Monday, December 7, 2015

“Closing the Gun Show Loophole”

“Closing the gun-show loophole” has become a cause célèbre of American progressives.

As a European liberal living in the US, people expect me to march in lock-step with American progressives, and are surprised that I think this is a crock of shit.

Above all else, I am an empiricist and a realist.

The supposed purpose of “closing the gun show loophole” is to reduce the number of firearms falling into the hands of violent criminals, so it is reasonable to ask “where do criminals get their guns?” The best evidence we have is a 2002 report by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) based on two surveys of inmates in state and federal prisons.

The upshot of this BJS report is that (roughly speaking) 40% of felons got their guns from friends and family, 40% got them from street or other illegal sources, and 20% purchased them from a variety of legal sources including gun shows where 0.6% and 0.7% got their guns. We don't know how many of the inmates surveyed would, at the time they acquired their guns, have passed a background check.

So, the long and the short of it is that “closing the gun show loophole”, at best, has the potential to reduce the number of firearms falling into the hands of criminals by 0.7%. All of the other sources, the sources where 99.3% of criminals get their guns, are still open.

In other words, the evidence indicates that “closing the gun show loophole” is utterly pointless.

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