Criminals Aren’t Legally Buying Guns in Stores

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The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) set social media ablaze with a recent special report. The 16-page paper, titled “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016,” shows that only about 1 in 10 of the handguns used during armed offenses (within the sample group) were purchased through retail outlets. Gun-rights advocates hail the report as proof that strict gun-control laws do not keep firearms out of criminal hands but rather infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Survey of Federal and State Criminals

The 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI) was comprised of self-reported data collected during face-to-face interviews with a national sample of 1.2 million state and federal prisoners. The pertinent data are based on those 287,400 prisoners who had possessed a firearm during the commission of the offenses for which they were incarcerated.

Highlights of the BJS Report on Firearms

Highlights from the report provided interesting insights into the methods by which criminals obtain firearms as well as the frequency of firearms use during the commission of crimes. These figures have been transcribed directly from the report:

  • About 29 percent of state and 36 percent of federal prisoners serving time for a violent offense possessed a gun during the offense.
  • About 10.1 percent of prisoners obtained a gun from a retail source and used it during the offense.
  • Handguns were the most common type of firearm possessed by state and federal prisoners (18 percent each)
  • Among prisoners who possessed a firearm during their offense, 0.8 percent obtained the gun at a gun show.
  • About 20 percent of state and federal prisoners who possessed a firearm during their offense had purchased the gun with the intent to use it during the crime.
  • Among state prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense, 27 percent killed someone with the gun, 12 percent injured someone, 7 percent fired the gun but did not hit anyone and 54 percent did not fire the weapon at all.

Where Is This Coming From?

Pro-Second Amendment bloggers heralded the report, throwing it in the face of those calling for stricter gun control. Specifically, the diminutive percent of firearms purchases made through retail outlets (10.1 percent), gun shows (0.8 percent) or private sales (8.0 percent). These, of course, are the venues affected by point-of-sale gun control such as universal background checks, magazine capacity restrictions, age requirements or waiting periods. Meanwhile, a whopping 49.6 percent of gun-toting criminals reported acquiring their weapons through underground sales (43.2 percent) or theft (6.4 percent).

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