Prevent Gun Violence, Stop Straw Purchases, Ballistics Test Firearms Prior to Point of Sale

Just 5% of all gun dealers are responsible for 90% of crime guns on our streets. “Bad apple” gun dealers like these supply guns to criminals by selling guns to straw purchasers (people illegally buying guns for others), gun traffickers (people buying guns to illegally resell), and other dangerous people. (What’s a “straw purchase”? 2014)

One huge point that will prevent a lot of gun violence in the United States is making it more difficult and expensive to conduct a straw purchase. What is a ‘straw purchase’ you might ask? “A ‘straw purchase’ occurs when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person, the ‘straw purchaser,’ to execute the paperwork necessary to purchase a firearm from an Federal Firearms Licensed dealer ,” according to the ATF. “A straw purchaser may be used when the actual buyer is prohibited from having firearms, such as a convicted felon or an individual who is less than 21 years of age. On other occasions, the actual buyer of the firearm may not be a prohibited person, but does not want the firearms to be listed in his or her name.” (EverytownResearch.org 2008)

“Virtually every crime gun in the United States starts off as a legal firearm,” according to the then Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) director Bradley Buckles in 2000. More than 85 percent of dealers in the U.S. had no guns involved in crimes traced to them at all in 1998, while about 1 percent of licensed firearm dealers accounted for 57 percent of traces that same year. In trafficking investigations between 1996 and 1998, 25 percent of firearms were involved in an assault and 17 percent were involved in homicides. The ATF also examined gun-trafficking investigations from July 1996 to December 1998 and found that 46 percent of trafficking investigations during this period involved straw purchasers. (EverytownResearch.org 2008)

Proposing ballistic tests on every weapon before point of purchase is the first step in preventing negligent straw sales. This would make it more expensive for a straw purchaser since they’d have to change out firing pins and barrels. It might even have the added effect of swaying some gun manufacturers to side with this policy due to them expecting heavier sales of weapon parts.

If someone is strapped for cash and tries to sell their firearm online, at a gun show, or out of the trunk of their vehicle it makes it highly unlikely that they have the money to buy the necessary parts to change the traceable pieces of their weapon (firing pins and barrels -mainly) to make it more difficult for ballistic testing and authorities to identify. Many of the people who engage in straw purchasing also aren’t going to take the time to change out those identifying parts of their weapon before going out and selling the firearm to someone who will most likely discharge it while involved in a crime. This means that those ballistic tests on the firearm before initial first legal purchase would aid in catching the culprit behind the straw sale.

We could then enforce a more stringent penalty for those individuals guilty of being involved in straw sales and even more harsh sentences for those people involved in deals where straw purchased firearms are used in criminal acts. I’d also anticipate that the ballistic testing before point of purchase would increase the cost of purchasing said weapon as well as simultaneously lower the amount of weapons in the legal and illegal gun markets since they will be made slightly less affordable. It essentially prices out both sellers and purchasers from engaging in straw sales.

A regulation like this is about making it easier to identify those engaged in straw sales and holding those people accountable who make money off of those sales. Most of the weapons on the city streets involved in gun violence are there via straw sales — this is a preventative measure. It isn’t making straw purchasing illegal even which it already is, it is just making penalties harsher and also makes it much easier for authorities to identify the weapon used in a criminal act while subsequently being able to trace the weapon back to the initial straw purchaser. It would do little for those weapons that didn’t come from Federal Firearm Licensed dealers prior to this policy being initiated but it certainly would make an impact from here on out. What I am suggesting is that that licensed dealer before ever selling the weapon would have the weapon ballistic tested and the results placed in a database so that the weapon can be traced back to the first point of sale and the first purchaser.

These “stolen” guns are also part of the illegal transfer of weapons and often times mask a straw purchase -especially when not reported.

Along with preventing straw purchases we must also close the open loophole of allowing people to not report lost or stolen firearms. This loophole directly allows for straw purchases to not only not report when they transfer their firearm but also enables them to openly claim they lost or had their firearm stolen if the gun is found to have been involved in a crime. It effectively absolves the straw purchaser of any culpability in the crime that they facilitated by allowing them to rarely if ever have to report their weapon missing. This makes it extremely difficult for investigators to trace where a firearm originated and also makes it more difficult to find out where the weapon went since it isn’t being documented.

I’m also not worried about the poor being priced out of purchasing a firearm either. I mention this since this is usually the next argument against ballistics testing before point of sale since the cost of testing would most likely be passed onto the consumer. Without taking weapons into consideration anyways, the poor are priced out of so much already. I’m not worried about the unaffordability of firearms for the poor when poverty unfortunately does directly correlate with increases in crime — often times gun violence stemming from straw purchases. For instance, in an online article called, “Concentrated poverty and homicide in Chicago” we can directly see the correlation of poverty and homicide of which many are committed through gun violence.

Bogira, S. (2012, July 26). “Concentrated poverty and homicide in Chicago.”

The chart above shows the five poorest, and five least-poor, community areas in the city of Chicago (based on the percentage of households below the poverty line), and their homicide rates from 2004 through 2008. Because concentrated poverty in Chicago is inextricably linked to being African-American, the chart also includes the percentage of African-Americans in these communities, calculated from 2005–2009 Census Bureau estimates. If the homicide rates in the poor black areas were twice the rates in the better-off white areas, that would be significant. The differences above average about 13 times higher than the wealthier neighborhoods. (Bogira, S. 2012)

So by keeping it unaffordable to the more impoverished demographics who also have high levels of gun violence in their neighborhoods and some (not all or even most) of those poorer individuals resort to criminal enterprise to make enough money to survive, this would directly lessen the odds of gun violence in those areas via keeping guns off of the streets. How many rich criminals have used guns in their criminal activities personally and how many poor criminals have used guns in their criminal activities? Poverty drives up the crime rate and the crime drives the violence and the violence directly correlates with an increase in gun violence.

What neighborhoods in America suffer the most from gun violence? If you can answer that — what is the problem with a weapon being less affordable to the demographic most affected by gun violence? There is no human right or Constitutional Amendment stating we must have the right to purchase weapons. There should however be a right to better healthcare and higher education though since they certainly trump the right to purchase firearms. There should be a right to feeling safe from gun violence especially in the communities most negatively impacted by it. Defending the affordability of firearms to people residing in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence who can’t afford a lot of other material items anyway would be preposterous at best.

Prevent straw purchases by making it easier to identify the initial purchaser, lower the straw sales and illegal trafficking of firearms in this country by preventing criminals from obtaining firearms through backdoor deals, decrease the gun violence we currently see across the nation by directly making it easier to bring straw purchasers and their often times criminal consumers to justice, demand stringent laws for enforcing reporting of lost or stolen guns to prevent gun trafficking, and lessen the gun violence in impoverished communities by passing the cost of ballistics testing before point of purchase from a licensed dealer onto the person buying the weapon — thereby lessening the amount of guns in the communities most impacted by gun violence and in the hands of criminals.

References

Bogira, S. (2012, July 26). Concentrated poverty and homicide in Chicago. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/07/26/concentrated-poverty-and-homicide-in-chicago

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.bradycampaign.org/our-impact/resources/what’s-a-“straw-purchase”

Inside Straw Purchasing: How Criminals Get Guns Illegally. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2016, from https://everytownresearch.org/reports/inside-straw-purchasing-criminals-get-guns-illegally/

Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://smartgunlaws.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/gun-owner-responsibilities/reporting-lost-or-stolen-firearms/

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