Debate Magazine

The Four Major Ways Criminals Get Guns

Posted on the 01 June 2012 by Mikeb302000
Everyone agrees criminals should not have guns. Yet, the reality seems to be that they have practically unlimited access to them. It would be better for everyone if somehow we could deny them access. But how?
First we need to identify the ways in which they currently do come into possession of weapons. We'll eliminate one common fallacy right away, that criminals get guns from other criminals.  This may be true as far as it goes, but it doesn't help us in our analysis.  We're interested in the original source of guns that are used in crime. If, for example, a gun is stolen during a burglary and passed from criminal to criminal before being used in a murder, that gun came from "Theft," which is one of our main categories.
The entire exercise is based on the presumption that nearly all guns start out as the lawful property of someone. The exceptions to this, home-made weapons and those imported from overseas, are insignificant in number.  Our interest is the exact point at which a gun passes from lawful ownership into criminal hands.
The four categories are these.
1. Straw purchases. Gun traffickers recruit people with clean records who, depending on the state in which they live, can buy numerous guns and turn them over immediately to their criminal bosses. Other straw purchasers are of the amateur kind, the one-off kind, but regardless of the type there is a solution.
2. Theft. Most of this is done in private homes one gun at a time, or if the thieves are lucky several guns. For this there is an obvious solution. Other theft is done at military armories, gun manufacturers and gun shops, all of which require some failure on the part of the lawful custodian of the weapons.
3. Private sales. This is the one often referred to as the "gun show loophole." The reality is that private sales of guns account for about 40% of all gun sales and do not require a background check.  The solution.

4. Lawful gun owners who turn bad. Many of these guys are what I call "hidden criminals."  These are the ones who engage in unlawful activity but have never sustained a disqualifying felony.  They buy and own guns legally just like your truly lawful gun owners.  Others are upstanding members of society right up until the point they lose it and either kill the wife with a gun or shoot up the work place.  We read about them every day. Some of them could be identified through drug testing, others by improved mental health background checks.
The four categories are listed in descending order, the most easily addressed to the most difficult. Straw purchasing could be practically eradicated with the solution I've outlined, while lawful gun owners who turn bad is much harder to address.
But, although gun-rights folks keep saying we have onerous gun control laws which infringe upon their rights, the truth is we have done very little to curtail the terrible problem of gun flow from the good guys to the bad guys.
This must change.
What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.

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