Democrats Want Extra Gun Regulation, Study Shows Current Enforcement Lacks
Wisconsin Democrats have proposed making it harder for citizens to purchase or sell a firearm in the state of Wisconsin by requiring all firearms transfers to be routed through a federally approved gun dealer. The plan was unveiled in a memo circulated to lawmakers last week and at a press conference Democrats held in Madison with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. But while the legislation would create more paperwork, whether or not it would actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals is not certain.
Gun control proponents argue that person-to-person sales or gifts of firearms are a huge loophole that allow criminals to obtain weapons they otherwise wouldn’t get if they had to go through a background check. “Unfortunately, a thriving business has developed that allows people who are prohibited from owning guns to buy them legally from non-licensed sellers,” read a memo circulated by Democrats trying to drum up co-sponsors for the legislation.
Although proposing more paperwork for gun sales has been championed by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who leads Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group Mayor Barrett is a part of, studies cited by gun control advocates seem to indicate that even where the proposed regulations are law, enforcement is lacking.
A 2010 study by the Police Executive Research Forum, and posted to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinsteins (D-California) website, notes that enforcement of existing background check laws lags. According to the study, only 28% of law enforcement agencies in jurisdictions that already have laws like those proposed by Wisconsin Democrats regularly enforce those laws.
Arguing in favor of the proposed legislation, Mayor Barrett cited a Marquette University Law School poll that says that 80% of Wisconsin citizens support background checks for gun sales. The poll question cited by Barrett, however, doesn’t differentiate between the current system of background checks and the increased background checks Democrats want. Wisconsin already requires gun dealers to conduct background checks on potential purchasers. The new legislation would mandate that even individuals selling a firearm would have to take their business to a gun dealer.
While a majority of law enforcement agencies may regularly overlook or ignore enforcement of person-to-person gun sale restrictions, it may also be that in Mayor Barrett’s own Milwaukee police do not work to catch those who try to violate current background check requirements.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate earlier this year, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn dismissed the idea of his officers working to enforce existing background check laws. “It doesnt matter, its a paper thing,” Flynn testily commented when asked by a senator how many background check violations his department has gone after.
“We dont make those cases. We have priorities. We make gun cases. We make 2,000 gun cases a year, senator, thats our priority. Were not in a paper chase. Were trying to prevent the wrong people from buying guns. Thats why we do background checks. If you think Im going to do a paper chase, then you think Im going to misuse my resources.
So while Flynn tries to make a feeble case for background checks, he bluntly admits that he doesn’t see background check enforcement as a serious way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), never responded to a request for comment for this report.