The folks running the North Carolina General Assembly may decide to buck public opinion yet again in the coming weeks and force through Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer’s legislation to put killing machines in the hands of more dangerous people, but one gets the sense that the momentum to stop such proposals and preserve some of the state’s remaining modest and common sense gun regulations is growing.
Schaffer’s bill is now drawing national attention as is evidenced by the fine op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Prof. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University entitled “Making it easier for criminal to get guns in NC.” Here’s Webster:
“Research indicates that the proposed changes would lead to more violent crime in North Carolina. A study of legal handgun purchasers in California during the period just before the state barred violent misdemeanants from possessing handguns found that violent misdemeanants were roughly 10 times more likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime after purchasing a handgun than were truly law-abiding purchasers. When California changed its law to prohibit persons convicted of violent misdemeanors from having firearms, the newly prohibited group was much less likely to commit violent crime than individuals with similar criminal histories who legally acquired handguns prior to the change in the law.
If you want to know what happens when a state repeals a law requiring background checks for all handguns sales, you can look to the state of Missouri. For decades, Missouri required background checks for all handgun purchasers through a handgun purchase permit law. But lawmakers repealed the law in 2007 using the same logic and rhetoric repeated today in North Carolina.
Research that I led found that the repeal of background checks and permitting of handgun purchasers in Missouri were associated with an immediate spike in guns diverted to criminals and a 25 percent increase in firearm-involved homicides. No such increases were observed nationally or in any of the seven states that border Missouri. The sharp increase in firearm homicides was observed throughout the state and was in contrast to homicides by other means, which did not change after the law was repealed. Our analyses controlled for changes in the number of police, incarceration rates, burglary rates, unemployment, poverty and changes in other public policies. We also have evidence that the repeal of Missouri’s handgun purchase permit law was associated with an increase in law enforcement officers shot in the line of duty.
These findings are consistent with prior research that showed that states that require background checks for all handgun sales, especially when done in conjunction with a purchase permit requirement, have lower rates of guns being diverted to criminals shortly after a retail sale and lower firearm mortality rates than do states without these protections.”
Webster goes on to point out such rules aren’t even controversial with gun owners — eight out of ten of whom favor such common sense background checks. Let’s hope lawmakers summon the courage to stare down the noisy minority of North Carolinians pushing this legislation. One gets the distinct impression that of they do, it could be the start of a very healthy and positive trend.