The seminal study on where criminals are getting their guns, one can make an interesting observation. In 1991, the survey notes that 20.8% of inmates reported getting their guns through legal sources, like licensed gun shops. Criminals reported in 1991 getting 33.8% from friends and family, and 40.8% from a street source.Â When the study was repeated in 1997, after the enactment of the Brady Act, the number of criminals reporting getting their guns from an legal source was down to 13.9%, however, the number reporting getting guns from friends and family increased to 39.6%, and street sources dropped to 39.2%. So the drop in crime guns from legal sources dropped 6.9%, while friends and family increased by 5.8%.
What this could very well say is that most criminals who obtained firearms through “lie and buy” prior to the enactment of the Brady Act, after the Brady Act merely shifted to the tactic of obtaining firearms from friends and family.
The breakdown appearing in Table 8 is also of interest. Actual purchases from friends and family went down, but what went way up is the practice of borrowing or renting guns from friends and family. That went up by 8.4%. Breaking down street and illegal sources, theft of firearms dropped somewhat from 91 to 97, as did buying from drugs dealers or other criminals. Black market sources rose.
I think it’s reasonable to conclude from the data that ending private sales would have nearly no effect on criminal access to firearms. Renting or borrowing from associates is not an activity the law can reach easily. This practice is already unlawful in the case of lending or renting to individuals who are prohibited, or who intend to use the firearm to commit a crime. My conclusion is the great burden it would put on lawful gun owners, versus the negligible effect it would have on criminal access, speaks against ending private sales, and probably against having background checks at all. A conclusion that can easily be drawn from this data is that the Brady Act only had the effect of shifting how criminals obtain firearms, rather than seriously impacting the illegal gun market.