Across all media these days the information is far from accurate when it comes to the culture war waged against gun owners. The topic the other day on a Fox News program was Chicago’s “gun problem.” Of course everyone knows Chicago’s problem is crime committed by thugs who disobey the law, but that didn’t stop one woman from insisting “universal” background checks would cut down the number of guns on the city’s streets. Believe it or not I actually heard her say, “A lot of criminals get their guns from gun stores.” Really? Let’s look at the facts.
A 1997 Justice Department survey of more than 18,000 state and federal convicts revealed the truth:
• 39.6% of criminals obtained a gun from a friend or family member
• 39.2% of criminals obtained a gun on the street or from an illegal source
• 0.7% of criminals purchased a gun at a gun show
• 1% of criminals purchased a gun at a flea market
• 3.8% of criminals purchased a gun from a pawn shop
• 8.3% of criminals actually bought their guns from retail outlets
Note that less than 9 percent of all guns obtained by criminals in this survey came from retail outlets, hardly “a lot” compared to the almost 40 percent of convicts who obtained guns from friends or family or the almost 40 percent who obtained them illegally on the street. The gun-show loophole? Less than 1 percent of criminal guns came from gun shows. Nothing there, either.
The survey data were analyzed and released in 2001 then revised in 2002, but while the eye-opening details are more than 10 years old it’s hard to believe criminal responses have changed much over the last decade.
“Universal” background checks won’t work. The fact is we have them now. Anytime a law-abiding citizen purchases a gun from a brick-and-mortar or online retailer, pawn shop owner or private dealer—essentially any licensed dealer who sells more than a handful of firearms per month—he or she must submit to a background examination via the National Instant Check System. What’s more, it is already a crime to knowingly transfer a gun to someone who is not authorized to possess one. Neither safeguard has stopped criminals from doing what they do—break the law. How so-called “universal” background checks will stem the tide of guns in Chicago—or anywhere else—is lost on me.