Media Doesn’t Matter

Lots of people have informed me I’ve been linked by Media Matters. I’m going to guess the Media doesn’t really Matter when you have time to pick on B-list blogs like this one. That said, I’m glad that my readers are alert and paying attention, as I never would have noticed the whole eleven hits they’ve sent me as of the time I’m posting this. I got more traffic yesterday from No Looking Backwards, who hasn’t posted anything in over a year, than I got from Media Matters. If this is Joyce’s attempt to counter the Republican Media Juggernaut, I just have to say I hope they continue to flush their money down the toilet. But Media matters took some time to refute something of mine, so I thought I should take some time to explain why I think their position is tenuous.

It is no secret that our community opposes registration of firearms. I myself do not favor it because I haven’t seen any evidence is accomplishes anything, and we’ve seen enough abuses and potential abuses to dissuade us. California has strict registration, and still has a rather high violent crime rate. Pennsylvania keeps computerized records of every gun sold, and yet Philadelphia still is still one of the more violent large cities. Michigan has registration, as does Chicago. Both Detroit and Chicago are extremely violent cities. So registration is off the table, and we’re not negotiating on that. We have the political power that we do not have to.

But the biggest mistake that Media Matters makes in their refutation of my assertion is this:

Strawing buying, buying a gun on behalf of a prohibited person,  is a federal crime but only certain states enable local prosecutors to target straw buyers. In New Jersey a local prosecutor could go after a straw buyer independently, not so in Delaware or Pennsylvania.

This is completely untrue. Straw buying is a crime in Pennsylvania. There is no private transfers for handguns in this state. If you buy a handgun, or transfer a handgun, it has to go through an FFL or a Sheriff. One of the two. What does Media Matters thinks enforces that law? Harsh language? The local police and local DA’s enforce it. Ask Tom Corbett and Lynne Abraham if there are state laws that allow local prosecution of straw buyers.

Delaware does not restrict private transfers between persons not prohibited. But Delaware does make it a crime to pass a firearm to a prohibited person, and they also have a state level straw purchasing statute. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the First State has fewer controls on the sale, transfer and disposition of firearms than Pennsylvania, it is not a significant source of crime guns for New Jersey, or any other state.

So Media Matters is completely ignorant of their knowledge of the relevant law in this area, which is hardly surprising given that their prattling in this issue have generally tended toward extreme ignorance when I’ve come across them. They are also ignorant in their statement of this fact:

Regardless of how New Jersey compares to other States there are lots of Federal Firearms Licensees in New Jersey. Further, there is no reason to assume the gun traffickers Vice mentions are necessarily previously convicted criminals unable to legally obtain firearms.

When looking at sources of guns, I think comparing New Jersey to other states is kind of important, especially given how many violent cities in the Garden State border Pennsylvania. Unlike the law abiding, criminals don’t have any reason not to cross a state border. You’d expect a serious FFL disparity would pretty heavily influence where guns come from. Rather than going through a specific site, I went straight to the ATF to find out what the numbers are. But first, what are the trace numbers for New Jersey?

First off is that New Jersey is New Jersey’s largest source of crime guns, at 405. This is followed by Pennsylvania, at 284, and then North Carolina (185), then Virginia (171). New York State, which New Jersey shares a border with was 67. Delaware, which borders New Jersey had no guns traced to it, despite having the most lax sale and transfer laws of any state bordering it. Maryland had 27 traces. I don’t think the role of FFL density can be denied in influencing these numbers.

New Jersey has 265 dealer type FFLs. Pennsylvania has 2225. That’s not just a few more FFLs. That’s an order of magnitude more FFLs. New York State has about half as many (1622), and they are much more concentrated upstate than Pennsylvania’s, which exist in high density in border areas. Delaware has 114 FFLs to its name, which is reflected in low stats to New Jersey or any state. North Carolina has slightly more than New York, at 1753. Virginia has even less at 1419. Keep in mind that Virginia has a one-gun-a-month statute, and North Carolina requires a permit to purchase a handgun, the same as New Jersey. Maryland, which also requires a purchase permit, has 484 FFLs.

So what kind of correlations do we find? Does where guns come from correlate more to Brady Score or the number of FFLs? Or Capital to Capital distance? There is actually no correlation between FFL numbers and traces overall, because the strongest correlation, which isn’t actually all that strong, is Capitol to Capitol distance, with a Pearson correlation of about 0.4. There was a very small correlation between number of traces and Brady Score, but it was in the opposite direction, of -0.3 correlation, meaning that the higher the Brady score went, the more guns could be traced from that state to New Jersey.

If you consider the effect that geography has on trace numbers, and restrain the correlation to states that are under 300 miles capital-to-capital distance from New Jersey, you get a correlation of 0.87, which is actually quite strong. Even just eliminating New Jersey itself from consideration, the correlation increases to 0.23 comparing FFL numbers to traces overall.

So we can see that the two major factors when it comes to guns being traced in New Jersey from other states is either distance from the state, or the number of FFLs it has. There is no correlation on Brady Score if you take the same limitations for that. Therefore, despite Media Doesn’t Matter’s calling into question of the integrity of my claims, they stand up to analysis. It is their claims which fall over. Perhaps they want to go on a mission to reduce the number of FFLs. New Jersey’s has certainly been successful at doing that, by largely extinguishing interest in shooting and gun ownership through the use of byzantine laws and stifling regulation. But in our Constitutional framework, that’s an unworkable goal, and should not be advocates by anyone who claims to care about the Bill or Rights.

14 thoughts on “Media Doesn’t Matter”

  1. I wonder if there’s correlation between burglary statistics in the states and the trace data, working on the premise that the sources are not straw purchases but obtained by theft.

    Assuming I understand the trace data correctly. Nothing specifically said, that I saw, that they were traced directly to straw purchases.

  2. Media Matters has jumped on the gun control bandwagon … which I presume is the result of a 24 month grant (awarded 2010) from Joyce Foundation.

    As is often the case, Joyce Foundation is simply purchasing anti-gun media (be it written by VPC, MM, or whomever).

    The illusion is that there is grassroots support for gun control initiatives. Much of the anti-gun media being purchased strikes as low-brow “culture-war” stuff as opposed to intellectual discussion.

  3. Also note the “time-to-crime” numbers. If my entire collection were to be sold, pawned in Boston, and used in crimes and traced, most would trace back to Massachusetts, but others would trace to my former residence of Maine, and maybe a few other states for various private sale guns in my collection.

    Also I have no idea how my C&R guns would trace. Do they track back to my FFL, or to the 01 that sold them to me?

    But that “time-to-crime” number likely inflates the numbers of guns that may actually be New Jersey residents that in fact may have been bought when they lived in other states.

  4. BTW, if that happens, you’ll get a trace request from ATF, which are you obliged to respond to as a condition of your license. Presumably, it’s out of your hands if it’s being traced, which means you need to explain what happened to it. If they don’t have a Theft and Loss form from you, you’d probably have some ‘splanin to do.

  5. FFLs per capita doesn’t support their assertion that Jersey has lots of FFLs either. There are 33000 people per FFL in Jersey. In comparison there are 5700 people per FFL in PA and 7800 in DE. Those are big differences.

  6. The last comment for that post made me laugh:

    The fact that “gun blogs” are a thing makes me really worry about America.

    Break out the maniacal laughter soundtrack!

  7. The only people that gun laws don’t stop are lawbreakers. The only people that the gun laws do stop are the law-abiding. Yeah, a hundred years from now they’re going to think we were crazy, and yes, they will be right about that.

  8. Maryland does not require a permit to purhase a handgun, actually, though purchase of a ‘regulated firearm’ – a regulatory category that includes all handguns and several of the scarier looking long guns -requires a background check by the MD State Police. This background check can take a month or more (in my case, anyway), and is returned ‘Not Disapproved.’ This is required for all such purchases.

    Not quite as bad as a permit, but not terribly different, either.

  9. “BTW, if that happens, you’ll get a trace request from ATF, which are you obliged to respond to as a condition of your license. Presumably, it’s out of your hands if it’s being traced, which means you need to explain what happened to it. If they don’t have a Theft and Loss form from you, you’d probably have some ‘splanin to do.”

    You are only required to keep records so long as your C&R FFL is active right?

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