Quote of the day—Gary Kleck

The term ‘loophole’ suggests that it was a minor, unintended flaw in the design of the law, something inadvertently overlooked by lawmakers, when it was actually the very intentional result of a carefully worked-out political compromise between those who wanted background checks on all gun acquisitions and those who did not want any at all.

Gary Kleck
January 7, 2016
PolitiFact Sheet: 3 things to know about the ‘gun show loophole’
[This article does a good job of explaining the facts about the “gun show loophole”. I particularly like this part:

Our findings show that there is, in fact, an exemption in the law. But the exemption pertains to who sells the guns rather than where they sell them.

And that distinction is critical. The anti-gun crowd uses deliberate deception (it’s part of their culture) in an attempt to get laws passed which would be far less likely to get support if they were to be truthful.

I also found this to be of interest:

Professors at Northeastern and Harvard universities conducted a gun survey in 2015 that isn’t yet published. The national survey of 4,000 non-institutionalized adults found that 22 percent of the people who purchased guns — at gun shows, stores or elsewhere — underwent no background check, said Matthew Miller, professor of Health Sciences and Epidemiology at Northeastern University and co-director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

When researchers excluded purchases between family and friends, that number dropped to 15 percent, which equates to approximately 5 million gun owners whose most recent purchase did not involve a background check.

I sent an email to Miller that said, in part:

I have some questions about the study referenced.

When will this study will be published?

A “background check” is not a black and white activity. Did your study consider the seller requiring the purchaser possess a concealed carry license a “background check” or not? There are other indirect “background checks” possible as well. For example, some gun organizations require a concealed carry and/or background check for membership. Hence any member of the organization has had a background check at some point in the not too distance past.

It’s unclear, but implied, that the way study was conducted was to ask 4,000 people if their most recent gun purchase was made without a background check. Is this true? If so, that raises an important issue as in the following scenario.

Suppose collectors of antique firearms purchase almost exclusively from private individuals at a rate of five firearms per year. If most people with only one (or very few) firearms purchase almost exclusively from licensed dealers, then it’s not possible to discern the overall number of sales without explicit background checks. In this situation there is a bias which results in an underestimation of the number of sales without explicit background checks.

Other scenarios are also possible that can give a bias in the other direction. Additional information is required to arrive at the true rate of explicit background checks.

But in any case, it would appear there is data which puts the upper limit on private firearm sales to people of unknown eligibility at about 15 percent. This is in contrast to the common, long known to be erroneous, claim of “40 percent”.

Now I wonder when (if?) this study will be released and if the anti-gun people will revise down their claims of the prevalence of firearm sales without background checks. Particularly when Miller receives a lot of money from the Joyce Foundation.—Joe]

Update: I sent the email to Miller four days ago on January 11th. No response yet.


6 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Gary Kleck

  1. I distrust polls like that; there is no way to tell if the people polled even knew what they were being asked. I would rather see some sort of formal poll where there is no question of the questions and answers.

  2. To your point about antique firearms. There is no background check for those guns because by the legal definition of a firearm, they aren’t firearms! So a dealer that deals solely in pre-1899 guns isn’t a firearms dealer under the law even though they have a table because they aren’t selling “guns”, legally speaking.

    I’ve walked out of a gun show with an antique under each arm. No background check and no way to perform one. Pure antique dealers are not FFLs. I’ve had antiques mailed to my door.

    And then there are FFL03s. I can go to a gun show now and buy collectible rifles and handguns without a background check. Because for those guns it is a dealer-to-dealer transfer. My FFL03 serves as a proxy for a background check as you allude to but a check is not performed after issuance of my license. And that is for any number of guns.

    So I’d argue, as you point out, those doing the study really need to dig into that 15-22% number and find out exact what type of arm and from whom it was purchased.

    And because it is done through a survey, I’d question its reliability. Mind you, 4000 people is better than the 250 odd people of the original sample where the infamous “40%” number came from that is still quoted as gospel today. So while I have issues with Harvard doing this type of work due to Hemenway, the numbers are definitely trending in the direction most of us anecdotally feel they actually belong. And when you factor in the transfer mechanism, type of arm, CCW/FFL03 as background check proxy and family/friends meeting up, I’d expect the number of true stranger/stranger, no background check, no proxy for check private sales is actually below that 15% figure.

    • You are correct about the antique firearms not needing a background check. But I doubted Miller knows the legal definition as opposed to just firearms that might be, say, 20+ years old and didn’t bring that point up. What I intended was for him to think about it in terms of most older guns are going to only be available via private sales.

  3. Once they have you arguing over these irrelevant minutiae, you are under their control.

    How many illegal drug sales take place without background checks? Who cares?

    How many Marxists, communists and jihadists get jobs in our institutions of education, in media, and in our government without background checks?

    Why are we even talking about background checks? Was this our idea or some shitweasel’s idea? Why are we dancing to the tunes of shitweasels when if anything the shitweasels should always be dancing to our tunes, while in prison? I can’t find anything about background checks in the Bill of Rights.

    Can you?

    • Because “background checks” is something the majority of the population and politicians agree on to one degree or another. To ignore the debate over them is to be dismissed and ignored when the proposed law is discussed. It is far better to show they are being deceptive (40% of gun sales are without background checks), and are advocating for something irrelevant to their professed goals (public safety). Showing they are deceptive and irrelevant opens the door for a meaningful debate about more appropriate topics such as allowing people to exercise their rights to defend themselves from violent predators (actual public safety).

      • True. But you have to be careful in that discussion. If you end up sounding like you agree with the principle of background checks, but you’re picking on the numbers or the details, you’re on a slippery slope. You’re a bit like the target of Churchill’s famous comment “we already know what you are, madam; at this point, we’re merely negotiating the price”. At the very least, you risk losing track of the correct goal, which is the elimination of the Constitutional abomination that is background checks.

Comments are closed.