Recently, an article appeared in the Journal of Urban Health, “Characteristics of Federally Licensed Firearms Retailers and Retail Establishments in the United States: Initial Findings from the Firearms Licensee Survey” by Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Program, University of California, Davis. Dr. Wintemute is perhaps best known for authoring the anti-gun report, “Ring of Fire: The Handgun Makers of Southern California.” More recently, Dr. Wintemute and his team conducted “undercover operations” of gun shows for their report, “Inside Gun Shows: What Goes on When Everyone Thinks Nobody is Watching.”
Last year, a letter accompanying the survey, signed by Dr. Wintemute, claimed the research was intended to better understand “the unique perspective of firearms licensees on important social issues and the firearms business itself.” Given Dr. Wintemute’s history, it was pretty clear then, as it is now, that this survey would be used as a tool to justify legislation to curb the lawful commerce of firearms and the individual rights of law-abiding Americans. At the time we urged retailers to use extreme caution should they decide to participate in the survey. The journal article has a lengthy discussion about our caution to retailers, along with a similar caution from the NRA.
The article notes that the survey was funded by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, an interesting and relevant fact that was not disclosed to survey participants by Dr. Wintemute in his letter. We only found this out when we read the article. An interesting side note about the Joyce Foundation — President Obama served on its board.
The article also thanks Kristen Rand and Josh Sugarman from the Violence Policy Center, a fringe anti-gun group, for providing a helpful review of the questionnaire. My mom used to say when I was a kid, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” It seems our caution to retailers was indeed well founded.
What is the primary survey finding discussed in the article? To quote the U.C.-Davis press release: “The majority (54.9%) of firearms dealers and pawnbrokers believe it is too easy for criminals to get guns in America.” There was no key follow-up to this question. Also highlighted, 96.3% believe that “private ownership of guns is essential for a free society.” We are unsurprised and underwhelmed.
The survey, however, asks many other questions about “inexpensive handguns” and “traces” and “denied sales” and seeks to draw certain associations. There is a reason the Joyce Foundation funded Dr. Wintemute’s research and the Violence Policy Center helped with the questionnaire, and it wasn’t because they’re all interested in “the unique perspective of firearms licensees on important social issues and the firearms business itself.” While, this survey and journal article has not generated much attention thus far, one daily newspaper reporter decided to go into the field to get the reaction of firearms retailers. It seems they also don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.