The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
18 Points

In the USA all guns should be registered, and all gun sales should be subject to background checks

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Post Voting Period
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after 5 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/31/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,287 times Debate No: 43167
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (5)
Votes (5)




In 2010, 11078 (source: CDC) people in the USA died from gun homicides, of which only 617 (source: FBI) were justifiable. The gun homicide rate in the USA is 3.6 in 2011, which is significantly higher than other western countries such as UK (0.04), Italy (0.36),
Germany (0.20), Canada (0.5) and France (0.22). Guns are easily accessible in the USA.
Not all private sales of guns are subject to background checks, and not all
guns are registered which makes them difficult to track.

It is clear that a lot of guns end up in the hands of criminals who are not allowed
to own guns. Although I do not dispute the right to own a gun, I think there should be more sensible (federal) laws that regulate guns. Criminals have access to guns, because they often times get guns by straw purchases, private sales, "under the counter" sales by licensed (but rogue) gun dealers. In order to stop the from from
legal guns into the illegal circuit, all guns should be registered and all gun sales
should be subject to background check. This way, guns found in illegal possesion
can be tracked back to rogue dealer, straw purchaser etc.

Although there are vast stockpiles of guns in the USA, there will be fewer avenues
for criminals to obtain guns, and eventually the gun supply will decrease, as
well as the number of gun homicides.


1. Cross-Sectional Data

My opponents main statistics rely on cross-sectional data. Cross sectional data relies upon comparing different regions to eachother (i.e. Germany to the US) and drawing conclusions from such results. Cross-Sectional data, however, generally isn't a valid technique in the area of crime. Indeed, there are many variables which are hard to control for when simply comparing countries to one another.

The countries my opponent cited all had lower crime rates before they passed gun control laws. In other words, their crime is low because of cultures or other variables in their country. As Economist John Lott rights in his book, The Bias Against Guns, "Suppose for the sake of argument that high-crime countries are the ones that most frequently adopt the most stringent gun control laws. Suppose further, for the sake of argument, that gun control indeed lowers crime, but not by enough to reduce rates to the same low levels prevailing in the majority of countries that did not adopt the laws. Looking across countries, it would then falsely appear that stricter gun control resulted in higher crime." He goes on to say that, "[t]o resolve this, one must examine how the high-crime areas that chose to adopt the controls changed over time —not only relative to their own past levels but also relative to areas that did not institute such controls." [1. The Bias Against Guns]

Indeed, as the graph above represents, sometimes cross-sectional data does support the more guns less crime hypothesis. For example,excluding the US, there is a clear correlation with higher gun ownership and less crime. When you include the US, the trend is really nothing statistically speaking [2.]

Another study, which relies on cross sectinal data published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy found a more guns, less crime result. Indeed, they find that many countries (Russia, Estonia) have strict gun control laws but crime rates higher to, or equal to, the United States'. Indeed, if anything, it merely shows cross sectional data cannot be used--that the other sociological factors play a larger role in crime rates. The result is that even though many of these countries have lower gun death rates over time, non firearm death rates increase and replace the crime from guns to other weapons such as knives. The study also makes statements such as, "For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002." [Kates and Mauser, "Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide"]

This reduces my opponents statistical reasoning to nothing.

2. Backround checks are an answer?

There are many issues with expanding the backround check system. Under the Brady law, many initial denials were proven to be false. For example, in 2010 there were 76,000 initial denials. Only 44 of those denials were worthy of prosecution under the law, and only 13 were convicted. However, looking at the 13 convictions, none of these criminals tend to be dangerous or violent as gun control advocates claim [3.]

Another issue with backround checks is not only that is hampers the gun owner (as seen by the denials) and does not stop violent criminals is that it decreases the venues to purchase weapons. For example, there is a 20% drop in gun shows when backround checks are passed [1]. However, the issue with this is that it decreases the gun ownership rate. Yes, that is a negative. Criminologist Gary Kleck, who is a democrat and member of the ACLU has found that there are 2.5 million defensive gun usages each year [4. Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control]. To reduce gun ownership would be two fold:

(1) Reduce the deterrent effect of law abiding gun ownership,
(2) And, if the use is required, prevent the citizen from defending his or her self from an attacker

Both of these would increase the crime rate. For example, conceal carry laws reduce the amount of violent crime in areas where such laws are passes [5. Lott and Mustard, "Crime, Deterence, and Right-To-Carry Concealed Handguns"] The reason is simple: criminals are humn beings and take into account risks and benefits. If the risk (i.e. death or injury from an AR-15 weilding, glock toting gun owner) outweights the benefit, the perpetrator will either abstain from his activities or find a sure case where he wont be harmed. This is observed in the UK and US. Guns reduce the amount of hot buglaries: buglaries which occur when the owner is in the home. In America criminals spend a lot of time casing homes before entering simply because they do not know who owns a gun and who doesn't. In the UK and Netherlands, criminals rarely case the homes and about half the buglaries occur when the owner is inside the home. This is an example of firearms deterring criminals [6.]

Hot burglaries often lead to murder or assault of the victims inside. The firearm deterence of hot buglaries, although not always reducing the buglary rate (though, I suspect it likely does because criminals need to spend a large amount of time casing homes), we can infer that it reduces the crime which occurs during botched robberies. Research in Canada--which does not ban all firearms, but has controls which my opponent is supporting--has found that Canadian gun laws actually have increased the overall robbery rate [7. Mauser and Maki, "An Evaluation of the 1977 Canadian Firearm Legislation: Robbery Involving a Firearm."] Further, as shotgun permits fell in the UK in the late 1980s, total robbery rates increased [8. See Greenwood 2001].


Gun regulation often seems like the common sense thing to do. However, gun control laws are always expensive to mantain, often hinder law abiding citizens (see current backround checks), and often produce counterproductive results. Gun control is expensive, and does not work.
Debate Round No. 1


The statistics I quote shows that the USA has a gun violence problem. The intentional homicide
rate in the USA is about 4 times that of the UK (4.7 per 100,000 per year for the USA, and 1.2 for the UK).
Cultural differences between the USA and the UK might explain the difference between the murder rates in the two countries. However, if we look at other crime rates, However, if we look at other crimes we do not seem
the same discrepancy. Most homicides in the USA are committed with guns, but only a tiny fraction of the homicides in the UK are committed with guns. Because there are fewer guns in the UK, violent crimes are less likely to be lethal.

But if you prefer to look at longitudinal data: The Brady Bill was enacted in 1993. Gun homicides has gone down from 7.0 (1993) to 3.6 (2010). But I should point out that longitudinal data suffers from the same problems as cross-sectional data: there may be many other factors contributing to gun homicides.

Regardless of which gun crime data you rely on, no country is exactly like the USA, and the USA never had the kind
of laws that I suggest: registration for all guns, and background checks for all gun purchases. So in debates one can
throw statistics at each other, but since all countries are different, and all time periods are different, it is very
unlikely that any statistical data of gun crimes in some time period in some country will be compelling to the other side.

However, I find logic compelling. By what logic would my proposed laws not work to reduce gun murder rates?
Note that I have not asked for any type of ban, or any type of restriction of the accessibility of guns. I want to keep
the gun out of the hands of criminals. But I suggest that the current laws do not do this effectively, and that
laws can be changed to make it easier to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Gun registrations, and
background checks are an inconvenience, but not unreasonably so in my opinion. If we would reduce gun homicides by 10%, which is a 1000 lives per year, I think it would be worth it. So my proposed laws would not have a big impact
on overall gun possession. So the question whether guns are a deterrence is moot.

However, I still would like to comment on the deterrence of guns. Kleck and Geck estimate 1 to 2.5 million
defensive gun uses in the USA every year. Hemenway estimates 55,000-80,000. All these estimates are very
unreliable. The high estimates rely on self-reporting. There is no objective criteria to measure whether
a gun use actually prevented a crime, or that it was used defensively. On the flip side, guns also emboldens
its owners. A gun in the hands of a home owner may deter a burglar, but a gun in the hands of a criminal
emboldens the criminal to commit a burglary. The total effect is that there may be less burglaries,
but more people are killed by burglars. The subtitle of Lott's book "More guns, less crime" should be
"and more murders." If the effect of gun laws would be a 1% increase in burglaries, and a 50% decrease
in murders, then the crime rate would go UP, because the number of burglaries is more than 50 times that of
murders. However, I would be happy to trade a 1% increase in burglary risk against a 50% reduction of being

I don't think the cost of background checks and gun registration is a major objection. The USA has
spent a trillion dollars on homeland security since 9/11. I think setting up a national gun registry for all guns
would cost much less, and it potentially could save many more lives.



1. Cross sectional comparisons

His response is really just assertions, opinion, and “this might happen”. For example, he does not consider why the crime rates are different. He merely assumes that the difference is gun regulation. If you look at the real British experience, the facts are not all sunshine and happiness. Indeed, homicide rates actually increased from their previous levels after the gun ban legislation was put into effect. Before the law, robberies in the UK fell 50% between 1993 and 1997. A year after the law, British robbery rose back to the previous 1993 level. Violent crime rates after the law (1997 – 2002) averaged 32% higher then they did before the law. The British experience, when looking at data over time, show a bleak picture and an example the United States ought to avoid [1.]

My opponent missed my whole explanation why his statistics—which he simply repeated—are not valid arguments. The British had lower crime than the US before they passed the gun laws. The fact that they still (according to my opponent) have lower crime is not too surprising. Indeed, even though their crime rate increased, at least in part, due to the gun ban doesn’t mean their crime should be higher.

The UK measures crime in a different manner. The United States homicide rates include non-prosecuted cases. The British, however, do not count these. The US murder rate, if measured similar to England, would be only 2.26. [2.] Although still higher then the British, my opponent will probably begin to say, “it’s the guns! AH!” But not really. The British are on an island; America on the other hand borders Mexico and is fighting a drug war. We have a much larger population, and different demographics. Again, simply comparing homicide rates is, to say the least, a misleading statistic.

My opponent also only shows firearm homicide statistics. However, he ignored a large part of my argument: the substitution effect. Often times, gun crime increases in these parts of the world (again, simplistic comparisons do NOT tell us ANYTHING about increases or decreases in crime from a specific law). In many areas if the gun crime falls, the non-firearm committed crime increases at the same level, or even faster than gun crime. Leading to either no change or increased crime. The substitution effect is well known in the firearms community, and this is why a consensus is actually building against gun control.

2. Brady Law

Researchers Jen Ludwig and Philips Cook—both of whom are no friends of guns at all—have published a study which analyzes the Brady Law’s effect on firearm homicide and suicide rates. Their result was that the Brady Law had no effect on either firearm suicide or homicide rates. The only category which they found decreased suicide was for people aged 55 and over [3.]. Using a more accurate metric of overall suicides, we see suicide rates were falling prior to the laws passage, and continued decreasing afterward. And in 2000, the rate began to increase once again [4.] If anything, this meant that the Brady law had no effect on firearm murder and suicide rates, as well as overall suicide.

Looking at national murder rates, there are many reasons crime could have fallen in 1990-1994. (1) increased passage of conceal carry laws, (2) increased use of capital punishment, (3) changing demographics, (4) the end of the crack cocaine epidemic, and (5) increased gun ownership. Further, crime was falling at the same rate it fell after 1994 in 1993, a year before the gun control law [5.] Further, the crack-cocaine epidemic ended in the same time period which was probably one of the contributing factor to the decline. The vast majority of the statistics I have used are either from economic literature which controls for many of the factors my opponent has not mentioned, and if it doesn’t relies on multiple sources of data and examples from different regions in the world. As they all came to the same conclusion, the answer seemed pretty clear.

As economist John Lott observes, “there is no real scientific evidence among criminologists and economists that background checks actually reduce crime. [emphasis added]” [6.]

3. Logic

The logic you use is flawed. You simply focus on the bad things guns to. Guns make it easier for victims to defend themselves. The net trade off is beneficial—or, guns are good for society. This is evidenced from many empirical studies. You say, “guns kill, therefore, restricting them is good”. However, by taking guns away from people, you remove a way of self-defense. And, the net effect from this is a harm to society.

Oh, the what if argument. It doesn’t matter what might will happen, it matters what actually happens. What actually happens is increased crime or no change at all and billions wasted enforcing stupid laws.

4. Defensive use

The vast majority of evidence points to a large amount of gun use, and that Hemmingway’s estimate is spurious. A study by fellow criminologist in 1990 found that there were 1.4 million defensive gun uses (DGUs) every year. Gallup found 1.6 million DGUs every year. In the 1970s there were estimated 1-2 million DGUs a year. The L.A. Times found 3.6 million DGUs every year. Kleck found 2.2-2.5 million DGUs every year, which is in line with the previous surveys [7.]

However, Kleck and Marc Gertz (co-author to Kleck, criminologist) have responded to Hemmingway’s “critiques”. Gertz and Kleck write, “[Hemmingway’s analysis is] devoted to speculations about why the estimate is too high. … It is an impressive achievement to be able to arrive at such high-powered conclusions [aka low estimates of DGUs] without the inconvenience of gathering or even citing any new empirical evidence.” [8.]

I have red Hemmingway’s estimates. And if you read them, they are exactly what Kleck noted: speculative. Hemmingway has close ties to gun control organizations, and still today attempts to prove the gun-control cause. Why is this bad for Hemmingway? Well, Kleck after this research as a anti gun liberal made astounding changes, this threatens gun control ideas, Kleck even said “widespread gun ownership among noncriminals may exert various beneficial effects, including the reduction of some kinds of crime through deterrent effects” [9.]

My opponent claims guns in the hands of a criminal cause crime. A gun in the hands of a criminal is scary. But if the victim is also armed, this means that the criminal is fighting a person of equal stature. What is worse is that the criminal (unless its Hemmingway’s house) does not know who is armed and who isn’t. The criminal knows he can beat unarmed Hemmingway, but he has a 50-50 chance of beating John Lott, if not worse because again, he would have to guess. Indeed, Kleck and Gertz both find that defending yourself with a gun is almost always effective, and is probably the best thing to do if you are facing armed criminals [7, 8, 9] My opponent says many things, but NONE of them are backed with credible statistics. He merely makes assertions.

If the effect of gun laws would be a 1% increase in burglaries, and a 50% decrease in murders, then the crime rate would go UP”

The thing is… That doesn’t happen. In EVERY case where guns are restricted, crime increases or remain unchanged. Almost always, murder, rape, and assault increase. More guns don’t mean more murder, you just made that up. Sound bites don’t work on me. WeTo end this rebuttal to such a silly comment: Lawrence Southwick, using data from Kleck, NCVS, and a plethora of sources finds the DGUs not only stop, but deter other crime. Using the lowest possible estimates, 500,000 crimes are deterred. Using Klecks low estimate of 2.2 million DGUs, over 2 million crimes are deterred [10.]

Gun laws often create the opposite of the desired results.

Debate Round No. 2


What is this debate about?

I am afraid that this discussion has drifted away from my original thesis. Perhaps this is partially my fault because I let myself drag into discussions that are irrelevant to the original thesis. Let me be clear what I am not claiming:
  1. I am not claiming that gun bans are effective. I admit that I started to comparison with the UK, just to point out that the gun homicide rate is remarkably high in the USA, even though the USA and the UK have similar crime rates. But the question whether a gun ban worked in the UK or anywhere else is irrelevant.
  2. I am not proposing any new restrictions for gun ownership. Whether overall gun ownership increases or decreases crime rates or murder rates is not relevant, because my intention is not to force a decrease of gun ownership of law abiding citizens. For the same reason, the discussion about defensive use of firearms is irrelevant.
My main claim is, that
  1. All guns should be registered.
  2. All gun purchases should be subject to background checks.
I am not a general pro-gun control activist. I only support gun laws that I believe will be effective. Among all gun control laws,
I believe that registration and background checks are the most effective.

Was the Brady Bill effective?

Although crime rates and murder rates did drop after introduction of the Brady Bill, it is hard to tell how much of that was contributed by the Brady Bill. I think that the effect of the crack-cocaine wave was a major factor as well. I am not a big supporter of the Brady Bill because it has more holes in it than Swiss Cheese. For example, the Brady Law requires background checks for purchases from licensed dealers, but not for private sales.

I think the Brady law is like preventing burglaries by locking your front door and leaving your back door wide open. Sure, there will be some burglars that are too lazy to walk to the back door, but the overall effect of locking only your front door will be minimal. To really find out whether locking doors reduced burglaries, one should at least try locking both doors. This is what I suggest: locking both door. In my analogy that means, subject both private sales and gun dealer sales to background checks.

As my opponent mentioned before, 76,000 people were denied a gun purchase by background check. According the his source, 47% of these were either indicted or convicted felons. Indeed, only 44 of them were persecuted. But the goal of background checks is not to persecute people. But the main goal is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and this was successful 76000 times in 2010. I think that is a good thing. But of course, only the stupidest of criminals would apply to for guns if they are convicted felons. The smarter ones would just use one of the many loopholes.

I do not believe that more background checks would have a significant effect on gun possession among law abiding citizens. You claimed a 20% drop in gun shows because of mandated background checks (but your reference [1] seemed to be missing). But such a drop does not necessarily mean a drop in sale or gun ownership.

The logic of the argument

Most murders in the USA are committed by people with previous criminal records.

Most murders in the USA are committed by firearms.

If convicted criminals have less accessibility to guns, they would use other weapons or no weapons at all. Since guns are more lethal than other weapons such as knives, etc., the overall numbers of murders committed by criminals would reduce.

So now the question is: How do convicted criminals get their guns? This was the subject of a PBS frontline documentary "hot guns: how do criminals get guns". []
In decreasing order, the main sources of illegal gun possession (according to ATF) are
  1. straw purchases
  2. licensed gun dealers, who illegally sell guns on the side
  3. illegal street dealers, private sales, passed on from family/friends
  4. theft (about 10-15%)
1,2,3 exist because of the loopholes in current gun laws. Having background checks and registrations for all gun sales,
would mostly eliminate 1,2,3. People who make straw purchases for others, or rogue licensed gun dealers would
eventually get caught if illegally owned guns would be traced back to them.

I think the logic if foolproof!

You cited John Lott about the effectiveness of background checks in reducing crime. The link did not work for me (but it seemed to be some site on Fox noise news). I claim that there is no empirical evidence, that background checks in combination with gun registration for all guns does not work. Unfortunately, there is a lack of empirical data on gun sales, especially in the USA. This is mainly because guns are not all registered or tracked. So one advantage of registering guns would be to be better informed,
and to be able to make better informed policies in the future.


Not all gun laws are good, but we should restrict our discussion to the two measures that I propose:
  1. Gun registration for all guns.
  2. Background checks for all gun purchases.
The 3 main sources of guns for criminals will be affected by these gun laws. Although there is a substitution effect, less guns in the hands of criminals means less murders, because guns are less lethal than other weapons.



What this debate is about

I would actually argue most of what I said relates to the topic at hand.

(1) Discussions about the Brady Act

(2) Defensive use

(3) And the refutation of your original arguments (which, by the way, you have dropped).

However, as the backround checks are the main issue (however, the issues I brought up ALL, in a way, are essential to the discussion) we can continue.

Brady Act

My opponents argument is that the Brady background checks are essentially useless, and to that I agree. Indeed, to reiterate my previous position, “[n]ot a single academic study by economists or criminologists has found that the Brady Act or any state background checks has reduced violent crime.” [1.]

My opponent presents a weird argument for all the false positives which the Brady Act actually caused. However, my opponent should have continued reading. These people “guilty” of felony were falsely identified by the system. Indeed, when the ATF did a first initial screen only 6% were actually further delayed. In other words, already, 94% of the people who applied were falsely delayed and hindered. As the report explains, “The remaining denials (71,410, or nearly 94%) did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned or canceled” [2.]

Yes, if you continue reading you see how more and more people get falsely accused and taken out of the system. In other words, thousands of people were falsely identified as criminals and delayed their transaction for no good reason. John Lott, using both the 2009 and 2010 reports, writes this, “So we have two estimates of the false positive rate: 94.2% or 99.98%. The first estimate is obviously too low, it assumes that all the cases identified up to that point are accurate.” [3.] In other words, over 94% of people were misidentified. The people “caught” were not guilty at all. Very few criminals, if any, were prohibited from purchasing a firearm from these laws—and as proven, the net effect of these laws is zero. Whereas enforcing these laws costs millions of dollars. And even the 13 cases which were convicted, few of them were actually dangerous criminals.

The drop in gun shows is documented by both Lott 2001 (Bias Against Guns), and mentioned in Lott 2010 (More Guns Less Crime, 3rd edition). To say that a 20% decline in gun shows wont affect gun ownership is ridiculous. Many people—especially poor people, who are in most need for self defense—will be barred from obtaining a firearm in these situations. Gun shows are areas where people go and buy cheap weapons for defense, recreation, etc. To force a background check which costs 50 dollars is a significant price increase for the poor American. To (1) reduce the venues where poor people can buy cheap weapons, and (2) increasing the price of these defensive mechanisms, you are making it difficult for an individual to defend themselves [4.]


My opponent claims that loopholes are the reasons background checks in this country aren’t working. However, the ATF did a much larger study in 1997 – the PBS story relies upon a 1994 survey. Using the newer results, from most common to least common: [More Guns Less Crime, 2010]

Family acquisition

Illegal sources

Gun Shows (less than one percent)

Illegal sources—which were only 1% lower than familial acquisition—will not be stopped by background checks, ever. However, stopping family transactions is nearly impossible. Generally these are through presents, however many of them are given for the specific purpose of the crime. Through presents, generally the family member will not usually be guilty of a major crime. Very few would actually be stopped by background checks. For many, the gun has been in the house for quite some time, so you cant really check something bought 10 years ago. Indeed, many gun control activists have been forced to say enforcing gun control laws would be extremely costly and difficult, whereas others have fully switched sides. For examples, if this were the 1960s, every criminologist would agree with you. However most recent research simply says gun control doesn’t work [5.]

You and I both want to decrease crime. Sadly, the logic isn’t pretty when you look at the details.

… Did you really call if Fox “noise”? It’s funny, though, its fine. Lott is a PhD holder from UCLA and has worked at many prestigious universities such as Yale and Stanford. Simply because he wrote an op-ed does not mean that his words are discredited. Gun registry has not helped Canada. Actually, prior to their registration, crime was falling. After their law, their crime decrease slowed and began to actually increase. Further, Canadian registration has not helped Canadian officials effectively track nor use as evidence since the passage of the law [6.] “Registration” and background checks don’t work alone. So they will work together? Ok I need a counter joke. What is this, a marriage show? Fine you win on jokes.


So, basically to what he said, how about no.

Better crime reducing strategies would be passing shall issue conceal carry laws in all states, and allowing citizens to defend themselves with the firearms of their choice.

Debate Round No. 3


Are background checks effective?

Background checks are effective. The Brady law has prevented 1.5 million from obtaining a gun illegally [1]. My opponent claims, citing John Lott, that more than 94% of these denials are "false positives". This is false, and Lott's argument is misleading. Out of 6,037,394 applications, 76,142 applications are initially denied (see [1] but the numbers come from the same report as cited by my opponent earlier). Of those, 3,163 are overturned, another 3,491 are overturned after an appeal,then another 4,732 are referred for possible persecution. It is unclear to me, how many of those, if any, result in an overturn of the denial. In the worst case 3163+3491+4732=11,386 of the 76,142 denials are overturned. That is about 15%.
You may argue, that there may be false positives amoung the denied applications that were never appealed. Assuming that the rate of false positives is the same as for the appealed applications, this would give another 5% of false positives.
So in the very, very worst case, the percentage of false positives is 20%. Of course, that is way too much, but still
a far cry from the 94% estimated by Lott.

According to Lott's logic, everyone who has failed a background check, but who is not successfully persecuted is a "false positive"
and should be allowed to buy their gun. To me, that would be the same as saying that everyone who is denied access to someone elses email account by typing the wrong password, should be given access to that email account if they are not persecuted.

So background checks are not as bad as Lott says they are, but there is definitely room for improvement. Background checks
should be quicker, more accurate and cheaper. This is mostly a matter of investment by the government, and the willingness
to streamline and connect the databases involved. Perhaps we can ask whoever fixed the Obamacare website. :)
Background checks don't have to cost $50.

(By the way, I am not questioning Lott's credentials, but he is nevertheless wrong.)

Where do criminals get their guns from?

I have cited a PBS documentary based on a 1994 ATF study, where the sources of guns seized from illegal possession are in decreasing order:1. straw purchases, 2. rogue licensed dealers, 3. family friends, 4. dealers.
I doubt whether this has significantly changed in 3 years, but you cited Lott's book, who, based on ATF figures of 1997 claims that the sources of guns seized from illegal posession are
1. family acquisition, 2. illegal sources, 3. Gun shows
Unfortunately, I do not have Lott's book and I do not know where I can find the ATF figures where this is based on.
I would appreciate if you could give me the ATF references.

I do not think gifts to family should be exempt from background checks. That is just be another loophole. Also, gun owners
should be held responsible for their guns. If a felon lives in the same house, they should make sure that the this felon
does not have access to their guns. If I owned a gun I could of course sell or give it to a family member with a criminal record (without a background check). However, there is an incentive to not do so, because if a crime is commited with this gun,
the gun will be tracked back to me (assuming that the laws I propose are in place).

I am not sure what "illegal sources" means here. Straw purchases? People who make straw purchases for others on a regular basis will eventually be caught because illegal guns will be traced back to them. Illegal street dealers may be another source, but guns in the possesion of illegal street dealers often originated from straw purchases.

Almost all guns in the USA were once legally purchased, or legally owned by a licensed dealer. Illegally possed guns must
have crossed from the legal circuit to the illegal circuit at some point in history. There are only a few possibilities how this can happen, namely private sales (including sale/gift to family), straw purchases, rogue dealers, theft. In all cases, except theft, we can track an illegal possessed gun back to a person who had a legal right to own guns and committed a crime. In all those cases, we can take away the right to own a gun on top of any other punishment they receive for their crime. In all those cases, we have closed another avenue for a criminal to obtain guns.

Canadian gun registration did not work

Your link may be outdated. Canadas crime rate in 2012 is the lowest since 1972.
In a Canada Firearms Centre (CAFC) survey, 74% of general duty police officers stated that the registry "query results have proven beneficial during major operations." [2]





Background check effectiveness

My opponent misread his source. No one is denying the fact that 1.5 million people were delayed or hampered from purchasing a firearm, as the fact checker noted, it’s a matter of opinion whether or not these people were actually guilty. TO specifically quote the fact checker, “About 99 percent of people who apply to buy a firearm are quickly cleared” – in other words, 99% of the people are falsely identified, cleared through the process, and continue to purchase their weapon. That is what I said. That is what I have been saying. To further quote, “Even accounting for all of the appeals and overturned referrals, it seems as if 1.5 million people over the last 14 years have been denied a firearm.” Indeed, they didn’t say they weren’t eventually given a firearm. Merely that the government simply denied people a firearm, for a period of time. Again, that’s exactly what I said. This fact checker even used the 99% estimate, which even Lott said was likely high. Using your source, the conclusion you want simply isn’t there.

My opponent is misrepresenting Lott’s whole argument. If you read the report I cited previously and Lott’s analysis, he even said that using 99.9% relies upon the guilty conviction rate. However, he said this is a poor metric. He is closer to the 92% failure rate because those people are actually found innocent by the ATF. A court of law uses “beyond a doubt”, which means some of the people probably were guilty. IF anything, Lott’s argument is that if AOL messes up 92% of the time, AOL looks into it, they should get access. The other 8% are either denied or delayed. However, the 92% being delayed will have a negative effect on society because in many cases DGU’s are time sensitive (i.e. my boyfriend wants to kill me in a few days).

On ObamaCare, just personal story. My family lost insurance and my Dad spent 4 hours on the site because it kept being retarded. It kept putting me as head of the household and my dad as my kid. End rant.

Well if it doesn’t cost the vender 50 bucks, its going to cost you 50 bucks in taxes. TO pay people to review the checks, make sure the machines are working electronically etc., it isn’t free. Background checks are not a free process. And they never will.

Criminals source of guns and Canada

And Lott’s book directly quotes the larger, more expansive survey based in 1997. Illegal guns = the black market. Believe it or not, many criminals use it because it’s harder to track. Even where guns are legal, they use it because it’s harder to track. Banning them means they are more likely to use it and actually may hamper tracking efforts by registration officials.

My opponent likes to use the word loophole. He is basically saying lets check everything. The sad thing is, unless he wants to spend billions of dollars, he is out of luck. To actually enforce these laws are impossible. It would be easy to check the family member who is buying the weapon, however to be able to check whom he is giving it to would be extremely difficult. The loophole closings my opponent keeps asking for are simply unrealistic.

I don’t think my opponent, with his “trace it back to me” arguments really understands how registration works. There are a few ways people have proposed. (1) markings on the guns (easiest way), and (2) the barrel markings. The barrel markings affect the projectile, essentially, so the police can track the criminals. However, criminals know how to overcome this. Firing 100 rounds through a weapon basically wears out the markings so that its impossible to track it. That’s why most governments simply give firearms numbers which they can track. However, this means they can only track the weapon if the gun is left at the scene. In reality, that never happens. As Lott and Mauser write, “Crime guns are very rarely left at the crime scene, and when they are left at the scene, they have not been registered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered crime guns are left at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved even without registration.” [1.]

Unless the government forces you to register, which would likely be found unconstitutional, they will simply have to trust law-abiding citizens. Criminals are, again, not dumb enough to register them. And if they are, they don’t leave them at the scene. As they further write, “Data provided last fall by the Library of Parliament reveals that the weapon was identified in fewer than a third of the homicides with firearms, and that about three-quarters of the identified weapons were not registered.”[1] So, (1) guns rarely identified, (2) if identified rarely registered, and (3) (they say this a bit below) it rarely links it to the killer. Only 62 times, in fact.

But lets assume all 62 cases the registry helped. Note the government spent 2.7 billion dollars over 17 years with not one arrest. That money would be more effective by giving it to the police force—the most effective way to reduce crime.

Indeed, even if we assume gun registry and checks would work to some degree, the money spent to enforce them would better be used in increasing police forces or enforcing other laws (i.e. death penalty), which are known deterrents. This debate is not only about effectiveness, but the laws I proposed (conceal carry, death penalty, and more police) are cheaper—maybe not death penalty, I used that mostly as an example—and much more effective.

As for Canada, to say Canadian crime fell in 2012 isn’t very significant. Guns aren’t the most important factor to crime, they are simply one of them. However, if you look at homicide rates as well as violent crime severity indexes, from the 1980s – 1998 there was a massive drop in crime. From 1998—gun laws passed in Canada—to 2006-7 homicide and severity indexes increased. Due to the fact factors which caused the Canadian crime decline were still present, crime didn’t go through the roof. In 2007, those factors overcame and began to bring crime down again. However, the fact remains that after the law, crime increased for 8 years after some dramatic crime decreases [2.]

You cannot say that registration brought down crime later on and that it was simply a lag. I mean 8 years? A one to two year lag, if the law had any effect, would make sense. But the fact that for 8-9 years crime increased after the law, before decreasing again, is significant. Major assaults increased until 2009. For assaults, there was a moderate increase from 1990 – 1994, but it fell until 1998. After that they rose at an enormous rate. For robbery, the year of 1998 is blank, however in 1999 robbery was higher than in 1997. However, the overall rate was unchanged until 2007. The Youth severity crime index began in 2002. From that time it increased until 2007. And it stayed above the 2002 rate until 2012 [2].

To say that the Canadian registry worked is a farce. It didn’t work. At best, there was no effect on crime and that the government wasted billions of dollars they could have used to decrease crime from the 1998 to 2006 period—instead of increasing it and delaying the crime decreased until 2012.

Folks, either way you look at it, gun control is expensive. It would be much more efficient to simply hire more police officers, enact conceal carry laws, etc. Cost of gun control is extremely important in this debate. And the cost is twofold: more crime and a few billion bucks.

Debate Round No. 4


background checks

from fact check:

"About 99 percent of people who apply to buy a firearm are quickly cleared."
It is deceiving to say that this 99% have been "falsely identified", and then cleared. This would be the same as saying that everyone that goes to the security checkpoint at an airport has been identified as a terrorist. These 99% have been quickly cleared and did not have any significant delay in purchasing their guns. Only the 1 to 2% that have been identified as invalid applications. Of that 1 to 2%, no more than 20% were false positives. I am sorry but I cannot read the data in any other way. All I can say is that anyone following this debate should perhaps read the cited source

and decide for themselves whether "pro" or "con" is right.

Among the 1.5 million purchases that have been denied, there may be some people who have passed a background check at some time in the future. This may be because there records have changed and they may no longer be banned from owning a gun. And then there may also be some, who exploit some of the loopholes, and simply buy a gun at a place where a background check is not mandated. But these kind of loopholes are exactly the ones that I would like to close.


My opponent claims that my proposal would cost billions of dollars. To this I say: so what? Some numbers:

Cost of prisons in the USA (dept. of corrections): 74 billion dollars.
war on drugs: 24.5 billion dollars.

If government would pay for the $50 for every background check, this would be 6 million * $50=0.3 billion dollars
This is just a drop in the bucket.

Although my opponent does not believe that background checks an registration work, I do hope he agrees with me that
if it would work as I claim and it would prevent a 1000 deaths and many more injuries, then the cost would be well worth it.

sources of guns

Sure, lots of criminals get their guns from the black market. Once a gun is in the black market, government can no longer track the gun. That much is clear. The point is, however, that almost all guns in the black market, originated from the legal market. If we prevent guns crossing from the legal to the illegal market, the black market eventually will dry out. I admit, this may take a while. The current black market is big, although we probably do not really know how big because after all, we cannot track it. With background checks and registrations for all gun purchases, we can almost always track the gun back to the last person who legally owned it (with the exception of theft which accounts for a small fraction of the guns crossing from the legal to the illegal market). For every seized gun in illegal possession, at least one person will be arrested or at least lose gun purchasing privileges.

The black market will shrink over time. This may also be the reason for the delay of crime reduction in Canada after the introduction of gun registrations. Since we cannot expect that guns in the black market will be registered or subjected to background checks,
it would also take a while to see strong positive effects if the measures I propose were introduced in the USA. By the way, the deadline of gun registrations in Canada was 2003, so to measure how soon positive effects were visible, one would have to measure from 2003, not 1998. So crime started to decrease after 3 years.

We cannot do much about the guns in the black market, but we can prevent the black market from growing. Most of the guns traced by the ATF where not more than 3 years old. (
This shows, that legal guns enter the illegal market at a fast pace. If my measures are introduced, the effectiveness can be measured by an increasing average age of seized guns, even in the early years when a reduction in crime and/or murders is not yet apparent.



Reasons I won the debate

In debate, a “dropped” argument – an argument the other person doesn’t even attempt to respond to (or drops over time) counts as a concession, for the purposes of the debate. Here are many points that my opponent dropped:

(1) In the last few rounds, he ignored my gun show decrease argument. To follow up, I argued guns decrease crime and gun shows disappearing would mean less ownership in areas where people need guns most, and therefore more crime. This means he concedes that gun shows may lead to a slight increase in crime.

(2) The original statistics my opponent made – cross sectional comparisons – he dropped. After I showed that they were not worthy arguments and that they often show guns decrease crime, he ignored the argument. His whole premise relies upon the idea that guns cause harm and their control is preferable to keeping them unregulated. This was refuted and, my opponent ignored them.

(3) That CCW decreases crime. This law is almost free, and would be a great alternative to background checks – even assuming that they work – that CCW would be preferable. So, we should not implement background checks – even if my opponents premise is correct, if CCW decreases crime.

(4) Defensive use. I noted that defensive use would likely drop due to the regulations he is supporting due to the fact it would hinder many people who would use the guns in defense. He dropped this, as well.

On these main points he dropped alone, his key premise is refuted, and a vote for CON is logical. Also I am about to make some corny jokes below so that’s… that’s worth something.

False positive rates

If anything, my opponents analogy to terrorism actually serves my purpose. Airport security has never found a terrorist or stopped it. Further, his analogy is flawed at the core. It would be better to say, a certain amount of people that go through the TSA need to be further checked, because they are suspected. The original TSA line would simply be the first check. Say ten people get stuck for back room procedures. The TSA finds no evidence that 9 of them are terrorists. They find the last guy had former terrorist linkage. However, he had no apparel or items that would hurt anyone (reason for the he is harmless detail is that none of the people prosecuted were violent criminals). Those 9 people were falsely identified, and were told to catch their plane, and remember their pants after the check.

Indeed, if anyone mistrusts me or my opponent, I ask you to read our sources. As I have noted of the people who were actually identified, nearly all of them were, eventually, allowed to obtain a gun. The fact they were, under the Brady Act, allowed to obtain these weapons, it logically follows that they were innocent based on the background checks.

Further, my opponents argument is that it stopped a significant amount of criminals. If this was true, we would have seen a decrease in crime. As previously stated, crime was unchanged by the law, and maybe even increased due to it. For references, See Ludwig and Cook 2001, and Lott 2001 & 2010. The NRC panel also noted that the law could not be linked to the nations drop in crime.

With these few facts, we can see: PRO POINT DEBUNKED.


The drug war actually increased crime. It’s similar to background checks. It was based on false premises which costed large sums of money and had no effect on crime, and likely increased it. The drug war is, if anything, supporting my argument.

As to incarceration, incarceration actually decreases crime rates. For laws which are aimed in reducing prison overpopulation, each person let out generates 15 more crimes—the result is robust. The cost of those 15 crimes is, on average, 45,000 dollars, whereas the annual cost of keeping a criminal incarcerated for a year is 30,000 dollars [1.] Currently, there are about 2 million people in jail [2.] Multiply 2 million by 45 thousand and you get 90 billion – dollars.

See, incarceration reduces crime and leads to both a social and economic benefit. Gun control laws simply produce costs, with little benefit at all, and often produce the opposite results.


Sources of guns

My opponent makes a few points.

(1) The black market will shrink over time—this is completely false. With the invention Al Gore gave us, the Internet, the ability to control and enforce laws over illegal activity has become much more difficult. Online drug markets, for example, are beginning to thrive. And when the government busts one drug store online, people will still demand drugs. Therefore, to provide supply and make money, people simply make another. Black markets don’t shrink when you ban them. In many cases, they grow [3.] Indeed, guns we have now are coming from illegal sources… so you think banning them, where the black market has a monopoly on guns, will shrink them?

(2) Most illegal guns come from legal markets—source? And even if this is true, so what? Most guns in the black market go through many middlemen and get sold numerous times. By the way, I am using Schumer and the liberal New York Times [4.] So basically, if we traced the weapons, what do we get? Well, we get a pissed off gun owner who had his weapon stolen when he was out of town. It doesn’t give you the criminal. So really this is a moot point, even assuming it is true.

(3) Canada 2003 deadline—What is interesting is that early in 2012, the year my opponent claimed was the holy grail of his case, is when the law was repealed [5.] Using 2003 as a metric, we see murders by strangers, criminal acquaintance, rebel scum, and family increased. Family homicide increased until 2007, murder by stranger continued to increase (this is the category that would be most affected, in theory, and it was), criminal relationship increased until 2008, and murder by simple acquaintance remained relatively stable [6.] Even using 2003 as a metric, a lag should not be expected. Because by 2004 everyone registered his or her guns, right? Well, according to your logic because criminals would do that and let themselves be tracked. Indeed, as the deadline was 2003 (which is a 5 year wait), we should see, at least in part, some crime change. We did see a crime change… but it was up. And in 2012, when crime actually did plummet, the law was repealed.

(4) 3 years old—again, so what? Even if you close all gun stored, Mexico has a huge gun problem, and they have only one legal gun store in the country. As I noted in the first rounds, many countries such as England who have very restrictive laws have seen a crime increase, including gun crime. The source of the guns was a black market. But there are no legal guns in Europe. America is too far away, and they have a few guys who surrender at the site of a butter knife across the pond. So, where do they get these guns? Russia. Europe gets guns from Russia. When communism collapsed many weapons caches were left behind. Now, many Mafioso’s are shipping guns in bulk to Croatia and other eastern block countries. In the US, that would easily happen because whatever fits can ship. Further, many weapons are made in the Philippines in caves. Kids making guns in caves, with their bear hands [7.] Yes, if people want an AK, they’re easy to make. That’s how terrorists can make them easily in the Middle East. Really, even if we assume all guns in the black market originated in legal venues (an assumption I doubt), it wouldn’t be hard to simply make some in my garage. We have two homemade weapons in my house, both AR’s. The scary thing that Piers Morgan checks for under his bed for at night.



My opponent (1) dropped arguments, which alone make him lose the debate, (2) the points which he continued arguing over were effectively refuted, and (3) I made some jokes. VOTE CON

Debate Round No. 5
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
There are a lot of issues going back and forth in this round, so I'll attempt to explain in some detail where I saw the debate. I'll start from the least important issues and work my way up.

Costs - I just don't see why this matters much by comparison to the other issues. I think we can all agree that cost is a relatively moot issue compared with lives and safety. So this only becomes an issue if everything else is even. It's not.

Black Market - While I don't much agree with Con's arguments here, the arguments from Pro aren't sufficient to push back Con's. The growth of the black market and therefore of the illegal gun trade is well taken, given these arguments. I think Pro could have argued that the gun market requires extensive manufacturing processes to keep at its current level, that argument never enters the debate. So while this argument is mainly mitigatory, it reveals that guns will be available to criminals at a similar rate and be tracked even less well than they are currently. This is a small win for Con.

Gun Access - Here's where my decision comes in. While, again, I disagree with Con's argument based off of a number of factors, I don't think it's been sufficiently argued by Pro. Con rightly points out that the majority of his arguments about defense and reduced ownership are minimally responded to, and that ends up putting him in a bad position. Arguments could have been made about accidental shootings and a number of other opportunities created by increased ownership, but they weren't. This showcases a substantial harm to gun control.
Posted by 16kadams 2 years ago
What the fvck
Posted by thett3 2 years ago
I'll vote tomorrow sometime when I have access to a computer. Someone remind me if I forget.
Posted by black_squirrel 2 years ago
Darn, I did not realize that was the last round. Anyway, 16kadams, thanks for the debate.
Posted by 16kadams 2 years ago
My jokes were terrible
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by WilliamofOckham 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con wins this debate mostly because pro's arguments were solely heresay with very little evidence to back up his argument. Con presented a lot of evidence for his case, and thus easily won the debate. Con negated the argument that background checks lowered crime rates, and thus the resolution that background checks are necessary.
Vote Placed by dtaylor971 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con did a great job of displaying his points through proven logic and statistics. He used multiple more sources than pro, also. And most importantly, he changed my mind on this topic. Conduct and S&G was tied, even though con probably should've won S&G.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by jzonda415 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Hands down win for Con. Con provided much more statistics and was much, much more proficient at explaining the various stats in this debate. Pro also dropped too many points (On cross sectional comparisons, CCW and defense, to name a few). Con adequately showed how background checks don't work in terms of stopping criminals from getting guns. Sources also to Con for Pro didn't start using them until round 3 and Con's were much better. Conduct and S&G are a tie.
Vote Placed by kawaii_crazy 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Although 16kadams had longer arguments, bigger isn't always better. Black_Squirrel had shorter, yet detailed arguments and did not repeat the same piece of evidence over and over again.