Senate Gun Bill Called “Small Step;” Criminals Get Guns from Family, Street


In a 2004 survey, prisoners locked up for gun crimes explained how they had acquired their firearms. Some 39.5 percent said “family or friends.” Another 37.5 percent answered, “the street or black market suppliers.” Because these were all private transfers, says the Washington Post, none of the buyers had to go through a federal background check. A new bipartisan proposal in the Senate for expanding background checks would leave all of those above sales untouched. The compromise by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) would require background checks for anyone who buys a firearm at a gun show or on the Internet. That would make it marginally harder for people who are prohibited from owning guns to acquire them. It would still leave the vast majority of private transfers untouched — including the most common ways for criminals to get guns. “So it is a step forward, but a small step,” says Philip Cook, a criminologist at Duke University. Manchin and Toomey go out of their way to reassure gun owners that the federal government will not create a national gun registry with its background-check records.

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