Lack of Federal Prosecutions a Big Issue In Debate on Gun Background Checks


One argument gun rights groups make against expanding background checks is that the federal government isn’t doing a good enough job now of enforcing the law already on the books, says NPR. They point out that only a tiny fraction of people caught trying to buy a gun illegally are ever prosecuted. Gun control supporters say that argument totally misses the point of background checks. Mark Jones, a former federal firearms agent says, “When someone goes into a gun store and lies on a federal form, the proprietor tells them, ‘You didn’t pass. Leave my store.’ A preventative effect has been achieved because the guy didn’t get the gun.”

In 2010, people lied on federal forms and failed background checks more than 76,000 times. Only 44 of those people were prosecuted, because law enforcement officials say it’s a low-priority crime. Proving that someone intended to lie on a federal form is often difficult, they say, and sentences are usually light. That’s appalling to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He says the government needs to focus on getting more prosecutions going, not on expanding background checks. “And I intend to introduce legislation to increase the resources and direct the Department of Justice to start doing its job — to start prosecuting felons and fugitives who are trying to illegally purchase guns,” he says.

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