No, Gun Licenses Aren't The Answer For Straw Buyers

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Straw buyers are those who have clean criminal backgrounds who purchase guns explicitly for those who don’t. The act itself is illegal, though that doesn’t actually stop people from doing it.


However, a newspaper editorial thinks that gun licenses are the answer to straw purchases.

The rash of shootings in Minneapolis and St. Paul has people on edge, especially after three children were killed by stray bullets in recent weeks. The number of illegal guns out on the street seems to be growing, and that’s due to “straw purchasers.” These are people who have no criminal record or other red flags that would prevent them from purchasing firearms. They go into a gun shop, buy a weapon or several weapons legally, and then sell them into the illegal black market.

The Star Tribune recently detailed one such case, a woman who bought 47 guns in May. She and her fiancé turned them over to a street dealer. Some of these guns have ended up being confiscated after being used in crimes.

Straw purchasing guns is illegal, but hard to enforce. There is one measure that has been effective in reducing the number of illegal guns. If someone buying a gun is required to apply for a gun license, which requires that the applicant be fingerprinted, checked by law enforcement and undergo a gun safety training class, it discourages those serving as conduits for illegal gun trades.

Minnesota doesn’t have this law, but it should. It won’t prevent anyone who is interested in legally owning a gun from getting one. And it may slow the flow of firearms from gun shops into the hands of criminals. And that will save lives.

Except, gun license requirements don’t prevent straw buys. It just moves them out of state.

The example mentioned of the woman who bought 47 guns is one Cam hit on previously. It was something of an unusual story, and as Cam noted in his post, the Star-Tribune tried to make the case for gun licensing as well.


However, gun licenses don’t stop straw buys at all. At best, it moves it to a different state, where the buy is made, then transported across state lines for sale. Criminals are still going to get guns.

In the meantime, law-abiding citizens are going to feel the brunt of the new law. While they might not be prevented from buying a gun, they will be delayed. That may not sound like much of an issue, but if you have been threatened and need a gun right away, having to wait for a license may well prove fatal.

So, to recap, the criminals will still get the guns regardless of the law, but the good guys might end up being killed because they couldn’t get a firearm fast enough.

Yeah, that seems a fair trade. While we’re at it, why don’t I trade you a vintage Corvette for a rusty nail? That’s about as fair of a trade if you ask me.

The truth of the matter is that most criminals don’t get their guns via straw buys anyway. They get them from black market sales. Yes, some of those guns may come into the black market via straw buys, but many more are from theft, which gun licenses won’t address in any way, shape, or form.

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