Clayton E. Cramer: Do Background Checks for Gun Purchases Actually Work?

tags: guns, gun control, PJ Media, Clayton E. Cramer, background checks



Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.

I have been curious regarding how little effort the gun-control crowd has been exerting to prove that mandatory background checks work. There are, after all, six states that require all-private party sales to go through a background check, and ten states that require it for all handgun purchases. If driven to advocate for mandatory checks, you would think the case studies of these sixteen states must have provided plenty of evidence that such laws reduce murder rates, and thus affected your decision. Right?

I found this testimony to the U.S. Senate by Dr. Daniel Webster, a public health professor, from a few weeks back – he claims that Missouri’s repeal of its permit-to-purchase law (which required police approval of all firearms purchases) increased murder rates. His testimony claims that the increase was directly tied to the repeal of the law:

In 2008, the first full year after the permit-to-purchase licensing law was repealed, the age-adjusted firearm homicide rate in Missouri increased sharply to 6.23 per 100,000 population, a 34 percent increase.

That is a pretty startling increase, but several aspects of the claim made me start sniffing the air for fertilizer.

First of all, notice that this claim includes only firearms homicides. People stabbed to death don’t matter? It turns out that while Missouri’s murder rates (from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports) did indeed rise from 2007 to 2008, it was a 24% increase, which while still disturbing, is not as disturbing as 34%....



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