Shooting Blanks

Why gun control misses the target

| September-October 2008

  • Guns

    image by Ronald J. Cala II

  • Guns

In recent election cycles, the greatest feat of liberal tightrope walking has occurred not over abortion, but over gun safety. Candidates talk about renewing the assault weapons ban, then mumble something about the rights of hunters. But there is a better way to take on this issue—one that would yield real reductions in violence without adversely affecting law-abiding gun owners.

There are 280 million firearms in private hands in America, and in 2006 there were almost 400,000 gun crimes. That means that 279,600,000 guns did nothing wrong. We also know from a 2000 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) that in 89 percent of crimes, the person using the gun was not the person who originally bought it. So nine out of ten crime guns changed hands between the first purchase (which was probably legal) and the last purchase (which was certainly illegal).

This indicates that the root of America’s gun crime problem is not the number of guns in the hands of Americans, but an extensive web of gun trafficking operations that funnel firearms to criminals. In some cases, the trafficking operations cover long distances. According to the ATF’s 2007 Firearms Trace Data Report, more than a third of all crime guns recovered and successfully traced in New Jersey and New York came from Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas.

What we need, then, is a new strategy to reduce gun violence: Don’t restrict gun rights, but instead deepen the sense of gun ownership.

The first step is to make gun trafficking a federal crime, not a term of art. There is only one statute on the federal books that deals even indirectly with gun trafficking—a vague, loophole-ridden law that allows only federally licensed gun stores “to engage in the business” of dealing in firearms.

Since federal law allows any individual to sell his or her own firearms to anyone else, the “engaged in the business” bar is easily surmountable. And since any individual may also sell firearms without performing a background check, asking for identification, or keeping any sort of record, the requirement that individuals not knowingly sell to criminals is merely a suggestion. That is why federal prosecutors in 29 states filed five or fewer cases related to trafficking behavior over a recent three-year period.

9/16/2013 7:24:52 PM

This is indeed so informative. With all these pieces of information shared, these just tell that a gun-free zone America would be very impossible. -

8/26/2008 5:17:39 PM

The problem is that the trace data is not useful for such analysis. Guns can be traced for any number of reasons, lost/found guns, secured by the Police during an unrelated incident (home fires, armed persons injured in car crashes, etc), Guns confiscated under "suspicion" but later returned to the owners, etc etc etc. Most traced guns were purchased from the dealer 6 to 10 years before being traced. There is no way to tell how many times that gun may have changed hands in the mean time. It means nothing in relation to whether the dealer sold it legally or not. I'd like to see some substantiation of the charge that there are high volume straw purchasers who are not being investigated under current laws. The bottom line is that this is exactly why the ATF supports the Tiahrt Amendment. The ATF reports themselves have a statement that the information cannot be used to draw these types of conclusions, yet the anti-freedom advocates insist upon doing so anyway. It is misleading, inaccurate and dishonest for them to do so...but minor details like accuracy and honesty have never prevented a little anti-freedom propaganda, now have they?

8/26/2008 10:09:40 AM

Mr. Kessler, as noted by Mark it is already illegal... how about getting the federal prosecutors to PROSECUTE criminals under federal law? (it sure doesn't happen now) Next, as is usual for the 'anti-gun' group, you seem to think that for some strange reason the CRIMINALS will suddenly start obeying your new laws??? You must be blind and ignorant. They are already ignoring laws against robbery, why would they obey a law against obliterating a serial number? They are already STEALING a gun, why would they obey a law against selling it? (or posessing it, which also is illegal already) Laws WON'T stop crimes... The only people your proposals affect are those of us who are good, law-abiding citizens. Why don't you prove your convictions and place a sign on your front yard.... "No guns here" ...and see how long it is until you get robbed.

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