Gun Trace Data or Deception?

Gun Trace Data or Deception?

On June 7, 2010 Boston Globe blogger James Alan Fox posted an article/blog supporting Governor Patrick’s gun control legislation, H.4102. The legislation includes the infamous one gun a month law, more commonly known as the “Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act”. The premise of the legislation is to imprison lawfully licensed citizens for merely purchasing more than one gun, or large capacity magazine, within a 30 day period.

Scenario under the bill: A lawfully licensed citizen follows all of the procedures for lawfully purchasing a rifle and a large capacity magazine (A very common lawful transaction.) The citizen lawfully transports the rifle and magazine back to their home and stores them according to Massachusetts law. The rifle and magazine were never loaded, never fired and never taken out of the box again. Under this scenario, the Governor’s proposal would imprison the licensed purchaser for up to 2 ½ years and the licensed retailer for up to 2 ½ years.

It goes without saying that this proposal is simply a horrible idea and an insult to all lawful gun owners who are being labeled criminals by this bill.

In the blog the author uses 2009 ATF trace data to back his position or at least add supposed evidence for the need to stop lawful multiple firearm sales in a 30 day period. In his blog he states that according to this data“60% of guns associated with criminal activities within Massachusetts come from other states…” This information is supposedly evidence for the need of the proposed bill for Massachusetts and other states where guns are traced back to.

In reviewing the report linked to in the blog one cannot simply take the informational graphs at face value. Anyone reviewing the material must carefully read it and understand how it can be misused. One of the very first things in the report is a disclaimer stating: “Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime.” Right away a reader must understand that an undisclosed number of guns reflected in the report were never used in a crime.

This distinction is not a new one. Back in 2002 I wrote a brief report concerning “crime gun” trace data from Boston. In reviewing the material closely I determined that of the 1,020 guns traced from Boston approximately 74% were probably never used in a crime. They were simply just traced for various reasons. Having that previous knowledge and reading the disclaimer from the new report we have to assume that there are a great number of guns traced that are not related to crime.

The new report actually backs up that assumption on two different pages. The first is entitled “Top Categories Reported on Firearm Traces”. On this page it categorizes 872 guns of the 1,968 guns traced in Massachusetts as “Possession of Weapon”. One might assume that this refers to unlawful possession, but just a few categories down is “Weapon Offense”. With this we have to conclude that like in 2002, the 872 guns were most likely just traced by police for purposes not related to crime.

This hypothesis can also be backed up by information on the “Time to Crime Rates” page. On that page it shows that in took over three years (average time was 13.36 years) for 839 guns to show up on a trace. Readers must also keep in mind that guns represented on the “Time to Crime” page are simply guns traced by the ATF not necessarily used in a crime as reflected by the explanations in the report.

By carefully examining the information presented in the report, one can logically conclude that nearly half of the guns included in the trace data never had anything to do with a crime. Still there is more to examine closely in the report.
Another reason for proponents of the Governor’s bill to use this report is to attempt to provide evidence regarding where traced guns come from. In the report it has a colorful chart showing the states where Massachusetts traced guns have been tracked back to. With this information supporters of more gun control will try to point out the supposed problem states that are trafficking guns into the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, this information is also suspect at best.

Going back to the disclosure page it reads, “Firearms are normally traced to the first retail seller, and sources reported for firearms traced do not necessarily represent the sources or methods by which firearms are acquired for use in crime.” This is a very pertinent piece of information if certain people are pointing to this report as showing where “crime guns” are coming from and the report is actually not reflecting that at all. According to the report a gun they represent coming from New Hampshire could have been legally transferred several times over thirteen years before actually being stolen in Mexico and smuggled back to Massachusetts with a load of illegal drugs.

The 2009 ATF report used to provide so-called evidence reflects a list of guns that may or may not have been used in crimes. It reflects where the guns may or may not have gone from legal to criminal. In short the report actually provides very little credible or useful information, especially when someone is using it to back ultra restrictive legislation.

The moral of the story is always look at the source of so-called evidence that anyone is using to restrict your freedoms. In this case we learned that the evidence is not at all what it is being reported to be. In the long run it is just one more chink in the credibility chain for legislation like the “Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act.” The question still remains, is it data or deception? I think it is clear that it is certainly carefully crafted data being used for deceptive purposes.


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  • 6/9/2010 12:32 AM Wolfman wrote:
    How come there are no statistics showing how many crimes were committed by licensed Massachusetts gun owners as a direct result of purchasing more than one gun in a 30-day period? I'm talking real crimes - firearms trafficking to prohibited persons, armed robberies, drive-by shootings...not "chickenshit crimes" like having a magazine that is 15 years old instead of 16 years old or having a rifle stock that a tall person and a short person can adjust to be safer and more comfortable.

    Maybe because there ARE none?

    So why are they being punished?

    Maybe because a licensed gun owner in Massachusetts is probably the MOST law-abiding citizen that you will ever see, as the slightest infraction can place his license and investments at risk of immediate and permanent loss? Hell you can be the world's shittiest driver and lose your driver's license a dozen times and still get it back. Fart in an elevator though and you will never legally possess a gun again in your life.

    Can someone please explain how hobbling the legal acquisition of guns by a licensed person in MA will have ANY effect whatsoever on the unlawful use of guns that are ILLEGALLY brought into Massachusetts by criminals? All this proposal will do is create an entire new class of criminal out of those who ironically enough strive to excess in order to do the right thing.

    If someone's car gets stolen and the thief runs over a pedestrian, should we limit all citizens to only purchase one car a year?

    If someone gets drunk and beats the crap out of their significant other, should we limit all citizens to one drink per day?

    If someone is a big disgusting fatbody and has a heart attack and dies, should we limit everyone to one Big Mac per week?

    It's time for people to use their wits instead of their passions when addressing issues of crime. The result will be shutting down the true criminals while respecting the rights of those who have done no wrong.
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  • 6/11/2010 7:41 PM Franco wrote:
    A few thoughts on firearms owner's advocacy.

    It is no great revelation that lawful gun owners are an endangered species. There are a number of reasons for this which include, but are not limited to:whining liberals,ignorant and self-serving legislators, and a lazy and indifferent electorate.

    So, what can be done about this? I suggest a lot, however our efforts need to be organized, well-reasoned, persistent, and published.

    Not much can be done about the whining liberals, most of whom have little knowledge of what they talk about regarding legitimate firearm ownership and use. These "ignorami", who love to hear themselves speak, rail endlessly about the evils of gun ownership. Occasionally an unfortunate incident does occur involving a firearm, usually a handgun. The whiners' knee-jerk reaction is to demand restrictions on firearm ownership, with media support. While I find these people to be comical they are, nevertheless a real threat to legitimate firearm owners.

    Parenthetically I note that these are the first people to scream whenever their rights are compromised or they are subject to inconvenience. Not suprisingly, the majority of these folks reside in affluent communities. This is the NIMBY crowd. Ask them to give up their gas-guzzling SUV's and see how they are outraged. Sacrifice is apparently only for the "commoners". LOL

    Enough about the whiners. I suggest there are real opportunities to exploit the self-serving politicians. Use their selfishness against them. How many times have we seen politicians who will say or do anything to be elected? Remember John Kerry's run for the Presidency? His position on major issues changed regularly based on the direction the public opinion polls were going. More recently we have seen a grass roots resentment among Americans against bad politicians. This has resulted in liberals being voted out or quitting before an election. Why? Because they have been politically outed and held responsible for their actions.

    I suggest we take the same tack at the local level. The best way is to motivate the electorate. Let's get out the vote, let's let out legislators know how we feel. That is,if we fill their mailboxes with our thoughts and put them on notice that we will vote our beliefs, then I think we can marshal more legislative support. There are two reasons for this: first, true public servants will represent the voting public, and second, self serving politicians will do what it takes to remain in office....

    Thus I suggest GOAL keep up the strong legislative effort it has to date and make it a bit easier for GOAL members to have their voices heard by the politicians. I suggest more direct email links to the politicians and/or email links to our legislative advocates who should be encouraged to deliver large quantities of GOAL members' written opinions to our legislators.

    We ave no support in the media, so WE need to upscale our advocacy.

    Just my humble thoughts.

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  • 6/11/2010 9:11 PM Lee Metford wrote:
    It's funny how Deval Patrick's solution to violence in the inner city is to restrict the harmless activities of his political opposition. You have to wonder how much Patrick really cares about making the state safer for honest people. The state does a horrible job of restricting the activities of career criminal, but has no problem throwing the book at people like Richard Runyan. The SJC made some of the most ridiculous justifications for ignoring the SCOTUS majority opinion in Heller and treated Mr. Runyan's rights far worse then the SJC treats the rights of career criminals. In Massachusetts we don't have gulags, we have gun laws that serve the same purpose; allowing the party in power to intern their political opposition. H.4102 is just another tool to make that easier.
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  • 8/16/2010 9:07 AM Bob Canning wrote:
    Wolfman, Franco and Lee, you are all rightly indignant in your opinions, which I share with you and advocate strongly for regularly!
    Voting out all of the fools, liberal or otherwise who treat criminals better than law abiding people; is the only way to stop this wave of fear that fuels the "gun crime" mentality! Gov. Patrick spoke on the radio about straw purchasers being the root cause of the armed gang impact players and repeat offender felons who do inner city shooting and armed robberies; nothing could be further from the truth! I see the REAL problem as being the liberal judges who are appointed by people like Gov. Patrick and past disaster Dukakis et al, who are seemingly immune to these criminals' behavior and thusly refuse to incarcerate these thugs.
    Atty Gen. Coakley (the only thing I've ever agreed with her on is said she knows of NO STRAW PURCHASE VIOLATION... EVER by a firearms sales establishment in Mass, yet Gov. Patrick uses this fear as his impetus to spread the need to enact SB1070. Does he truly want to drive businesses out of this state?
    Firearms store owners and employees are some of the nicest, well informed people I have met in my life.
    We must continue teaching and spreading the knowledge, skills and attitude that makes our country great!
    I ask "gun-fearers" regurlarly to come to the range and see for themselves how safe and well conducted firearm owners truly are, it works.
    It is sad however that; the United States' independence began here, in Mass; and now our once great state has become synonymous with hand wringing, indecisive, weak minded politicians bent on disarming us!
    Keep fighting this good fight my friends and I'll see you at the range!
    One last question; Is it November yet?
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  • 8/16/2010 9:10 AM Bob Canning wrote:
    Jim/Jon or other awesome GOAL person reviewing this, I mistakenly used the Arizona bill number 1070, instead of this one (H.4102),sorry. Too much political commentary going on in my head!
    Reply to this
  • 9/20/2010 6:43 PM Gun Cleaning Kit wrote:
    "You have to wonder how much Patrick really cares about making the state safer for honest people. The state does a horrible job of restricting the activities of career criminal, but has no problem throwing the book at people like Richard Runyan."
    It is because law-abiding gun owners are easy and convenient to find. They volutarily put their information into the database as they have been instructted to do for later hassling. Illegal firearms, on the other hand, have no such issues unless caught. Makes it all too easy....
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