Evidence That Universal Background Checks Are A Universal Failure

A handful of states have implemented universal background checks. Anti-gun researcher Garen Wintemute took a look at three states–Washington, Colorado and Delaware–and conducted a study to see what the impact of the new universal background check laws would be. Well, the short version is that they were less than useless.


Two of the states had no real change in the number of background checks performed, while the third had a modest change. Wintemute called for more aggressive enforcement of the statute but failed to offer suggestions of just what that enforcement would actually look like.

However, the NRA’s Cam Edwards offers up a more detailed rebuttal.

The problem for Wintemute is that these laws are nearly impossible to enforce, and law enforcement officers know it. That’s why so many have been opposed to these feel-good but ineffective background check laws for quite a while. Virtually every county sheriff in New Mexico opposed the Bloomberg-backed gun control bill when it was introduced in the state’s legislature earlier this year. Sheriffs spoke out about the need to be able to hold repeat offenders on higher bond, the number of plea bargains, and other issues surrounding the criminal justice system and violent offenders. That’s where they think the focus should be, but gun control advocates have a different priority. They think cops across the country should be spending precious time and resources trying to find illegal gun transfers instead of the individuals who are actually committing violent crimes.

How well does that work to make us safer? Well, take one more look at that study on background check laws. Supposedly, Delaware saw a significant increase in background checks. Unfortunately, Delaware also saw its homicide rate significantly increase as well; from 4.4 in 2013 to a 30-year high of 6.6 in 2015, before dropping slightly to 5.9 in 2016. Washington and Colorado also had a slight increase in  homicide rates (from 2.4 to 2.7 in the case of Washington and 3.3 to 3.7 for Colorado), but nothing like the spike seen in Delaware. Yes, the state most compliant with its “universal” background check law also had the highest homicide rate and the biggest increase in its homicide rate of the states studied.

Wintemute and others may claim that Delaware’s law is “working” in terms of increased background checks, but it has clearly failed at bringing down the number of murders. Maybe they should conduct a study to try and figure out why.


So, the state that seems to have had the higher compliance with universal background checks also had the bump in their homicide rate? Fascinating.

It’s almost like background checks are absolutely pointless, like those who get their guns legally aren’t really the problem and never have been. Hmmmm.

Another bit worth mentioning is that Wintemute’s study only found about the same number of background checks being performed in two of the states. What it doesn’t do is find why that’s the case. Were there significant numbers of sales not being checked, or did the law simply dissuade some from bothering to sell their guns?

And therein lies the problem. It’s impossible to tell. Without a registry of which guns are in which hands, there’s absolutely no way to tell if guns are being illegally transferred or not, and if gun control advocates thought universal background checks were a tough fight, imagine what a gun registry fight would look like.

Can we please just let the universal background check nonsense die now?


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