dThe anti-gun lobby touts universal background checks as an effective life saver, arguing that this type of legislation keeps firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals. Common sense reasoning can easily debunk this argument, but a recent study has provided data that reveals what proponents of the Second Amendment already know: Universal background checks don’t save lives.
They found that California’s laws made no difference in the rate of gun deaths.
The Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) at UC Davis and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a study about the effect California’s weapon control laws have had on homicide and suicide rates over ten years. They found that California’s laws made no difference in the rate of gun deaths. Even worse, the investigation’s lead researcher discovered that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is seriously defective.
The study showed that there was a 10.9% decrease in gun suicides during the same time period, but they also found a similar decrease in suicides in the rest of the country.
Why Doesn’t It Work?
The primary issue highlighted by the report is the lack of reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The report states that “incomplete reporting of prohibiting data to background check systems in the 1990s, prior to implementation of the policies in California, is an important limiting factor.”
The researchers also pointed out that a small percent of criminal records were “accessible in the primary federal database used for background checks.” Moreover, records of prohibitions for mental health were “almost nonexistent.”
For this reason, many were able to pass their background checks even if the law should have prevented them from obtaining a firearm. Indeed, some of the mass shootings that occurred this year were committed by individuals who clearly had mental illnesses that should have disqualified them from owning a weapon.
In the aftermath of mass shootings, the progressive left, and the press — but I repeat myself — argue that universal background checks would have prevented the tragedy. The aforementioned study showed that this supposed “solution” would have done nothing to prevent the incident.
In most of these stories, the shooter had either passed background checks or did not have records that would disqualify them. In some cases, they stole the weapons used in the attack.
Of course, it is important to address common gun crimes — which account for far more homicide victims than mass shootings. At least 80% of the firearms used in violent crimes — including homicide — were illegally obtained. Universal background checks don’t stop crime; they just make it more difficult for some law-abiding Americans to defend themselves.