The 40% Number

Getting a late start today because I was too busy last night to get anything up for this morning. But I’ll try to catch up a bit.

Clayton has an interesting article over at PJ Media questioning the scope of the “gun show loophole” problem, and also more at his blog on the much touted “40% of all guns sales are private,” number. This sounded awfully suspicious to me too, to be honest. I’m about as gun nutty as they come, and I can count on one hand the number of private transfers I’ve done. In two cases, I was the seller, and in two the buyer. In both cases I knew the person I was buying/selling from. I know people who are true collectors, who do a lot more buying and selling privately than I do, but true collectors do not represent a large majority of gun owners.

17 thoughts on “The 40% Number”

  1. My “Private” transfers have been limited to family members only. Once when my dad gave me my original deer rifle, once when he died and I got his Shotgun and other Rifle, and once when my Grandmother decided she no longer wanted her 38 special.

    I’ve made some purchases at gun shows, but always from dealers so all the appropriate paperwork was done.

    Frankly, once I get a firearm, I keep it.

  2. I’ve always wondered about that number myself, because exactly 100% of my gun purchases have been background checked, and those I’ve asked about it have similarly high percentages. Then again, I’ve only briefly polled the law-abiding not criminals.

    I remember reading at one point that the FBI kept track of the source of “crime guns” and that all guns of unknown source (which would include this “loophole”) was about 5%. I can’t seem to find the study though. Can anyone help, or is my memory faulty?

    1. Nevermind, I finally found it. Report from the DOJ on a survey of prison inmates here (pdf)

      Retail: 8.3%
      Pawnshop: 3.8%
      Flea market: 1.0%
      Gun show: 0.7%
      Friends/family: 39.6%
      Street/illegal: 39.2%

      So it doesn’t seem to me that we have a gun show problem, it seems like we have a straw purchase and crime problem.

      Other interesting data:
      -“military-style semiauto or fully auto” firearm use in crime is very rare (pg 2)
      -education stats (pg 4)
      -family/friends background and drug use (pg 5)

      1. Note the changes from ’94 pre-NICs to ’97.

        Acquisitions from “legit” purchase points dropped about 10% while those from friends and family increased by about the same amount and street/illegal sales stayed the more or less the same.

        “Improving” the laws VP Biden says are too much trouble to enforce simply served to move more purchases by criminals to friends and family who are in a position to know if their friend or family member is a prohibited person or “never been caught” criminal. That is, they are already just as willing to break the law as the street sellers.

        To think they will suddenly go through an FFL because of one more possible felony is asinine.

  3. I’ve done one private transfer- I was the seller. Guy seemed fine- not weird at all. So I had no problem doing it. And it was just a 10/22 anyway.

    1. Probably no great risk, but schizophrenic mass murder Sylvia Seegrist used a 10/22. I have read that there was a grad student who didn’t realize that she was shooting a real gun, and took it away from her before she killed any more people.

      I like the idea of requiring all private party sales to go through background checks as a way of reducing slightly guns going to criminals and crazies. I’m just not sure that it is going to be a very effective strategy for making us safer.

      1. That happened when I was a kid at the mall we usually went to in order to go shopping. She was tackled to the ground by a relative of someone who lived at the top of my street. I thought she used a Mini-14?

      2. I feel the same way about a registry. The problem is we can’t and shouldn’t blindly trust the government not to abuse it. I mean, if I trusted the government I wouldn’t care if they knew what I had. But the people running it are always changing, and it seems always for the worse.

  4. My solution, just allow private sellers the option to run a simplified background check. Provide individuals name, address, and maybe last 4 of social. And let it be done for free.

    I bet a lot of private sellers, especially at gun shows, or those selling craigslist style would run such a check if themselves if they were selling to a stranger.

    1. I’d get behind this. Should be an iPhone and Android app. Put in minimally identifying information, get out green text banner “Proceed”.

      If denied, have process for appealing. (App returns a “query number” or similar that purchaser can reference in appeal.)

  5. If access to NICs was free, or a very low convenience fee paid to defray the actual cost of electronic access to the system, and only involved the information of the buyer, not the seller or the gun, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it being mandatory either.

    That would enable honest folks to enter knowingly into contracts they could feel good about.

    The “no buy” list could be limited public record, to my mind, only if only folks who have been convicted via the criminal justice system or adjudicated via the mental health system would be on it, they were informed they were on it, and there were procedures put in place to get false entries easily removed. That puts the onus of “responsible citizenship”
    on the individual buyer, not the seller or the gun.

    In teh interest of justice I’d probably demand Congress fund the process for right’s restoration at the Federal level, or at least allow those folks to pay a fee commensurate with the actual cost of a streamlined process. I’d also want to change the system so only -violent- felonies are disqualifying. I’d want to tighten up how DV cases are treated as well.

  6. I have long admitted in private that I would be HAPPY to call a “NICS-like” background check on any person I sell a firearm to in a private transfer if it was available to me. The problem is though, how do you prevent people from using it on non-firearm transactions? For example, what is to prevent misuse? Mental health stuff I imagine would be a HIPAA thing, and if the person has already been background checked by an employer as not being a felon it kinda fingers them as having a mental issue. That could get tricky.

    I think it’s a good idea, but I think there needs to be some good hard thinking about how to get it done.

    1. Exactly. It would most surely get used for employment screening, and any hints of abuse would cause many states to stop sending mental disbarments to it. That’s already a big enough problem, with e.g. Pennsylvania refusing to do so according to past threads on this blog.

  7. You know, that 40% Stat maybe more accurate than you think. Here in Ohio, one can go to almost any Gun Show and look for the Tables that have “NOT a Dealer” signs on them. All we have to do to make the Sale or Buy is Haggle over the Price, and see some sort of ID that says they are a Legal Ohio Citizen. It is NOT the Seller’s Responsibility to run Criminal Background Checks on the Prospective Buyer. Also, I’ve seen many times where a Family Member goes to the Show and buys a “First Gun” for their Kids. I’m sure there’s similar Laws in other States outside of the various VolksRepubliks.

    Heck, I’ve seen Firearms for Sale at Yard Sales. And, I just bought a Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge from a friend of mine. And in those cases, the only paper that gets Transferred is Dollars.

    So, some may call it “Straw Buying,” or “Gun Show Loopholes.” Out here in the Free States, we call it Commerce.

  8. Just to be pedantic, and you probably know this, buying a firearm as a gift for non-prohibited person is not considered a straw purchase under the law per ATF. You are answering the question “are you buying the firearm for yourself” honestly. You’re buying it for yourself to give as a gift to someone else, not buying it on their behalf.

    Up here we have Alaskaslist as a good source for private sales (at least til everyone got stupid about prices). I’ve been able to tune my collection without paying retail or transfer fees.

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