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Does ‘Gun Show Loophole’ Actually Result in Gun Crime?

Statistics do not point to criminals using this tactic.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

January 18, 2013 - 12:00 am
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An interesting study raises questions about how dangerous this loophole really is. Mark Duggan, Randi Hjalmarsson, and Brian A. Jacobs are professors at the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan. In 2008, they published a paper titled “The Effect of Gun Shows on Gun-Related Deaths: Evidence from California and Texas.” Duggan had previously published papers that could be considered supportive of gun control, and so this paper he co-authored is especially interesting.

They studied murders and suicides in the three weeks following gun shows in these two states. What they found was that suicide and homicide rates in California were unaffected by gun shows; this is not terribly surprising because California prohibits private party sales without background check. (Gun suicides increased, but non-gun suicides fell by the same amount.) In Texas, where there are no restrictions on private party sales, they found that gun homicides actually fell following gun shows, while suicides and non-gun homicides were unchanged.

Obviously, gun shows represent only one part of these unchecked private party firearms sales. Yet gun shows are the example that the gun-control activists constantly harp on as the reason for a broad national background check requirement. Is it possible that criminals are too stupid to buy guns at gun shows? Or is it possible that they prefer to obtain guns in less expensive ways, such as by theft?

A national background check requirement won’t do anything about theft.

Let me suggest another strategy that would be just as effective without this complexity: current federal law severely punishes (or least can severely punish) possession of a firearm by certain prohibited categories of persons. In places where the combination of state and federal governments have worked aggressively to punish convicted felons in possession, the results have been impressive.

Perhaps instead of creating more “crimes” and more opportunities to punish people, we should put our focus on the core problem: people already prohibited from possessing firearms who refuse to follow those laws.

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Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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