Lawful gun owners accounted for just 18 percent of gun violence, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
Researchers analyzed 762 cases in which a gun was recovered by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Firearm Tracking Unit (FTU).
“Most perpetrators (79%) were carrying a gun that did not belong to them,” researchers concluded.
The evidence, the Washington Post says, confirms a fact gun rights advocates have been arguing for many years.
The top-line finding of the study — that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes aren't committed by lawful gun owners — reinforces a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don't follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.
Anthony Fabio, an epidemiologist who led the study, told the Post that all guns start out as legally purchased weapons but “huge number of them” fall into the hands of unlawful owners.
Fabio said there is little funding for firearms research, and he hinted to the Post that additional resources could help researchers and lawmakers better understand how legal weapons move into unlawful hands.
The findings of the study are creating a media firestorm —
Wait, what? … They’re not? … Says who? Google? … Are you sure? Ah, okay.
It turns out the findings are not creating a firestorm. In fact, the Washington Post appears to be the only major national publication to report on Fabio’s findings. The study's findings were reported by the Post, Pittsburgh media, a few gun blogs and conservative publications, and UPI. That's it. (If you don’t believe me, just Google “Anthony Fabio guns study” or "University of Pittsburgh gun study" and see what comes up.)
Why? Gun violence is a pretty hot topic in the U.S. at moment, the data is certainly relevant to the public interest, and the conclusion of the authors doesn’t sound particularly controversial.
These data suggest that many perpetrators of firearm violence, especially homicides, acquire their firearms through theft or trafficking. This study offers a timely opportunity to encourage ongoing, systematic collaboration between public health and law enforcement with the purpose of describing, understanding and reducing violent crime (particularly violent death) as well as reducing the difficulty in data collection for firearms.
So why so little attention? Is it because the findings dovetail too neatly with the narrative of gun rights advocates? If so, this would be a shame.
As Fabio tells the Post, the conclusions might not neatly fit the narrative of "good guys" and "bad guys" in the strident gun control debate, but the data can help law enforcement and lawmakers better understand how they can stem the flow of guns into “bad” hands.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.