Sources of Guns to Dangerous People

A recent scholarly study seems to make some sense regarding criminals’ acquisition of guns. Who better to ask about where they got their guns than the criminals themselves?

We say “criminals” directly because the study participants weren’t “alleged criminals,” who haven’t been through the court system yet.

The study, “Sources of guns to dangerous people: What we learn by asking them” was released in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. It was a survey of 99 criminals between the ages of 18 and 40 detained within the Cook County (Illinois) jail.

In the study, the researchers asked the inmates where the convicted criminals got their firearms.

They generally do not buy them from licensed gun dealers or at gun shows or off the internet.  And the study found that criminals do not often buy guns on the used market or from someone they do not know, as they have a fear of police stings or buying a gun from a source that might turn them in. Instead, they obtain guns from sources they trust, most often, family, persons they know, fellow gang members, and other criminals.   The study revealed that they rarely steal guns.

The survey was conducted in the fall of 2013. Among the main findings:

— These adult offenders living in Chicago or nearby obtain most of their guns from their social network of personal connections. “Rarely is the proximate source either direct purchase from a gun store, or theft,” according to the study abstract. Meaning: Background checks would not prevent such transactions.

— About 60% of guns in the possession of respondents were obtained by purchase or trade. Other common arrangements include sharing guns and holding guns for others. Meaning: Background checks would not prevent such transactions.

Interestingly though, the study revealed that criminals do not hold onto their guns very long, fearing the weapons might be traced back to a specific crime.

— Gangs continue to play some role in Chicago in organizing gun buys and in distributing guns to members as needed. Meaning: Background checks would not prevent such transactions.

What this and other studies clearly point out, laws and regulations affecting gun sales only impact the law abiding citizen since criminals obviously avoid anything that would subject them to background checks.

The authors of the study conclude that disrupting the supply chain would have a positive effect on reducing gun use by criminals.  What they fail to acknowledge is that criminals do not participate in the legitimate supply chain, so disrupting the flow would not likely be accomplished by implementing new laws restricting the sale of guns by legitimate dealers and persons or expanding background checks.

How do we stem the flow?

Click here to see a full copy of the paper.

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