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Do ‘Universal Background Checks’ Really Work? Research ‘Mixed’

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Article first appeared on Ammoland.com

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U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- A recent report by American University Radio (WAMU) in Washington, D.C. probably isn’t what the gun prohibition lobby wanted to see because it feeds a healthy skepticism that a cornerstone of the gun control agenda might be all wet.

Right upfront in the first paragraph, writer Lisa Dunn says this: “While polls show widespread support for universal background checks, there is mixed evidence that requiring UBCs for all gun sales would prevent or reduce gun violence.”

It’s a cinch the mandate didn’t work in Washington State. A “universal background check” initiative, adopted by voters in 2014 after anti-gun wealthy elitists bankrolled a $10.2 million campaign—against which Second Amendment advocates could only raise about $2 million, which was split on two efforts, one in direct opposition to Initiative 594 and the other offering an alternative, Initiative 591—did not prevent a high-profile triple slaying at a teen party in July 2016. Nor did it prevent another deadly incident about two months later in which five people were murdered.

The infamous Mukilteo shooting was committed by 19-year-old Allen Christopher Ivanov on July 30. He legally-purchased a Ruger semi-auto rifle, passing a background check (he had no criminal record) a week before the crime.

The second case was the Cascade Mall shooting on Sept. 23, committed by Arcan Cetin, age 20. He didn’t bother with a background check, instead taking a .22-caliber semi-auto rifle from his stepfather’s home. He had a record, according to a Wikipedia account, that included charges of assault in the fourth degree, and he had undergone court-ordered mental health counseling earlier that year. So much for background checks keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Cetin hanged himself in April 2017 in jail.

Why do people support “universal background checks?” The notion sounds good, and the sales pitch—reducing violent crime—appeals to people.

The survey alluded to by the WAMU story was a 2017 effort by Quinnipiac University. It revealed “American voters support stricter gun laws 66 – 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners and 62 – 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58 – 38 percent support among white men.”

The WAMU report looked at California, where “comprehensive” background checks have been the law for a decade.

“Researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine have studied gun violence in CA during that period and found there was no change in the number of gun homicides or gun suicides,.” WAMU’s story acknowledged. “And another study by the same authors found that the repeal of comprehensive background check laws in Tennessee and Indiana had no effect on gun homicides or suicide rates in either state.”

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports from 2014 through 2018 shows homicide numbers haven’t varied much, In 2014, the FBI report said 1,169 people were murdered with firearms. The next year’s report put the number of gun-related killings at 1,275 and in 2016, the body count climbed to 1,368, the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In 2017, the Golden State reported 1,274 firearms homicides and in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, California reported 1,177 gun-related slayings.

Yet, gun control advocates adhere to “universal background checks” as something akin to scripture, without conclusive evidence to support their position.

One look at the City of Chicago provides ample evidence that background check requirements, and other Illinois gun control laws, haven’t curbed the violence one bit. There have been more than 340 homicides so far this year in the Windy City, including more than a dozen over the Fourth of July weekend. At this pace, Chicago will likely log more homicides this year than last. By the end of June 2019, there had been 236 slayings, so the city is already ahead of last year at this time by more than 100 killings, and the hottest summer months are just now beginning. July, August and September traditionally see more murders.

Meanwhile, critics say background checks are a form of de facto gun registration because federally licensed firearms dealers are required to keep records of each gun transfer.

As noted in the Conservative Firing Line, the FBI reported the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) set a new record for the number of checks initiated in June. There has been a spike in gun buying since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic panic, which went up even more sharply as cities across the country erupted in violent protests following the killing of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. There’s nothing like civil unrest and uncertainty about the future to spur gun sales.

Of the more than 3.9 million background checks conducted last month, more than 2.1 million were related to actual gun sales, according to “adjusted” data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. According to the NSSF, there were 2,177,586 checks related to gun sales last month.

All of this said, it is time to do some math. In recent years, the number of gun-related homicides has hovered below 15,000 and in some years fewer than 10,000-12,000. Compared to the number of privately-owned firearms in this country, estimated to be more than 300 million, that amounts to a fraction of a fraction of all the guns owned by American citizens ever involved in a murder.

Add to that the number of reported firearm injuries and the number is still tiny. As reported by The Trace, “an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis”—translation, it isn’t friendly to gun rights—firearms are used in “nearly 500,000 crimes” annually. This includes murders and injuries.

Back in January, The Trace reported 15,292 people were fatally shot in 2019, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. There were more than 29,600 non-fatal firearm injuries as well, the report stated. That was up 5 percent over 2018.

Background checks are popular, but the data remains inconclusive as to whether they actually have resulted in prevention of violent crime. They have reportedly stopped a lot of people from initially purchasing firearms, but in terms of reducing actual murders and non-fatal injuries, they don’t appear to be accomplishing anything.

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

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