A self-serving preface

Fortunately gun violence is an abstraction for the overwhelming majority of people. Gun crusaders never seem to have been victims of gun violence. The folks who propose that the solution to gun violence is more guns are not people who have been shot. I could have been carrying an Uzi and some hand grenades and the result would have been the same.

I will go to my grave with acute PTSD which frustrates daily functioning. I will also be in physical pain. Receiving the product of a .45 point-blank in the back is inherently unhealthy.

Moving along …

Monday, at Heritage Foundation’s blog, David Harsanyi writes: Chicago Murders and Busting the Windy City’s Gun Myth. Chances are pretty good that David Harsanyi doesn’t have any bullet perforations on his body. If he did, he would probably have a different view of gun safety.

The tragically incompetent mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” last weekend to deflect attention from the horror show unfolding in her city by blaming interlopers for its spiking murder rate: “We are being inundated with guns from states that have virtually no gun control, no background checks, no ban on assault weapons—that is hurting cities like Chicago.”

I am not sure what renders Mayor Lightfoot “tragically incompetent.” Is that because she is gay or because she says things that Harsanyi doesn’t like?

Although these accusations have been leveled by Chicago politicians for decades now, they are a myth.

For one thing, there is no state in the nation with “virtually no gun control” or “no background checks.” Every time anyone in the United States purchases a gun from a federal firearms licensee—a gun store, a gun show, it doesn’t matter—the seller runs a background check on the buyer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database.

There are two problems with that argument. Studies of crime gun recoveries in Chicago, New York City, and Boston — all cities in states with strong gun laws — show that as many as 87% of the firearms used in crime in these cities were trafficked from other states which often have weaker gun laws. Felons are using straw buyers who can pass a background check.

The second problem is that Mr. Harsanyi is being cute with his reference to gun shows. Under federal law, private sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers, record the sale, or even ask for identification. This is known as the “gun show loophole.” The only exception is a reasonable cause to believe that the buyer is a prohibited purchaser.

Mr. Harsanyi states it a bit differently:

In states that allow individual private sales, it is illegal to knowingly sell to anyone who you believe is obtaining a firearm for criminal purposes.

Well gee whiz. That solves the problem right there. Felons are terribly anxious to depict their illicit intentions to sellers and sellers are determined to weed out potential problem purchasers even though there is no way of tracing an illegal gun back to a private seller. Sure they are!

Those who cross state lines to buy guns undergo the same background check, and the sale is processed by a federal firearms license in the buyer’s home state. The exact same laws apply to all online sales.

That does nothing to eliminate straw buyers. It has no effect on private sales.

He might wish not to have written the following mythology:

The vast majority of Americans obtain their guns in this manner, and they rarely commit crimes. Around 7% of criminals in prison bought weapons using their real names. Fewer than 1% obtained them at gun shows.

The source for that 7% — According to the United States Department of Justice (2019):

Based on the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates
(SPI), about 1 in 5 (21%) of all state and federal
prisoners reported that they had possessed or
carried a firearm when they committed the offense
for which they were serving time in prison.
More than 1 in 8 (13%) of all prisoners had used
a firearm by showing, pointing, or discharging it
during the offense for which they were imprisoned.
Fewer than 1 in 50 (less than 2%) of all prisoners had
obtained a firearm from a retail source and possessed,
carried, or used it during the offense for which they
were imprisoned.

An estimated 287,400 prisoners had possessed a
firearm during their offense. Among these, more than
half (56%) had either stolen it (6%), found it at the
scene of the crime (7%), or obtained it off the street
or from the underground market (43%). Most of
the remainder (25%) had obtained it from a family
member or friend, or as a gift. Seven percent had
purchased it under their own name from a licensed
firearm dealer.

In other words, nearly half of firearms used to commit crimes originated with someone who was a straw buyer or someone who purchased the gun in a private sale.

Irrelevant data:

As The Heritage Foundation’s Amy Swearer points out, there have been around 18 million concealed-carry permit holders over the past 15 years, and they have committed 801 firearm-related homicides over that span, or somewhere around 0.7% of all firearm-related murders. Concealed-carry holders not only are more law-abiding than the general population as a group; they are more law-abiding than law enforcement.

The above has nothing whatsoever to do with the illicit trade in handguns arming Chicago gangs. Obviously, felons are not concealed-carry permit holders. I have no objection to concealed-carry permit holders.

… federal law requires every federal firearm license holder to report the purchase of two or more handguns by the same person within a week to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This is one of the reasons straw purchasers–people with a clean record who buy for criminals—spread their operations to other states.

I have no idea why Harsanyi thinks that bolsters his case. His case being that Mayor Lightfoot’s statement is a myth. She said (as Harsanyi quoted): “We are being inundated with guns from states that have virtually no gun control, no background checks, no ban on assault weapons—that is hurting cities like Chicago.”

The law, by the way, applies to two handguns purchased within five days (not a week). A straw buyer could accumulate 12 handguns per month without ATF being notified.

From the irrelevant to the absurd:

This is not unique to Illinois or Chicago. It has nothing to do with strict or lenient laws. It has mostly to do with cities and states failing to prosecute straw purchases.

Exactly how are cities and states supposed to prosecute straw buyers when there is no means of tracing handguns back to the original purchaser? And doesn’t that confirm, and even strengthen, Mayor Lightfoot’s statement (see the quote above)? Is that not precisely what she is complaining about?

…why is it that federal firearms license dealers in suburban Cook County are the origin point for a third of the crime guns recovered in Chicago, and home to “seven of the top 10 source dealers”?

Assuming that one-third do come from the Chicago suburbs, that is because countywide gun safety measures are more lax than Chicago’s laws. Furthermore, the percentage of guns seized is minuscule compared to the number of weapons used to commit crimes. Many of those guns are at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

We will never get a handle on this problem until we do two things via federal law:

  1. Universal background checks so that all gun transfers take place through licensed dealers and;
  2. records retention so that any firearm used in a crime can be traced back to the source (which is the only way to control straw purchasers.

Lightfoot may also be surprised to learn that California borders on states with liberal gun laws, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. Yet no big city in California has quite the murder and criminality of Chicago.

The above depends upon how you massage the numbers. Chicago has a violent crime rate of 1,100 per 100,000 residents. Oakland’s rate is 18% higher at 1,300 per 100,000 residents.

Chicago is unique. Chicago street gangs have had two alliances (Folk Nation and People Nation) since 1978. This means that there is a centralized hierarchy and that the gangs within the alliances have centralized leadership. None of California’s gangs, for example (including Crips and Bloods), have this kind of structure or level of organization.

Mr. Harsanyi makes the argument that the availability of guns is not necessarily related to crime rates and he is probably right. However if guns were less available there would be less violent crime in Chicago and in every California metropolitan area. In fact, fewer guns in the hands of felons would reduce violent crime in every city in America.

Harsanyi concludes:

Nearly 400 people have already been murdered in Chicago this year, around 100 more than in the entire year of 2019. On the night of May 29, 25 people were murdered and another 85 wounded by gunfire, more than any day in 60 years.

And yet, the mayor is appearing on TV to blame Mississippi and Texas. It is far more likely that black-market guns find their way to Chicago because the place has been a poorly-run criminal mecca for decades.

The simple fact is that locales without strong gun safety laws are responsible for arming Chicago’s street gangs. Harsani is correct in that those street gangs make Chicago a violent place. As I have previously stated reducing the flow of weapons into Chicago would reduce violent crime.

Nowhere in Harsanyi’s polemic does he explain why universal background checks and hand gun registration are a bad idea. The NRA, over the years, has used scare tactics like “registration leads to confiscation.” In other words, the government is the enemy of the people.

Then they have used a constitutional argument based on the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment does not prohibit rational and reasonable gun control.

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