In an interview with KTNV’s Jon Ralston that aired on August 11, Nevadans for Background Checks spokesperson Jennifer Crowe shamelessly peddled false claims about firearms that have been widely debunked for years.
“Private sales account for about 40% of the gun sales market at this point. So, that’s a substantial number of guns being sold without a background check.”
The claim that 40 percent of gun sales do not go through a federal background check is false and comes from a decades-old survey that has been widely debunked.
Most of the survey on which the claim is based covered sales before there was a federal background check system. The 1994 survey was conducted eight months after the Brady Act went into effect, mandating background checks on individuals seeking to buy firearms from federally licensed dealers. Survey participants were asked about their gun acquisitions going back two years. Some of the participants likely made gun purchases before the Brady Act, when they were not required to undergo federal background checks.
Self-reports are inherently unreliable – not actual data of sales.
The authors of the study upon which the claim is based say “we don’t know the current percentage, nor does anyone else.” (Source: Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker, “Obama’s continued use of the claim that 40 percent of gun sales lack background checks,” Washington Post, April 2, 2013.)
In Colorado, the non-partisan research arm of the state legislature predicted about 420,000 new background check would be conducted over the first two years after a so-called universal background check law took effect. But after a year of operating under the new system, Colorado Bureau of Investigations officials performed only about 13,600 reviews considered a result of the new law — about 7 percent of the estimated first year total.
“What we do know is that in states that close the loophole and have laws similar to what we are trying to pass here in Nevada, and there are 18 other states that have done this, we’ve seen significant reductions in gun violence. Forty-eight percent fewer police officers killed. Forty-eight percent fewer gun suicides. Forty-six percent fewer women shot and killed by their partners.”
This simplistic approach to studying the complex causes of gun violence has been repeatedly debunked. When Politifact fact checked similar claims by a gun control activist in Virginia, it found this:
“ … analysts we contacted urged caution in interpreting a correlation in lower rates of gun violence to private-sale background checks.
"Making causal claims is always riskier," Jacquelyn White, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, said in an email. "States that require background checks may also be more likely to support other efforts that contribute to the well-being of their residents. Remember, correlation is not causation. There may be other factors, such as a more enlightened commitment to creating healthy and safe communities, that result in an array of programs and policies that reduce domestic violence."
Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University, said Everytown’s figure "takes no other account of any other factors that affect homicides."
"States do not randomly pass gun laws -- those that pass gun laws are different in many ways from those that do not," Kleck, who has studied the impact of background checks on homicide rates, said in an email. "For obvious political reasons, it’s easier to enact stricter gun laws in states with fewer gun-owning voters. Thus, states that extended background checks to private gun transfers had lower gun ownership rates even before those laws were passed. Likewise, states with stricter gun laws are more urban, less likely to be Southern or Western (and thus culturally different), more politically liberal etc. You can’t isolate the effect of a gun law without controlling for other violence-related factors."
Economist John Lott, Jr, debunks every one of these claims in his new book, “The War on Guns, Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies”:
Economists and criminologists alike consistently find no benefit from background checks.
Eighteen other states either currently have universal background checks or had them at some point during the past three decades. . . . When you examine all the states, there is no evidence to be found that these background checks affect murder rates.
[U]sing data from all the states from 1977 to 2005, I found that these expanded background checks produced a very small and statistically insignificant 2 percent increase in murder rates.
[A]cademic studies consistently find that background checks have failed to reduce violent crime.
[B]ackground checks have not been successful in stopping criminals from getting guns.
Many academic studies have failed to produce evidence that background checks on private purchases actually make a difference in reducing violent crimes such as murder and robbery.
[M]urders are 49 percent higher and robberies are 75 percent higher in states with expanded background checks.
Twenty-two of 24 estimates related to changes in the suicide rate and in the murder rate against women and police showed “no change in crimes or suicides as a result of . . . new background checks.” Only two estimates showed statistically significant results. “One showed that states with expanded background checks on transfers had a large increase in police gun deaths. The other showed a relatively miniscule drop in total suicides. But even these results are no longer statistically significant when other factors are taken into account.
The bottom line is that these background checks on private transfers don’t help. Economists, criminologists, and public health researchers have yet to find that the Brady background checks did anything to reduce violent crime. Additional checks aren’t the solution.
“The onerous regulations that the opponents keep talking about are really just scare tactics to make people concerned about this ‘nose under the tent’ argument. It diverts the issue.”
We have found that the most substantial impact of these laws is to turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals.
In Oregon, where a similar law went into effect, a pastor is facing criminal charges for asking a friend, someone he described as “responsible gun owner” to store the gun temporarily because he did not want it in his home. The pastor could face a maximum fine of $6,250 and up to a year in jail.
Similar to the Oregon law, Question One would criminalize almost all private firearms transfers in Nevada. For example, if a close friend or fiancé wanted to go shooting on federal BLM land and borrow a firearm, they must appear jointly at a federally licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee, and undergo a federal background check. When finished, they must return to a licensed gun dealer and go through the whole process again. This is in addition to the background check both gun owners had to go through to initially buy their firearms. If a member of the military gets deployed overseas, and wants a friend to store his or her firearms, the two would have to go through the same hassle – spending time, and money to comply with the government mandates. The initiative is also poorly worded when it comes to cases where a firearm is needed for self-defense. For example, if a woman’s estranged husband or boyfriend is stalking or threatening her and she can’t afford a gun to protect herself, it would be illegal for a friend to loan her a gun except at the very moment she is under attack.
As we have seen in other states that have enacted similar laws to criminalize private firearms transfers, it is never enough for the gun control advocates. They always come back for more gun control measures.
The year after voters in Washington State adopted a ballot initiative similar to Nevada’s Question One, gun control advocates were back at the legislature calling for a ban of popular, all-purpose sporting rifles and semi-automatic pistols frequently used in home and self-defense.
To effectively enforce private firearms transfer laws, the state would need to create a massive gun registry. In a white paper dated January 4, 2013, the deputy director of the National Institute for Justice — the Department of Justice’s research and evaluation agency — makes clear that the effectiveness of “universal” background checks “depends on … requiring gun registration.” Clark County recently abolished its ineffective gun registry scheme.
Obviously, gun control advocates will be back for more if Question 1 passes. This is not a “nose under the tent” argument, they’ve shown us time and again they will ask for more gun control on law-abiding citizens.