Barack Obama

Background Checks: Some Stats

Banner_250x300Recently, the Obama Administration announced they are going to use executive orders to increase gun control on two fronts.  First, they plan to remove privacy restrictions on mental health and therapy professionals so these men and women can report their patients information to the Federal government for use in the NICS system.   Second, the Administration will ‘clarify’ who is prevented from owning a firearm because of their previous medical or mental health matters.

Frankly, this makes no sense; it reminds us of Bloomberg’s campaign to fight obesity by limiting soft drink sizes.

To explain why, let’s look at some stats.  A survey of state prison inmates conducted in 1997 determined that over 80% of incarcerated felons, who used a firearm in during a crime, received their weapon from a family member, friend, or black market transaction.1  This includes buying it illegally or borrowing it from another, most likely illegal, source.  Another study found that 37 percent of criminals say they can ‘easily acquire’ a firearm within a week of being released from prison.

By looking at these two stats, it is evident that a supermajority of crimes involving firearms are committed by people who acquired the gun illegally.  The fact that felons admit to easily being able to get firearms tells us the background check system does not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.

Another study conducted by a U.S. Senate subcommittee determined that 70% of murders are committed by people with prior convictions.2  This implies that a majority of murders committed with firearms are committed by people with prior convictions who should not be allowed to purchase firearms under the NICS system.

Let’s look at it from another angle. There are roughly 10,600 murders committed with guns in a year in the United States.  About 70 percent of these homicides are gang and drug related.3  Assuming a different gun is used in each non-gang related homicide, .003% of all legally owned guns are used to commit murder.

.003% is also the percentage of motor vehicles involved in drunk driving fatalities.4  A legally owned car is as likely to kill someone as a legally owned firearm.

Know what is more likely to kill an American?  A hospital.

A recent study puts the number of people who die from preventable errors while staying at hospitals between 240,000 and 440,000 annually.5  Every year, around 100 million Americans stay at a hospital for some length of time.  This means that .2% of all Americans who visit hospitals die of preventable medical errors. Translation: 1 in 500 people who stay in a hospital die from a medical screw-up.

That is 100 time higher than being murdered by a legally acquired gun!

In summary, over 80% of criminals do not get guns through ‘legal means’.  A car used by an intoxicated driver is just as likely to kill someone as with a legally acquired gun.  A hospital is 100 times more likely to kill someone.

We do not need an ‘enhanced’ or ‘strengthened’ background check system.  The guns purchased through this system are already rarely used to commit crimes and this system does not prevent the real criminals from getting their hands on weapons.

1 US Department of Justice. Firearm Use by Offenders, November 2001, NCJ 189369.
2 Kleck, Bordua. The Factual Foundation for Certain Key Assumptions of Gun Control, Law and Policy Quarterly.
3 National Institute of Justice. Gun Violence.
4 The Century Council. Drunk Driving Fatalities – National Statistics.
5 John T. James, PhD. A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, Journal of Patient Safety.,_Evidence_based_Estimate_of_Patient_Harms.2.aspx