Reducing Gun Crime in Virginia: Trends and the Need for Clear Thinking in Public Policy

Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority stance against efforts to regulate gun availability and ownership, many policies aimed at lessening gun violence have had at best a minimal impact, according to this article by Thomas Baker, assistant professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University with a Ph.D. in criminology. But one policy not used in Virginia and 33 other states would clearly make it more difficult for criminals or unqualified users to obtain guns, writes Baker: requiring a background check for anyone buying from an unlicensed private seller, including those at gun shows and flea markets. This could be accomplished simply by the seller contacting a federally licensed firearm dealer to run a check before the transaction and would not be an undue burden on anyone, according to the author. Under current law, “Criminals who want to buy guns can simply do so from private sellers, avoiding the background checks that the majority of law-abiding citizens are subjected to when purchasing a firearm,” he writes. “It is difficult to defend this lapse in the purchasing and transfer of firearms. Certainly gun rights advocates and gun control advocates can agree that criminals should not have any easy path to acquiring guns.” Under Baker’s proposal, the private seller and private purchaser would go to a federally licensed dealer, who would conduct the background check; the purchase could be approved or not based on the outcome of the check.
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Publication Date
Sep 15, 2014
Publication Series
The Virginia News Letter