Researchers concluded that new laws requiring background checks on every gun sale had little measurable effect, probably because citizens decided not to comply and there was a lack of enforcement by authorities. The study results are a setback for a gun control movement that has centered its national strategy on the kind of law enacted in the two states.
In Colorado and Washington state, advocates spent millions of dollars in an effort to pass laws requiring criminal background checks on every single gun sale. More than three years later, researchers have concluded that the new laws had little measurable effect, probably because citizens simply decided not to comply and there was a lack of enforcement by authorities, the Guardian reports. The new study results are a setback for a gun control movement that has centered its national strategy on precisely the kind of state laws passed in Colorado and Washington. Delaware passed a background check law around the same time and did see increases in the number of background checks conducted. A similar law in Nevada passed in 2016 has run into political hurdles and has never been enforced.
“These aren’t the results I hoped to see. I hoped to see an effect. But it’s much more important to see what’s actually happened,” said study author Garen Wintemute of the University of California Davis. In most states, residents are allowed to sell their guns to each other privately without conducting a background check. In contrast, licensed gun dealers are required to check a national database that lists people who are disqualified from owning a gun because of a criminal record or other reasons. Congressional Republicans, joined by a handful of Democrats, have repeatedly refused to pass a national law to require background checks on all gun sales, despite public surveys that show overwhelming public support for the policy. As a result, some states have chosen to close the loophole themselves, mandating that any gun sale be preceded by a background check. Opponents of Colorado and Washington laws had proudly advertised their noncompliance with the new regulations.