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The high prevalence of handgun violence in the USA; part 2

2015-12-08

The current discussion about gun control laws unfortunately neglects the most prevalent form of gun violence: shootings with illegal handguns.  Most murders committed with firearms are done with handguns, and most of these guns are illegally obtained on the black market.  The highest incidence of these shootings is in the so-called “inner city”, such places as Chicago and Oakland.  Virtually all (97%) of the murders are committed with handguns.

Therefore, the discussion of banning so-called “assault weapons” misses the vast majority of murders committed today.  It turns out that assault rifles with large (100 round) magazines are almost universally owned by people who use them legally on the firing range, and most of them store their weapons safely.  It is obvious that even a “safely stored” weapon can be turned against you, as it was in Newtown.  Unfortunately, even a ban on such weapons would not eliminate them, as most older weapons will be grandfathered in.  There are many issues that can reduce risk without actually removing the weapons from the hands of citizens.  Safe storage, background checks, and reduction in potential for violent impulses are all alternative methods for reducing risk.

The techniques that will reduce gun deaths the most in the current atmosphere of widespread access to firearms include aggressive mental health outreach, retrieval and interdiction of firearms by law enforcement personnel as their primary mission (with a de-emphasis of drugs, for example), and federal registration statutes for all firearms.  There is a huge black market in guns, and it is estimated that 40% of guns are bought illegally (mostly handguns.)

The current loopholes for gun purchases in the private market and at gun shows allow almost half of purchases to avoid background checks.  This is besides the street market, which is almost entirely in small handguns.

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