter in DC, NYC, MD, NJ, CA or HI! Exceptions made only for men of means and those guarding their money.

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