Saturday, August 06, 2016

Federal Government Spends 1 Billion a Year on Gun Law Enforcement

The Federal Government spends a billion dollars a year on on federal gun laws.  Most of that money is for enforcement of federal gun laws, but some of it is to push state and local governments toward infringing on the Second Amendment.

From FY 2015 Budget Fact Sheets U.S DOJ(pdf):
In 2013, the Administration proposed a range of legislative remedies – along with 23 executive actions – to address mass shootings and reduce gun violence. The Justice Department is working to implement a number of these actions and requests a total of $1.1 billion in FY 2015 to address violent gun crimes, which includes $182.4 million to support the President’s “Now is the Time” initiative. Of the total $1.1 billion, $1.0 billion in federal law enforcement resources allows the Department to ensure those who are not eligible to purchase or possess guns are prevented from doing so, and $147.0 million is to help state and local governments continue to implement the Administration’s proposals for increasing firearms safety and supporting programs that help keep communities safe from mass casualty violence. In support of enhancing gun safety, the Department has been working to strengthen the national background check system. For example, in January 2014, the Department proposed a rule to clarify the definition of persons prohibited from receiving, possessing, shipping, or transporting firearms for mental health reasons. Additionally, the Department is working to strengthen national background checks by addressing gaps in the federal and state records currently available in NICS. Incomplete or insufficient records significantly hinder the ability of NICS to quickly confirm whether a prospective purchaser is prohibited from acquiring a firearm. In FY 2015, the Department requests a total of $55.0 million in grant funding to further assist states in making more records available in NICS and improving the National Criminal History Improvement Program, and an increase of $13.4 million for the FBI to maintain the substantial improvements made to NICS in FY 2014.
No one is providing a cost to benefit ratio for this money.  Most of it is simply wasted.  The entire structure of GCA 1968 does little beneficial.  There is no indication that it stops crime in any measurable amount. It is as likely to be detrimental as beneficial.

The number of guns per capita in the U.S.A has gone from .45 in 1968 to 1.18 today. Numerous studies have been done.  None show measurable crime reduction.  GCA 1968 was passed at the beginning of decades long spurt in the increase of violent crime.  We have only recently returned to those long lost levels of civic peace.  In 1968, the homicide rate was 6.9 per 100,000.  It finally dropped to 6.8 per 100,000 in 1999.  In the intervening 30 years, it reached a high of 10.2 in 1981, dropped a bit, came back to 9.8 in 1991, then started the long fall to present day rates, which are about the same as in the 1950s and before WWI, both of which time had either none, or almost close to no federal gun control compared to today.

The NICS system does nothing measurably useful.  There is no reason to believe that the millions of dollars spent on running the system is even marginally cost effective.  Of the few people who are turned away from purchasing guns (about 1.3% were denied in 2014), the vast majority of those denied were false positives. 

We have the convictions for 2010.  Of about 6 million checks done on NICS, 76,142 were denied, at least temporarily.  Of those denied, 13 were found guilty, 10 plead to a lesser charge, and 10 were pending.  about 30% of those that reached this level were dismissed by the prosecutor, so about 8 of those in process are likely to plead or be found guilty.  That would be 31 convictions for a bit over 6 million instant checks.  One conviction for about 200,000 checks. 

A report from on background checks and mental illness illustrates the problem with the using the approach of attempting to prevent sales at the retail level:
Out of 23,292 individuals diagnosed with severe mental illnesses or committed to a mental institution, federal law would have disqualified only 7 percent from purchasing a gun, the study found. The majority of those studied never committed a crime, and most of those who did already had criminal records.

The final report concludes that the laws had a minimal impact on reducing gun violence.

“Background checks to enforce the federal mental health prohibitions — even if they are completely effective — will have a very small impact on overall crime in persons with serious mental illness,” according to the report. “Most of those at risk are unaffected by the law.”
The costs of the NICS program is about 100 million dollars a year. That was estimated for 2014, when there were about 21 million checks done. From
For over a decade, the FBI has been responsible for determining a person’s eligibility to possess a firearm at the point of purchase from a Federal Firearms Licensees. The number of checks has grown over 200 percent since NICS was implemented in 1998. Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14, 2012, and subsequent discussions of potential changes in gun laws, the FBI’s workload has skyrocketed. Before the shooting, the busiest week in NICS history was the week of December 3-9, 2012, when 527,095 firearms checks were initiated. The week following the shooting, December 17-23, 2012, NICS volumes approached one million transactions and continue to exceed historical peak volume. In fact, the first six full weeks in 2013 are among the top 10 busiest weeks in NICS history. Because of this increased workload, the FBI has required NICS personnel to cancel all leave, work mandatory overtime shifts, forego other critical tasks, such as appeals and audits, and has shifted personnel from other program areas to provide assistance. Without a permanent addition to personnel, facility space, and technology improvements, national security and public safety are at risk, as the current FBI staff will be unable to provide timely and accurate determination of a person’s eligibility to possess firearms and/or explosives in accordance with federal law. Therefore, the FY 2014 budget requests 524 positions and $100 million to increase the ability to process mandated background checks for firearm purchases.

The NICS program is a horrendous waste of money and police resources, precisely because its efforts are focused on the 99.9% of people who are not a problem.

The cost per instant check is about $5. The 6 million instant checks in 2010 resulted in about 31 convictions, at the cost of about $1 million dollars per conviction, merely for the instant checks.  That cost does not count the time wasted by gun store staff, the time spent filling out paperwork, and the time wasted by customers.

One million is enough to put seven full time quality police officers on the street for a year for every conviction. If those officers were dedicated to insuring that dangerous convicted felons who possess guns were sent to prison, many more convictions would result.  A retired LEO source tells me that 15-20 convictions a year would be reasonable.  At a minimum, that is 100 times as cost effective.

That sort of emphasis was done with Project Exile and similar programs. The results were homicide rate reductions of 20%-50% in high crime areas.  If you want to save lives, stop funding ineffective federal gun programs focused on legal gun ownership, and concentrate on putting dangerous prohibited possessors in prison.

For those whose anwer to every cost benefit ratio is "We do not have to be limited, we can do both!", you are wrong.  Resources have been and always will be limited.  We should always strive for the best cost to benefit ratio.

Gun control programs aimed at the peaceful many have always had horrible cost to benefit ratios.  Chief Constable Colin Greenwood, who first studied the issue at Cambridge in 1972, found the same thing.   Federal gun control laws are ineffective, costly and intrusive.  They are based on failed theories and a false understanding of the dynamics involved. The programs should be eliminated.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.  Link to Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

The goal is fine. the method is bad. first off there is no legal constitutional authority for the ATF to exist. You mention the 1934 NFA and the 1968 FA and then we Have the 1986 FA and maybe a few more attempts to take our guns and deny our constitutional right to keep and bear. well if the so called gun advocate groups would concentrate on getting the ATF abolished on constitutional right to exist. Look at the tax money we could save and instead of doing paper work all day long maybe those FBI agents would have the time to actually investigate crime. If 99% of the population is not being watched we might need fewer FBI agents, more tax dollar savings. the cost of maintaining all of those offices in all of those buildings where all of the gents are doing their paper work could be saved, the fleets of vehicles they use the air fares the pay, for the individual training so many unnecessary agents would not be needed. Keep this up and it is possible that our national budget could eventually get back to a reasonable amount. Government would be forced to shrink if we get rid of all the unnecessary redundant agencies. Why do we have 16 intelligence agencies? No one has ever answered my question that is, why do we have army pilots, navy pilots and air force pilots, coast guard pilots and reserve branches for each service pilots. same equipment different color same government. a pilot is a pilot might even save some money training pilots using the same uniform, the same training bases. what no body bright enough to manage it? then we have navy seals, green Beret, force ten and maybe a few more. is the mud they train in a different color or taste different? My basic training was less than shit. I was in better condition before I was drafted than when I graduated basic.

Anonymous said...

From the 34 gun control to the 68 gun control to today and all of it in between, the same core trouble exists. All of it was built, even to an extent today because some refuse to accept it, under the false premise that the right to keep and bear arms was not a enumeration that applied to the people, but instead to the states, and even then not applying to the state governments. It was a wicked twisting of the plainly written enumeration.

The 10th makes it undeniably true that "people" and "states" are different entities. The 2nd is clear that the right is left to the people, not to the states - or - the federal governments. This is why the NRA's position of state preemption is so backward and actually Anti-Second Amendment. The state preemption OF the Second Amendment is called "infringement". As the right to keep and bear arms has to be admitted as individual, it also has to be admitted that preemption is a con game meant to curtail the rights, not protect them.

None of what has been built can withstand the test that even the Heller admission with its faults presents. The vast majority of it is openly penned, passed and signed with the INTENT being based on the free standing interest balancing approach. IE "public safety" based on "statistics" for crime and killings and the new "militia" argument called "domestic violence".

The public is not even made "safer" by putting roadblocks in between people and their rights, it is made safer by putting actual criminals in prison, or sending them to the gallows if their crimes are egregious enough to warrant that ultimate punishment. Oh and no more 'life in prison" paid for by taxpayers that lasts longer than 1 year. Make the appeals and then carry out the jury decision. Period.

Great article, thanks for the effort!