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Critiques of Background Registration Checks
The Brady Bill Isn't Achieving It's Aim (Betsy Hart) Second article on page.
John Lott, Jr. (Yale University)
In the Second Edition of his More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press 2000), Lott updates his earlier studies of a wide array of gun laws, including the Brady background check law. Lott finds,
Only the right-to-carry laws are associated with significant reductions in crime rates. Among the violent-crime categories, the Brady law is only significantly related to rape, which increased 3.6 percent after the law passed. (While the coefficients indicate that the law resulted in more murders and robberies but fewer aggravated assaults and as a consequence fewer overall violent crimes, none of those effects are even close to being statistically significant.) Only the impact of the Brady law on rape rates is consistent with the earlier results that we found for the data up through 1994. (199)
Lott adds, "I find no crime-reduction benefits from state-mandated waiting periods and background checks before people are allowed to purchase guns" (20).
Journal of the American Medical Association
The traditionally anti-gun JAMA publication published an article August 2 by two generally anti-gun authors, Jens Ludwig and Philip J. Cook (Vol. 284, No. 5). The article ("Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act") supports John Lott's conclusions that the Brady background check law has failed to reduce homicides (the JAMA study looks only at homicides, whereas Lott examines all types of violent crimes).
The JAMA study cites Lott's previous study but (due to publication timing) was not able to cite the Second Edition of Lott's book.
The JAMA article finds the Brady law is statistically related to a decline of gun suicides only for those ages 55 and older, but it is not significantly related to a decline in overall suicide rates for any age group. Civil arms advocates point out that suicide victims generally substitute one method of suicide for another depending on constraints.
The scientific part of the JAMA study confirms Lott's findings. However, the anti-gun authors writing for an anti-gun publication add a speculative "comment" section in which they conjecture,
[T]he effects of primary-market gun regulations may depend on the extent to which the secondary market in guns is regulated. Secondary-market sales account for about 40% of the approximately 10 million gun transfers in the United States each year and are the source for the large majority of guns obtained by juveniles and criminals. The secondary market in guns, which is currently almost completely unregulated, is thus an enormous loophole that limits the effectiveness of primary-market regulations. (590, emphasis added)
And thus the biases of the authors show through. Disarmament activists employ such arguments to claim that the Brady law should be expanded, precisely because it is such a miserable failure.
Lott replies to this eagerness to expand failed programs: "[W]ithout academic evidence that existing regulations such as the Brady law and gun locks produce desirable results, it is surprising that we are now debating what new gun-control laws to pass" (243).
Unfortunately, Ludwig and Cook conflate the legal "secondary gun market" with the criminal "secondary gun market." But of course legal regulations do not hamper the black market in guns. Ludwig and Cook ignore the obvious fact that criminals can circumvent all regulations by stealing guns, buying them on the black market, manufacturing them illegally, or resorting to other weapons (as criminals often do when law-abiding citizens are disarmed). Thus, the "comment" section of the JAMA article can be regarded as little more than idle speculation which does not impact the scientific findings of the study.