We say it all the time. Why? Because it’s true. Criminals — not law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for the vast majority of gun-related violence!
A new analysis from the University of Pittsburgh backs up our assertion. Researchers there, in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, examined 762 cases in which a gun was recovered by police in 2008.
The main conclusion? “Most perpetrators (79%) were carrying a gun that did not belong to them,” the study states. In other words, those bad guys were criminals with stolen firearms.
Of course, the question is how did these guns end up in the hands of criminals? According to the research, over 30 percent were stolen and, presumably, another large percentage were obtained with the help of a straw purchase, an individual with no criminal history who purchases a firearm for a criminal acquaintance.
The percentage of crime guns obtained through a straw purchaser is tougher to nail down for obvious reasons. Unless caught red-handed, the straw purchaser isn’t going to disclose to police that (a) they sold the firearm to a criminal or (b) that it was “stolen” or “lost” for fear that it may implicate them in the crime.
Either way, there’s little else that can be done legislatively to keep criminals from stealing guns or using straw purchasers to obtain them. Existing federal laws already prohibit both. Possession of a stolen firearm is punishable up to 10 years in prison as is selling or giving a firearm to any prohibited person, e.g. criminal, minor, mental defective, according to the Department of Justice.
However, various gun-control groups believe that passing laws that require gun owners to report to police lost or stolen firearms within a certain period of time would help crack down on straw purchasing. But again, an obvious loophole exists. Straw purchasers can easily claim that they had no knowledge that the gun was even “missing.” How does one report a lost or stolen gun that they don’t know is lost or stolen?
The burden would be on the state to prove that (a) they should’ve known it was missing and (b) that they then should’ve called the police. That’s not an easy task, as it concerns how one keeps their private property. Some folks inventory their firearms weekly, others yearly, and others not at all. And without enacting extraconstitutional gun laws, the government can’t get into the business of telling folks how they ought to inventory their firearms.
Needless to say, the mandate to report lost or stolen guns would really only impact the law-abiding, who are already the folks that report a gun lost or stolen, especially when it’s knowingly lost or stolen. This brings us back to square one, which is those inclined to break the law will break the law, regardless of the laws on the books. Or, as The Washington Post noted, when it examined the study:
“The top-line finding of the study — that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes aren’t committed by lawful gun owners — reinforces a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups,” stated WashPo. “They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.”
Amen! We’ve done pretty much all we can policy-wise — and then some — to tackle gun-relative violence. The only way to really address the issue is to (a) take existing criminals off the street and (b) create a society that creates fewer criminals.