Gun Background Checks: Not The Best Method for Measuring Sales

A recent study shows that more stringent background checks for gun sales reduce firearm-related homicides and suicides. Yet, gun background checks are not always an accurate indicator of where and how many firearms are being sold.

Results from a University of Alabama at Birmingham study, published in July, indicate that areas with more thorough background checks for purchasing firearms tend to have fewer related deaths. Although gun background checks are required in nearly all legal purchasing instances, screening is not uniform across all states. Stricter gun background checks address restraining orders, fugitive status, mental illness, and misdemeanors, and when these factors are searched, states tend to have a seven percent reduction of homicides and two percent for suicides.

The recent Aurora, Colo., and Oak Creek, Wis., shootings have shed light on the accessibility of guns. When the Tucson shooting occurred in 2011, mental health background checks were considered. However, while gun sales spiked after the Aurora shooting in July, background checks for firearms have, in fact, decreased over the past month.

Nevertheless, as a piece from points out, fewer background checks is not cause for celebration. Even though gun ownership has been on the decline since the 1970s, the actual figures for firearms sold are not definite. Few organizations put funds toward studying gun sales, and firearm companies themselves do not disclose such figures.

The piece points out two more significant statistics regarding background checks and guns. More than one screening may be run for a single purchase, while a buyer may additionally be checked once for multiple firearms. Although the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System indicates July saw fewer screenings than in June, it does not indicate the true amount of firearms purchased, nor does it account for guns bought or sold illegally, through unmonitored websites, or through gun shows.

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