Background Check Denials and a lack of prosecutions for these violations.

“We need stronger enforcement of existing laws!” is  a common refrain when people talk about enacting further gun control.  Nowhere is this more pronounced than prosecutions of straw purchasing and background check violations.

President Obama has taken heat over this in a variety of forms, with claims that gun prosecutions are down 40% during his administration:

During the six years data is available for former President George W. Bush’s administration — 2002-2003 and 2005-2008 — a total of 628 federal cases were prosecuted as a result of failed background checks. That averages about 105 annually.

Only two years of statistics are available for Obama’s administration: 77 cases were prosecuted in 2009 and 44 in 2010. That averages to about 61 annually. Another year of data should be released this summer.

Source: http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2013/may/01/bob-goodlatte/goodlatte-says-us-prosecutions-lying-gun-backgroun/

But really, firearms prosecutions aren’t a priority under any administration.

A study was done highlighting this – http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/307/

Check out the figures.  The feds don’t really care about going after cases that aren’t fast & easy wins.  The top number of prosecutions fall under the following categories:

  • Unlawful shipment, transfer, receipt, or possession by a felon
  • Use/carry of firearm during crime of violence/drug trafficking offense
  • Receive/possess firearm not register in National Firearm Registration
  • Receipt or possession of a stolen firearm and ammunition
  • Unlawful possession by an Alien unlawfully in the United States
  • Unlawful shipment, transfer, receipt, or possession by a drug addict

but the one we are most concerned with for this topic is this:

False/Fictitious statements in order to acquire a firearm/ammunition

According to the study linked above, this accounts for less than 200 prosecutions every year.  Yet, whenever someone talks about the need for background checks (in particular, Universal Background Checks) they talk about the number of criminals stopped by the background check system.  The FBI claims there were 88,479 NICS denials in 2012. The number of prosecutions? 170

It’s just not a priority.

And really, in the eyes of the prosecutors, why should they be? The Feds have limited time, money, and resources when it comes to trying cases.  If there’s a bug under their bonnet, they won’t hesitate to bring the full weight of the government down on someone, but in the meantime they are just like anyone else – they want to do their job and get promoted.  

The best way to do that? Win cases.  Win lots of cases and get lots of convictions and make sure that they are sexy ones.  You know what’s sexy? Terrorism. Drug trafficking.  Organized Crime / RICO.  Corruption.  Getting a conviction on a someone for 500lbs of dope or 100 kilos of coke / heroin will help a career.  Same with human trafficking.  Same with a politician.  You know what doesn’t look good? Putting away some single mother or the girlfriend of a criminal who straw purchased a couple Glocks for her thrice-convicted boyfriend.

Plus, gun cases are hard to convict because they require work.  You have to investigate.  You have to prove intent.  You have to do actual leg work; you don’t get to swoop in and take the credit for some State Trooper finding drugs in the back of a truck.
So the feds don’t like gun cases, and really they shouldn’t be a priority anyhow because let’s face it – it’s a stupid crime to begin with.  Their focus should rightly be on people committing violent crimes, or large traffickers.
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