How to keep guns out of criminals' hands
Hats off to The Post for its in-depth examination of how guns get into the hands of criminals, a huge public safety problem that the gun lobby has worked so effectively to hide from the public [" 'Officer down'; How firearms wind up in the hands of police-killers," front page, Nov. 21].
The quotes from licensed retail gun sellers were predictable, claiming that they can't control whether the guns they sell end up in criminals' hands. But there is great variation among gun dealers in the rate at which guns make their way to criminals. Research shows that greater gun dealer oversight is linked with fewer guns diverted to criminals soon after retail sales.
While the stories you present illustrate common paths guns take, the data may be skewed because most guns in these shootings are not recovered. A felon who murders a police officer with a gun from a trafficker is likely to quickly discard the weapon. But when a police officer is shot when responding to an incident of domestic violence, the gun is typically found. This may explain the surprising finding that most guns that kill police were purchased legally by the perpetrator. Perpetrators of domestic violence are less likely to have convictions that disqualify them from gun ownership.
Your reporting points out the many weaknesses in our gun laws and their enforcement. Both could be addressed to reduce gun violence with little or no impact on law-abiding citizens' ability to own guns.
The writer is a professor and co-director of the Center for Gun Policy Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Daniel Webster, Baltimore
| November 25, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County, HotTopic, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, crime, guns, police
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