Do NICS Background Checks Prevent Guns From Getting Into The ‘Wrong’ Hands? Maybe Yes And Maybe…

The bad news is that Kansas has joined five other crazy states in allowing its residents to walk around carrying concealed handguns without any permitting process at all.  The good news is that Oregon appears to become the fifteenth state that will extend NICS background checks to transactions that were not covered by the Brady legislation enacted in 1994.  The evidence on whether folks with legal CCW privilege are greater threats to use their guns in unsafe ways is, however, still not clear.  But there is virtual unanimity within public health and gun-sense advocacy circles that widening the NICS background check system to cover secondary transactions will substantially reduce gun crimes and rates of gun violence overall.

When it comes to gun violence, the public debate is driven by the degree to which guns in this country are connected in some way to a murder rate that is five to twenty times higher than any other country in the OECD.  It’s not that we are a more violent country per se than places like England, Germany or France, it’s that our violence takes a much more lethal form, given the existence of all those guns.  Despite silly attempts to challenge this argument to the contrary, the data is indisputable which shows the connection between homicide rates and guns.  But the question that I am asking is whether our attempts to curb gun homicides has anything to do with NICS.

nics                The Brady background check system was actually first proposed when a measure to impose a national, seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases was first introduced in 1987 and promptly failed.  The measure was re-introduced in subsequent Congressional sessions until 1992 when, for the first time the law substituted a national background-check process in lieu of a waiting period and, more important, gained the support of President-elect Bill Clinton, who promised to sign the measure if he was in the White House after 1993.  Which is exactly what happened one year later when, following Clinton’s election, a bill calling for a five-year phasing-in of NICS checks hit his Oval Office desk on November 30, 1993 and took effect in February, 1994.

The year that the law first went into effect – 1994 – there were 23,000 murders, of which 16,000, or 46% were committed with guns.  The increase in violent crimes of all types over the previous decade was a major factor in the final passage of the Brady bill, as it would be with the crime bill and ten-year assault weapons ban which Clinton signed at the end of 1994.  Within three months after NICS checks first started up in 1994, the ATF published a report which claimed that Brady had prevented 5% of all handgun purchases because the prospective buyer was a felon or some other type of ‘prohibited’ person, which was “proof” that NICS checks could and reduce violent crime.

Over the past 20 years since the Brady was passed (it became fully operational in 1998), the overall rate of violent crime has dropped by 45% and the murder rate by 52%; in some large cities, particularly New York, the decline has been upwards of 70% or more.  How much of this decline can be tied to any one factor is yet to be fully explained, but the fact is that violent crime, particular homicides, is a far less serious issue than before the government began to use the NICS system to control access to guns.

On the other hand, if our murder rate has been going down, the degree to which murders are committed with guns has been going up. In 2000, guns were used in 65% of all murders; in 2005 guns were used in 68% of homicides, in 2010 guns were the weapons of choice in murders again to the tune of 68%.  It looks to me like our murder rate has dropped by nearly 50% since 1994 while the rate of guns used in homicides has increased by about the same amount.  Isn’t this the reverse of what NICS is supposed to achieve?

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4 thoughts on “Do NICS Background Checks Prevent Guns From Getting Into The ‘Wrong’ Hands? Maybe Yes And Maybe…

  1. Is there any credible research out there that takes guns used in homicides and then takes the trail backwards to see how the gun was acquired? My guess is the the background checks could work well on someone who does not have any guns but wants one and is not eligible but unable to buy one ‘on the street’ or meet up with someone who advertises on the Internet for private sales. Beyond that the idea just sounds nice.

    The other part of this not mentioned in the post is location. How many more homicides would there be if the emergency medicine system in urban areas was not so good so instead of homicides we see aggravated assaults. That is one factor in the drop in the homicide rate I don’t think many people notice often.

  2. So just open NICS up to everyone to use without the requirement to go through a dealer? I mean if background checks are what you are really pushing for and would prevent so much death and destruction, then why add a reporting requirement that has prevented universal background checks from moving forward?

    Because we both know that it is meaningless without keeping a record of the transaction. California has universal background checks and yet the killings continue. The current information has it that most of the guns found attached to crime in California come from California, so how exactly has this changed anything other than to burden the honest people?

    Your premise is common but short on sense. Good job to Kansas and I hope my home state of Missouri follows suit. My CCW should be valid in all states as per the full faith and credit clause. Given time, it will be.

  3. The “full faith and credit clause.’ Another Constitutional scholar. I love the way they mis-quote what I said and then criticize their version of my comments. I made it clear that I don’t see any connection between background checks and crime rates but why bother to read what I said? Much more fun just to criticize.

  4. Yet you have no real argument to counter the full faith and credit clause.

    Here is what you wrote.”But there is virtual unanimity within public health and gun-sense advocacy circles that widening the NICS background check system to cover secondary transactions will substantially reduce gun crimes and rates of gun violence overall.”

    First, I never quoted you. Second, your objection would imply that you’re trying to have it both ways. You will argue that we need “gun sense” yet offer contradicting information as if you’re being fair and balanced.

    I posed a fair question that you didn’t respond to. You see, that’s the problem with the BS “gun sense”. You and those like you want to control the debate as if you all are the only ones smart enough to understand the issue. Of all the data that is out there, not much of anything has been found the be causal either way. So why would it make sense to deny a constitutional right based on dubious correlation?

    You wrote “The bad news is that Kansas has joined five other crazy states in allowing its residents to walk around carrying concealed handguns without any permitting process at all. The good news is that Oregon appears to become the fifteenth state that will extend NICS background checks to transactions that were not covered by the Brady legislation enacted in 1994.”

    So is blood running in the streets of those crazy 5 states?

    If you’re not arguing for universal background checks, then why is it good news from Oregon?

    The problem is that I have read a lot of what you have written and I don’t agree with you. I think that there is nothing reasonable about what you advocate for. The good news is that within the real gun community, you really have no standing whatsoever. From what I’ve seen, you don’t seem to have much standing on the other side either, aside from the Huffpo and even that seems more one sided with all the fellow gun owners filling the comment section.

    Now from a practical perspective, I have no real problem theoretically with background checks as I have nothing to hide. My problem is that there never is an end to what your side is pushing for. Since I can’t trust you all to not overreach, then I am inclined to not give an inch and fight tooth and nail against just about every proposed “gun control” issue that comes along.

    We have a constitutional protection against searches and yet we find that our government has been snooping into our private affairs. No sir, I do not trust my own government to follow the laws because it has shown that is not trustworthy. We may have the Heller decision that clears up the matter of individual rights to keep and bear arms, but they didn’t put any real limits on what extent that the government can impose regulations.

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