Study: "Universal" background checks not likely to reduce gun crime; Reps. Heard & Patmon push UBC bills in Ohio anyways

Using 20-year-old data, President Obama recently claimed that as many as 40 percent of gun purchases take place without a background check (Remarks by the President, March 28, 2013). He suggested that requiring background checks for all gun purchases will reduce gun violence by keeping dangerous people from acquiring firearms.

To determine if the 40 percent estimate is accurate today, Think22three, a Lebanon, OH- based gun, crime and public policy research organization, surveyed more than 300 individuals actively involved in the firearms market to determine where they purchased their two most recent firearms and whether or not a background check was conducted. The result? Most firearms are purchased from licensed dealers who conduct background checks. A much smaller percentage of firearms are purchased privately without a background check. This is particularly important when considering the types of firearms typically involved in crime.

"Policy makers aren't looking at current data," states Jeff Monroe, Ph.D. and president of Think22three.

When asked about their most recent two firearms purchases, 89.7 percent of gun-owning survey respondents stated that they purchased their firearms from a dealer that conducted a background check.

"Separating the data by the type of firearm purchased clarifies firearms purchases further. Shotguns, for example, are far less likely than revolvers, pistols and rifles to be purchased from a dealer conducting a background check," states Monroe. They are also less likely to be used in a crime.

According to Monroe, nearly 26 percent of shotguns are acquired from family members, friends or private sellers a type of sale not currently subject to background checks.

"When we look at purchases of semi-automatic pistols, a type of firearm used more often than a shotgun to commit a crime, we know that nearly 93 percent of respondents who purchased pistols used a background check," says Monroe. "This is consistent with prior research that shows that background checks do not decrease gun violence.”

Jeff Monroe points out that, as a policy matter, it is interesting that shotguns are the most likely to be purchased without a background check and the least likely type of firearm to be used in a crime.

Monroe states that "there is no evidence that requiring background checks for all gun purchases will reduce gun violence." A universal background check system may make it more difficult for potential offenders to acquire firearms because they would no longer be able to purchase from gun owners that wish to remain law-abiding. "There is every reason to believe" Monroe says, "if background checks are required on the secondary market, motivated offenders will find a tertiary market ready and able to supply them with their wares."

Jeff Monroe, author of Homicide and Gun Control: The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and Homicide Rates, has worked in the field of criminal justice for 25 years, earned his Ph.D. from Temple University and is an expert in gun control policy.

Statistical Note: the sample for this research consists of individuals affiliated with the retail sale of firearms. Specifically, individuals on the email distribution list of a firearms retailer were asked to complete an online survey. Respondents were asked to consider their last two firearms purchases. They were then asked to identify the type of firearm and the source of acquisition. This likely overestimates the rate at which buyers purchase from sources that conduct background checks.

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by Chad D. Baus

Unfortunately, despite the facts noted above, some politicians seem not to be able to grasp the idea that criminals do not typically submit themselves to background checks, and that even when a prohibited person is stopped by a background check procedure, no one prosecutes them for the crime they just committed.

On Monday, April 8, State Rep. Bill Patmon circulated a letter in the Statehouse asking for co-sponsors for UBC legislation, and stating that "given the increase in firearm violence throughout the country, it has been brought to my attention that Ohio should take part in universal background check." The very premise for Patmon's claim that this legislation is needed is false - over the last 20 years, the firearm crime rate has dropped, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 6 victims per 1,000 residents in 1994 to 1.4 victims per 1,000 residents in 2009. ...Firearm crimes accounted for 11% of all violent crime in 1993 and 1994, but was 8% of all such crime in 2009. [1]

One Wednesday, April 10, State Rep. Tracy Heard introduced HB119, a gun control bill that would mandate that all firearms transactions in Ohio be processed through a federally-licensed gun dealer, or through a state or local law enforcement agency, with few exceptions.

Want to give a gun to your great-grandson under Heard's bill? Ask the government's permission.

Want to sell a gun to your brother? Ask the government's permission.

Want to sell a gun to a hunting buddy? Ask the government's permission.

What to bring a gun to a friend's house to show her how it operates because she is considering buying one herself? Ask the government's permission.

Want to loan a gun to a friend whose abusive ex-husband just found out where she lives? Ask the government's permission.

Want to clean a friend's slug gun in deer camp? Ask the government's permission.

Want to teach a firearms safety class in a classroom space that is not located at a shooting range? Ask the government's permission.

Want to pass something that will truly have an impact on preventing multiple victim public shootings? Then don't have anything to do with Rep. Patmon's or Rep. Heard's nonsense.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

[UPDATE April 24, 2013: Rep. Patmon's HB137 has also been introduced.]

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