Our country needs to address violence – but proposed gun control is ineffective.
Most proposed gun regulations focus on requiring gun permits or making background checks more exacting. Unfortunately, these restrictions are fruitless in keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals – they target legal sales, but an overwhelming majority of criminals buy their guns illegally.
Many criminals access their guns through straw purchases, transactions where someone who can legally buy a firearm sells or gives it to someone who can’t. Street gun dealers acquire weapons from these straw purchases, as well as from gun thefts and illegal deals with licensed sellers. They then resell these guns on the street, supplying criminals with their weaponry.
A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey researching state prison inmates guilty of gun-related crimes found that 79 percent of them had purchased their guns from “street/illegal sources” or from “friends or family.” Studies have estimated that only between 3 and 11 percent of criminals convicted of gun-related crimes purchased the gun at a gun show or store. “Criminals,” as law professor and former National Rifle Association board member Joseph Olson put it, “don’t go through background checks because they know they wouldn’t pass them.”
As the data shows, criminals rarely buy firearms legally. Legal restrictions are worthless in stopping illegal transactions. Greater gun control will only further vitalize a black market for firearms that is already flourishing across the U.S. Unfortunately, the criminals whom gun-control laws target are exactly the people who will have no issue circumventing those laws.
Occasionally, gun control advocates will argue that restricting the number of guns in America, even if those guns are legally owned, would reduce rates of gun violence. However, long-term trends show otherwise. Despite recent mass shootings – which only account for a tiny percentage of gun violence in the U.S. – gun violence rates are at their lowest in 20 years. This correlates with an increase in the number of privately owned firearms. If anything, the data may indicate that more legal guns result in less violence.
It seems that legal restrictions are useless. Even if gun-control laws were to miraculously prevent all criminals from accessing illegal guns, gun restrictions would still be a shabby solution to societal violence. If an individual wishes to kill others, removing one type of weapon from their arsenal won’t stop them from committing violent acts.
As we’ve seen from the agonizing string of recent terror attacks across Europe, where gun restrictions are much more stringent, criminals find many ways to kill. When guns are hard to access, criminals turn to trucks and bombs. These weapons can be just as deadly as guns; the terrorist attack in Nice, in which a driver massacred 84 people driving a high speed truck through a crowd, killed more victims than the Vegas shooting.
More gun control won’t lower violence. Legal restrictions aren’t effective – criminals don’t buy guns legally. Our country needs to seek ways to prevent violent tragedies, but the data tells us that greater gun restrictions are not the answer.
Leake is a Plan II and business freshman. She is a columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @grace_leake