In a bow to the gun lobby justified by an odd interpretation of the Second Amendment that ignores virtually all judicial rulings, some North Carolina lawmakers want to make it legal for criminals convicted of committing violent crimes to obtain permits to carry loaded handguns in their cars and in most public places.
These lawmakers also want to scrap a key law that prevents felons and other dangerous people from getting guns. If House Bill 562 passes, handgun purchasers would no longer have to obtain a permit or pass a background check as long as the seller is not a licensed gun dealer.
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 But lawmakers repealed the law in 2007 using the same logic and rhetoric repeated today in North Carolina.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observed throughout the state and was in contrast to homicides by other means, which did not change after the law was repealed.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.
And don’t believe opponents of background check requirements who say they are advocating on behalf of gun owners. Several national surveys found that 8 out of 10 gun owners favor laws requiring such background checks. The vast majority of gun owners believe that background check requirements for handgun purchasers are reasonable and not a threat to their protected rights.
Allowing people with histories of committing violent crime to carry concealed loaded firearms and felons to obtain a handgun without a background check are radical ideas. They will not make North Carolina safer or freer, nor will they lead to more “good guys with guns.” They will result only in more “bad guys with guns,” more fear and a lot more lives lost.
Daniel Webster is professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore.