Are we in the grip of an epidemic of gun violence? Writing in Reason magazine, Brian Doherty notes that the gun homicide rate in 1993 (when there were approximately 192 million guns in circulation) was 7 per 100,000 Americans. In 2013, the gun murder rate had declined to 3.8 per 100,000, by which time there were approximately 300 million guns in private hands. More guns do not seem to equal more gun murders.
If we’re not awash in gun violence, we are certainly in the grip of bad journalism about gun violence. As a 2015 survey published in Preventive Medicine magazine showed, only a tiny percentage of criminals purchase their guns from shops. Most obtain them through informal networks or gangs. Is the “gun show loophole” responsible for lots of guns in the hands of bad actors? Doubtful. A 2001 survey of federal prisoners found that only 1 percent had purchased their weapons at gun shows, and as Charles C.W. Cooke has patiently explained, the “gun show loophole” is a misnomer in any case. FFLs (federal firearms licensed sellers) must perform background checks no matter where they transact business, and private sellers are under no obligation to perform checks whether they sell from their kitchen or at a gun show.