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Legally Purchased Guns Are Not The Problem

The DOJ has released new data on firearm possession and crime.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released the results of a 2016 study titled  “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016.” This fascinating twenty-page report lends itself very easily to the conclusion that legally purchased guns are not the problem.

While individuals who are not exactly firearm aficionados regularly claim that all criminals have to do is walk into a gun store, flash their secret gun card, and walk out like they just purchased a gallon milk, the data says criminals do the exact opposite. They avoid the prescribed means of purchasing firearms.

TheBlaze ran a story on this report late last night.  They summarize the findings here.

“A Department of Justice report shows that only seven percent of nearly 300,000 state and federal prisoners who possessed a firearm during their crime purchased the gun from a licensed firearm dealer…The survey also revealed that only 0.8 percent of prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense got the firearm from a gun show, a statistic which shows that “gun show loopholes” often decried by gun control advocates are not contributing significantly to crime.”

Yet the study reveals much more than that! For those interested in statistics, the study has an innumerable amount of associations and relationships to be discovered and analyzed.  There is ample room for such associations to quietly dismember all of the talking points from the gun control lobby.  TheBlaze was quick to point out the important one i.e. that legally purchased guns are not the problem, and it also pointed out how gun show offenses are phantoms.

Three additional findings are worth noting.

One of my recent articles discussed the proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, courtesy of Dianne Feinstein.  The justification for this bill relies on the idea that these “weapons of war” are plaguing our streets.  As usual, the data does not support that assertion.  For state and federal prisoners, the rate of possession and use of rifles, of any kind, is at 1.5% and 0.8% respectively. This means that assault weapon possession and use exist as a subset of those percentages.

 While dabbling in some rudimentary statistical tests, I discovered that there is actually an association between education levels and whether a person ends up in federal custody.  Those with a college degree are less likely to possess firearms during the commission of a crime, but when they do, they are more likely to end up in federal custody.  

The entire category of possession requires more scrutiny from the BJS. When TheBlaze highlights the number of crimes that were connected to legally purchased guns, and when you go to the actual data and see the terms “possessed” OR “used,” you have to ask yourself whether the gun was relevant to the crime or not.  That seven percent of legally purchased guns is likely much smaller if we want to know whether legally purchased guns are relevant to criminal activity.  I will illustrate this with a hypothetical.  Suppose there is a legal gun owner who does not carry. He gets into a road rage incident and punches a guy who attempted to run him off the road.  The gun owner is arrested for assault or battery. But since the gun owner had no gun on him, his possession is not recorded.  And rightly so.  But now let’s say that the gun owner does carry.  And he was legally carrying his pistol in his car at the time of the incident. The gun owner has secured the pistol according to any relevant state laws and still proceeds to punch the psychotic driver.  Now, the pistol is recorded during the arrest and the possession is noted in these types of surveys.  In both scenarios, the gun played no role in the crime, yet one of them counts toward the possession statistic.  There are countless other examples where a firearm is legally possessed, but other circumstances cast a shadow over it as if it were illegal.  This can be seen in bond restrictions where the right to bear arms is suspended during the pendency of a trial for an offense that had nothing to do with a firearm.  

Of course, there are also cases where legal firearms are carried illegally or where the owners of illegal firearms abide by carrying laws.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics should really delve into every possible aberration, category, nuance, and point of law necessary to paint an accurate picture of firearm offenses in America. 

One thing is certain; a lack of curiosity can lead to societal harm down the road.  Firearm offenses and the data we retrieve from surveying offenders must be pursued, analyzed, and published with the most enthusiasm possible. The left is correct in saying that firearms are dangerous, but they are wrong in attributing it to an item and not to the individuals who operate in illegality.  It’s the illegality that’s dangerous. And I want to know all about it.


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