Unregulated Gun Shows Save Lives (Peer Reviewed Study)

Courtesy Dean Weingarten

U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- In a paper published in 2008, comparing highly regulated Californian gun shows with relatively unregulated Texas gun shows, there was no statistical difference in suicide rates, or in homicide rates in California. The Texas gun shows, with far less regulation, showed a statistically significant drop in the homicide rate. From the study, on page 4:

“But our results provide little evidence of a gun show-induced increase in mortality in Texas. In fact, we find that in the two weeks following a gun show, the average number of gun homicides declines in the area surrounding the gun show. Aggregating across all gun shows in the state, we find that there are approximately 16 fewer gun homicides resulting from the 200 gun shows in the average year. In the sections below, we discuss several possible explanations for this counter intuitive finding. However, it is important to keep in mind that while these results are statistically significant, they are quite small – representing just one percent of all homicides in Texas in the average year.”

The authors downplay this result. It is not mentioned in the abstract. From the study:


Thousands of gun shows take place in the U.S. each year. Gun control advocates argue that because sales at gun shows are much less regulated than other sales, such shows make it easier for potential criminals to obtain a gun. Similarly, one might be concerned that gun shows would exacerbate suicide rates by providing individuals considering suicide with a more lethal means of ending their lives. On the other hand, proponents argue that gun shows are innocuous since potential criminals can acquire guns quite easily through other black market sales or theft. In this paper, we use data from Gun and Knife Show Calendar combined with vital statistics data to examine the effect of gun shows. We find no evidence that gun shows lead to substantial increases in either gun homicides or suicides. In addition, tighter regulation of gun shows does not appear to reduce the number of firearms-related deaths.

This was not a small study. It included data for 10 years and 3,300 gun shows. The two states chosen were California and Texas, contain 20 percent of the population of the United States. It was not conducted by firearm freedom advocates or the NRA.

The authors suggest two untested hypothetical reasons for the measured decrease in homicide:

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  1. The possibility that police are somehow more vigilant after a gun show and are preventing homicides… or
  2. That criminals are using unregulated gun shows to sell their guns, thus depriving themselves of weapons to commit homicide with…

Both of those hypothetical reasons fail to overcome Occam’s razor. There are simpler, direct, obvious possibilities.

First, gun shows could make criminals more aware of the possibility of their victims being armed, thus causing them to delay their homicidal attempts.

When criminals notice that a gun show is being held in an area, and people can more easily buy and sell guns, it is reasonable to believe they would understand potential victims could be armed. This belief would result in fewer homicide attempts and fewer homicides.

Second, victims may be more likely to arm themselves at a gun show, thus increasing the potential for homicidal criminals to be deterred by an armed victim.

The authors of the study chose to ignore these obvious, direct possibilities.

In the study, the authors tell us the statistically significant difference could reduce homicides in Texas by 1%. They minimize that effect. If a restriction on private ownership of guns was shown to reduce homicide by 1%, it would be shouted to the heavens.

The evidence is clear: stopping private sales at gun shows costs lives.

It follows that so-called universal background checks may cost lives.

The demand that all private sales be approved of by state agents before they can be made, is counterproductive and will cost innocent lives.

If this seems counter-intuitive, there is considerable evidence more guns result in less crime. The logic to support this is not unreasonable.

Criminals often make rational decisions based on their understanding of the environment that they are in. If criminals believe their intended victim may be armed, they often chose another target, decide not to commit the crime, or decide to commit a non-confrontational crime such as theft from an unoccupied vehicle.

The statistical significance in the study shows this is not a random artifact of the data gathering process.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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