Imported Guns Are a Significant Share of the US Market

I had not realized this. Josh Harkinson and Jaeah Lee report at Mother Jones:

In 2009, the United States imported 3.9 million guns, some 16 times more than we exported. Those imports accounted for 43 percent of new guns available to Americans that year. The vast majority—think Beretta, Glock, Taurus, and other name brands—came from countries with far stricter gun control laws than we have in the United States.

I’ve been thinking about gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook, and I always come back to the issue of legal gun sales. Pro-gun types tend to lean heavily on truisms like “if you outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns.” Leaving aside the question of whether “outlaws” should be taken as a given by Joe Q. Public in highly developed nation-states, this statement takes “outlaw” gun ownership as exogenous to lawful gun ownership.

I’ve often remarked to myself that pro-gun folks seem to think that the guns used in crimes are cooked up in illegal gun labs in the New Mexico desert or cultivated and manufactured in Colombia before being smuggled to the US in homemade semi-submersible gun subs or ferried condom-wrapped in the stomachs of human gun couriers. Well, they’re not. In the United States, illegal guns are guns that were once legal before being either purchased or stolen for use in violent crime (to say nothing of suicide or accidental discharge).

Where my thinking is challenged by the above article is in the country of origin for the guns in question. Since we are the world’s most armed society, I thought the guns were produced and marketed here in the US. It was amateurish of me not to realize that brands like Benelli and Sig Sauer could have been imported (although they could also be foreign-owned companies producing in the US).


Also at MotherJones, Dave Gilson sheds some light on the route from legal to illegal gun ownership:

Myth #10: We don’t need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.
 Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.
• Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don’t require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.
• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn’t pass a background check.
• 20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal “straw” buyers.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent director for 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

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