Saturday, January 09, 2016

Universal background checks have already been tried

Clayton Cramer does a good job.

As President Obama plans to pass new gun-control measures by executive order to extend the reach of background checks to all private sales, you may be wondering why there is such opposition to requiring all private-party gun sales to go through the same background check that gun dealers do.

Evidence should drive public policy, not hope. If a policy has been tried, has it produced the desired results?

This may be a surprise, but many states already have mandatory background checks for all firearm transfers, or for all handgun transfers; it is already a federal crime to transfer guns to another person across state lines without going through a licensed gun dealer, with very few limited exceptions.

How have those mandatory background checks worked out? A method of public policy analysis widely used by social scientists is called Interrupted Time Series Analysis (ITSA). Look at the problem you are trying to fix, then see if the problem changes when you pass a law that is supposed to fix that problem. Eight states adopted such laws for mandatory gun-background checks after 1960 (when the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system began to produce reasonably accurate and consistent data). I used the murder rates for five years before the effective date of the law and five years after to evaluate the effectiveness of such mandatory background check laws, using ITSA.

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