After the mass shooting that killed eight people at a shopping mall in Allen, Texas, last Saturday, President Joe Biden said that horrifying crime reinforced the case for “enacting universal background checks.”
Yet the perpetrator, who was killed by a police officer at the scene, had been licensed as an armed security guard, which means he passed a background check and was legally allowed to own firearms.
In that respect, the killer was typical of people who commit crimes like this. That is the main reason why expanded background checks cannot reasonably be expected to have much of an impact on mass shootings, contrary to the impression left by politicians who reflexively recommend that solution.
Federal law disqualifies broad categories of Americans from owning firearms, including people who have been convicted of felonies or subjected to court-ordered psychiatric treatment. Background checks are required for all gun sales by federally licensed dealers, and some states extend that requirement to transfers by private sellers.
As several news outlets noted after the Allen attack, Texas is not one of those states. But that detail does not seem relevant in this case: Although the killer bought some guns from private sellers, CNN reported, the rifle he used in the attack was “purchased legally,” meaning he was not a “prohibited person” under federal law.
From 2016 to 2020, according to the Texas Online Private Security database, the killer was licensed as an armed guard, a job that is subject to stricter eligibility criteria than the average gun buyer. According to CBS News, “he did not have a serious criminal record.”
Nor does it seem that he had the sort of psychiatric record that would have disqualified him from buying a gun. The Washington Post reported that he “joined the Army in June 2008 but was ‘terminated’ three months later” because of “an unspecified mental health issue” after “failing to complete his initial training.”
Such separations, the Post explained, “are meant to quickly force out recruits who can’t perform military duties as a result of various physical and behavioral conditions. They are not typically punishments and would not show up on background checks.”
Like the Allen killer, most mass shooters do not have records that would be flagged by a background check.
In mass shootings from 1982 through April 2023, where the source of weapons was known, Statista reports 85% of the murderers obtained firearms legally.
According to a National Institute of Justice report on public mass shootings from 1966 through 2019, 77% of the perpetrators “purchased at least some of their guns legally,” while 13% made “illegal purchases.” In mass shootings at K-12 schools, more than 80% of the killers “stole guns from family members.”
Even theoretically, then, expanded background checks could make a difference in only a small share of mass shootings. The experience with state laws requiring background checks for all gun sales provides further reason to temper expectations of what that policy can accomplish.
A 2018 study found that such laws, which require that transactions be completed via licensed dealers, were associated with increased background checks in Delaware but not in Colorado or Washington.
That suggests these laws are widely flouted by gun owners who resent the additional expense and inconvenience that compliance entails.
Unlike mass shooters, ordinary criminals often have disqualifying records. But they generally obtain firearms from informal sources that would not be affected by new background-check laws.
Studies that aimed to measure the impact of expanded background checks on homicides have produced mixed results. The RAND Corporation deems the evidence concerning mass shootings “inconclusive.”
That’s not surprising since notionally “universal” background checks cannot be effective unless private sellers comply. Enforcement is inherently difficult when the government tries to regulate transactions that, by definition, are unrecorded and inconspicuous.
The policy that Biden recommends is undeniably popular. But there is little reason to think it would work as advertised.
About Jacob Sullum
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. During two decades in journalism, he has relentlessly skewered authoritarians of the left and the right, making the case for shrinking the realm of politics and expanding the realm of individual choice. Jacobs’ work appears here at AmmoLand News through a license with Creators Syndicate.
you cannot legislate morality or behavior. if you could there would be no crime. for another man to prevent, even restrict, your civil rights is reprehensible, immoral and evil. yet, they continue the attempt to do so. i would rather die a free man than live comfortably as a slave.
Since 98% of these mass murders are killed on site…..where’s the toxicology report from the mandated autopsy ? Why is this crucial piece of evidence being suppressed ?
It’s with the same information that they used to publish saying which political party they voted for or their parents were. It’s not there.
I know, I used to track this information and sometime after the Roseburg Oregon shooting it just went away. The news said he moved from Kommiefornia to Oregoneistan and his parents were democrats.
Now when they are lezzy or fags the information is hidden just like in Texas. They don’t want us to see that the democrats are the problem because it hurts their narrative.
As the recently coined phrase goes, ” the problem is not conservative’s guns; the problem is liberal’s/progressive’s sons.”
Maryland requires universal background checks for private long gun sales, except between close family members. Handgun transfer requirements are more stringent. To gauge the effectiveness of this law, consider the rate of homicide by firearm in Baltimore.
“Hey, man, help a brutha out! I need a pistol. Rent me the one you stole last night.”
I guess that would be legal, since they were “brothers.” At least, it wouldn’t be prosecuted in Baltimore.
not selling it just renting it out
So has Commierado since 2013. Yet still, Mentally Ill people are still legally purchasing guns. Aurora, Boulder and the recent Colo. Springs LGBTWTF Bar by one of their own.
There needs to be a connection made between military discharges for mental and behavioral issues with the 4473 background check. This has happened before.
have been corrected – post removed to avoid spreading misinformation.
Sorry for the error.
Nope, I had a friend that is now passed and he had severe PTSD. He would literally shake and his eye would twitch when he got upset or when shooting a rifle or pistol. I don’t even know how he hit the target but he did and he was not a bad shot. He liked shooting because it relaxed him. I have another Army friend that says the same thing for himself, but he doesn’t shake and has been diagnosed by a military doctor that says he should shoot for therapy.
Yes, here in Oregoneistan
Any idea how many are discharged due to this ? And how many actually go full blown nuts on society ? I see this as no different than using red flag laws or even medications to restrict someones right, There are many gun owners that may fall into this category. But only a very small percentage actually go haywire. Quit trying to help the antis. How about we blame alcohol next. Because I seen many a drunk act a fool. And could be a danger to society.
There is a connection to the 4473 already. There is a question regarding dishonorable discharge, there is a question regarding mental health, and there is a question regarding convictions for domestic violence. These things are prohibiting already. However it is the job of various authorities to send that information to NICS (National Instant Check System run by the FBI). I do not know if the Allen Texas shooter was dishonorably discharged, or if his mental health issues rose to the level of disqualifying him. The Southerland springs shooter had at least a dishonorable discharge, and domestic violence conviction. The Hair… Read more »
Report I read is he was dismissed by the MEB for Psychiatric/Psychological issues 3 months after enlisting.
Someone at DOD is screwing the pooch.
The people pushing background checks just want a way to turn weapons supplies for the people On and Off as their needs dictate. It is called gun control.
It’s worse. With universal background checks, in one generation, they’ll know where most of the firearms are.
Universal background checks sound wonderful! Except they don’t work, but they sound reassuring . Anyone that knows they can’t pass one will come up with an alternate method to get a gun-like stealing or buying on the black market.
Mexican cartels are looking for that new Black Market revenue stream. If tons of drugs can cross the borders undetected, I bet firearms and ammo will too.
“Nor does it seem that he had the sort of psychiatric record that would have disqualified him from buying a gun. The Washington Post reported that he “joined the Army in June 2008 but was ‘terminated’ three months later” because of “an unspecified mental health issue” after “failing to complete his initial training.”” SOOoo! you are stating that this fellow WAS DISMISSED from Military Service due to MENTAL INSTABILITY?!?! YET the Military did NOT ISSUE a WARNING to the NICS SYSTEM?!? This tells me that the NICS system IS a TOTAL FAILURE!! WHO in the POLITICAL/MILITARY System SHOULD the HARMED… Read more »
Laddyboy — people are weeded out from the military in this manner all the time, especially for those applying for combat jobs… Usually as a “failure to adapt”… Most people have NO CLUE how demanding life is in a combat unit, cannot even fathom…but, the army does. Just because someone does not possess the fortitude to cut it in the (mental fitness) army, doesn’t necessarily mean they are wackos. Infact the overwhelming majority of combat soldiers are wackos… But, they can perform in a military setting…and have trouble living in a civilian setting. ….there’s different kinds of wackos… Another thing,… Read more »
Oh hell let them go on and help the antis disarm everyone. Because deep down they know their opinion is best.
Universal background checks would be unenforceable without universal gun registration.
And you and everyone else knows it.
It really doesn’t matter to anybody in DC how you expose this spin of the situation in order to promote the need for gun control. Both parties have slowly moved us to this firearm ownership crisis. Only a few stand and refute the lies and misrepresentations. Those occasions will never be seen by the general public. CSPAN and progun YouTube channels will be running these videos of people like Chip Roy etc. standing and delivering on the oath to defend the COTUS/ 2A but the MSM isn’t going to give this any time. Your average middle class family believes the… Read more »
I agree with you, and it scares the hell out of me.
I’d be willing to bet he was on a prescribed seratonin reuptake inhibitor for depression. These medications have been implicated in MANY mass shootings. Although millions of people do, or have, taken these medications without slaughtering people, there are some individuals who do. Seems like the antis would be all over this, rather than an inanimate object that can’t hurt a fly without human activation.
Background checks are unconstitutional on several levels.
“…and was legally allowed to own firearms.”
No one allows me to anything, my rights are inherent from God.
My issue is there are reports this Shooter was MEB’d out 3 months after enlisting for Psychological Issues. If those “Issues” were so severe the Army wouldn’t keep him, then why in the Hell wasn’t NICS notified and a No Sale tag added into the system.
This isn’t the first time DOD has failed to notify other government agencies of a potentially dangerous individual.
The comment below is taken from this article. According to a National Institute of Justice report on public mass shootings from 1966 through 2019, 77% of the perpetrators “purchased at least some of their guns legally,” while 13% made “illegal purchases.” In mass shootings at K-12 schools, more than 80% of the killers “stole guns from family members.” I know from down votes received in the past that no one wants to hear this but I believe it is a good idea. I think anyone that has guns should have their guns stored in a safe except for the one they… Read more »
Any one can get into a so called gun safe in minutes with a tool from home dept or better yet just take the safe i have seen this time and time again
LOL. You are talking about toys. My safe weighs 800 pounds, empty. They would have to break into it to unbolt if from the floor and wall and if you can get into it to get to the contents inside, why take the safe.
I was talking about a real Safe not a gun storage cabinet.
With the right tools and the time, even your “real Safe” could be broken into.
When my Grandfather passed, his real safe had broken lockwork and couldn’t be opened (the connecting rod to the door bolts had sheared). The local locksmith didn’t even want to mess with it as it was built with 1″ homogenous armored plate .
It took me less than 15 minutes with my Plasma Cutter to open it.
Lol, how many people carry plasma cutters in thier back pocket. The point is it takes longer, more time and effort which are all things thieves want to avoid.
The Old Maxim “Locks only serve to keep Honest People Honest,” is still true.
What about pounds of gunpowder, propane bottles, matches, kaiser blades, thousands of rounds of ammunition, shards of glass created with a window and a rock, 120 psi air compressor nozzles and ears-eyes, heavy farm equipment that could fall on some one, acid in a battery, and so on? You can make the world safer by many different methods but your universal government solution takes me back to the days when the water patrolman had to see my purchased sailboat license and life preserver for me to be “allowed” to do what a 10 year old who could sail very well… Read more »
I don’t like the government distributing my money either but a safe in every home would be a good start to save lives and stop theft of guns or at least deter it. My other point was rather than spending my money on crap, they should re-direct it to something worthwhile rather than a trail for the Fugly michelle obummer.
Thanks for reading and your contribution.
“The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed as long as the keeper and bearer haves his s@#t locked in a safe!” Maybe we can get a tax credit for safes.
Keep em locked up except for the one they are in control of, yes!!! A tax credit would be ok but with the trillions of dollars wasted on green crap and other dumb shit, they can afford to buy a safe for every home. If solar panels can be mandatory, why not safes. Let the government pay for it because it is We the Taxpayers that will be footing the bill like everything else. Oh, hey, for kicks lets add a reverse obiden bill to it. If you make over 400,000.00 a year, you can pay for it and pay… Read more »
Music … The latest bit of upside down biden bs is people with a higher credit rating are going to pay a higher interest rate on things like home mortgages than someone with a lower rating in order to subsidize the lower credit rating holder.
You call that Marxism. It is the way of the left. If you haven’t done it yet, there is an excellent video that tells us how we are being dupped into believing we are headed towards socialism. I found out different by watching the video and learned what woke really is. Very interesting, it is a must watch for everyone.
Right to Keep & Bear Arms ~ Can You Keep It? ~ Important VIDEO (ammoland.com)
My locked house, in a rural, gated community with a moat around it, is my safe.
But I got a boat, lock cutters and a drill. LOL I wish I had something like that only without the gated community.
RTG… That sounds like an invite to the illegals coming across the border .
Remember that’s why we used to call them WETBACKS .
Part of the problem, on the Media, Democrats, AntiGun Groups and even some Federal Agencies is the definition of Mass Shooting. Definitions are all over the board amongst these groups. We also need to differentiate the End Goal of Targeted Random Mass Shootings from Gang Violence Mass Shootings because even though the end result is the same, a Mass Casualty Event, the driving purpose is vastly different. Lumping them all together doesn’t help examine the cause nor allow for developing strategies to deal with the issues. Most of what many of us on the 2A side consider Mass do occur… Read more »
I know of the changes and discrepancies. Take away the gang shootings and stats fall below other countries that claim to be less violent than ours.
DR. patient privacy went out when they started requiring Drs. to ask if you own a gun !
While I agree that securing our firearms from unauthorized access is every Gun Owners responsibility. The Reality is No Safe is 100% capable of denying access. Given the time, and the tools, every safe is vulnerable. The bigger, better sages only require more time and proper tools. Spend a little time on YouTube, and you’ll see just how easy some of the top products on the market can be defeated. The truth is, you need to have multiple layers of protection for you armory., with each layer causing the thief/thieves substantial time and tools to get through, while your alarm… Read more »