About one-fifth of US gun buy­ers don’t get back­ground checks

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By AN­DREW M. SEA­MAN

ABOUT one in five gun own­ers in the US said they pur­chased a firearm in the pre­vi­ous two years with­out un­der­go­ing a back­ground check, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

The re­sult, from a 2015 sur­vey, is an im­prove­ment, ac­cord­ing to lead au­thor Dr. Matthew Miller, of North­east­ern Univer­sity in Bos­ton. A sim­i­lar study con­ducted in 1994 sug­gested about two in five gun own­ers bought firearms with­out be­ing vet­ted.

The ear­lier study didn’t di­rectly ask about back­ground checks, how­ever. Re­spon­dents only re­ported whether they pur­chased their firearms from a fed­er­ally li­censed dealer.

“We wanted to ad­dress this head on and di­rectly,” Miller told Reuters Health.

The US re­quires back­ground checks for gun pur­chases in stores but there is less reg­u­la­tion on pri­vate sales be­tween in­di­vid­u­als, even though most Amer­i­cans sup­port uni­ver­sal back­ground checks.

For the new study, Miller and his col­leagues sur­veyed 1,613 US adult gun own­ers in 2015.

Over­all, the re­searchers re­port in An­nals of In­ter­nal Medicine, 22 per­cent of gun own­ers said they bought guns in the last two years with­out un­der­go­ing back­ground checks.

That pro­por­tion grew to half of gun own­ers when the re­searchers re­stricted the anal­y­sis to peo­ple who made pri­vate gun pur­chases, such as be­tween friends, fam­ily mem­bers, on­line or gun shows.

In states that re­quire back­ground checks for pri­vate gun sales, 26 per­cent of peo­ple did not re­ceive the re­quired vet­ting. In states with no such reg­u­la­tions, 57 per­cent pur­chased guns through pri­vate sales with­out back­ground checks.

“I think what it in­di­cates is when peo­ple live un­der these reg­u­la­tions, they’re likely to fol­low them,” said Miller.

Philip Cook writes in an ac­com­pany ed­i­to­rial that with only about one in five re­cent gun pur­chases need­ing to be ad­dressed to achieve uni­ver­sal back­ground checks for firearm sales, a new fed­eral re­quire­ment would be less dis­rup­tive and costly than peo­ple thought.

“One les­son is that more re­search is needed on firearm mar­kets and reg­u­la­tory ef­fect on those mar­ket; this is one con­se­quence of the woe­ful lack of govern­ment fund­ing for re­search on gun vi­o­lence,” wrote Cook, of Duke Univer­sity in Durham, North Carolina.

Miller said it’s not clear whether peo­ple who are de­nied guns as a re­sult of back­ground checks ul­ti­mately ac­quire guns from other sources.

“We need more re­search on the ef­fect of back­ground checks on down­stream mar­kets,” said Miller, who also called for more re­search on gun vi­o­lence in gen­eral.

“It would be great if we could get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the land­scape,” he said. (Reuters Health)

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