I was disappointed to hear recently that there’s little appetite in Washington for another “assault weapons ban.”
But fortunately, we’re making progress on “universal background checks.” Yay! We’ll finally close the “gun show loophole.”
What is the “universal background check?” As most of us know, if you purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, you get a background check. You fill out a form and the store calls the FBI and they access The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to make sure you’re not a felon, not adjudicated mentally ill, or any number of other items that would make you ineligible to purchase a firearm.
However, there’s a commonly cited statistic that 40 percent of gun purchases are conducted without a background check. But does anyone actually know where that number comes from?
Do your own research. We found that it originates from a study conducted in 1994, entitled “Guns in America,” published in 1997 by the Police Foundation. This was a phone survey of 2,568 people who were willing to admit to owning a firearm in a phone conversation with a stranger. As we could guess without even doing a survey, 60 to 70 percent of guns are purchased in a “store” where a background check would be performed today. The rest fall into the “private party” bucket, which is the basis for the 40 percent.
Note how the statistic is cited: 40 percent. Not 30 to 40 percent.
But look at the details. In Table 3.11 the bulk of the transfers that make up the private party transactions are between family members (17.3 percent) or between friends (12.3 percent). Only two lines within the private party transactions bucket are transfers between parties who don’t know each other: Gun show is 3.9 percent and other is 3.8 percent.
So, private party transactions make up 40 percent of total gun transfers, but almost 30 percent are between people who know and trust each other.
Do we really need background checks on family and friends?
And the “gun show loophole” is really only 4 percent of total firearm transfers. Not 40 percent.
Which answer is worst?
a) That our elected representatives use data from a 20-year-old study.
b) That they use it with the clear intent to deceive and manipulate public opinion.
c) That the media perpetuates it rather than clarifies and corrects it.
d) That we the people are so willing to believe it without checking for themselves.
e) That it’s such a commonly used statistic, that no amount of truth, education or reason will ever be able to change anyone’s mind. This lie has taken on a life of its own.
f) All of the above.
If you chose answer f, you would be correct.
Contrary to what our elected representatives are telling us, the universal background check will not keep us safer.
And yet, that’s what so many of us are buying.
We used to think for ourselves. Now, we let others do that for us.
• CPA Bill Richardson and his wife, Annelle, have lived in Ahwatukee for more than 17 years. They have four children and one grand-child.