California has succeeded in drastically reducing anonymous and undocumented gun sales and sales of military-style weapons by introducing tighter controls to gun shows reveals a study in the June issue of Injury Prevention.
Eight gun shows in California and 20 shows in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida were monitored. These states are major outside sources for guns used in crime in California.
California is unique in regulating these events and prohibiting undocumented sales between private parties. Promoters must be licensed and gun transactions must be processed by a licensed retailer, a background check conducted and a record kept.
California has also banned sales of .50 BMG calibre rifles and handguns which have failed basic safety tests plus restricted sales of some military-style assault weapons. Also attendees who bring guns to sell must affix a tag to the gun recording identifying information.
Armed attendees were more than five times as common in states outside of California. No direct sales of firearms between attendees were seen in California. In other states, such undocumented gun sales appeared to be as common as sales by licensed gun dealers. And illegal 'straw purchases', in which buyers buy guns for parties other than themselves were 6.6 times more common in the other states. In three 'straw purchases' outside of California, the buyer bought multiple guns.
Vendors in states outside California were 2.5 times more likely to sell assault weapons and all sellers of assault-type handgun and fully automatic weapons were in other states.
Professor Barry Pless, editor of Injury Prevention, said he felt compelled to include the paper immediately following the deaths of 32 people in a shooting incident at Virginia Tech University in April.
He writes: 'This study represents a small but critical step towards truly effective gun control in a country where the culture of guns verges on the incomprehensible. 'Although there is no evidence that the deranged shooter obtained his guns from a gun show, the implications for prevention seem evident.
'They reveal the greatly increased risks of deadly weapons being sold at shows in states that lack California's regulations. 'Even in the US it seems odd to permit undocumented gun sales while fussing about undocumented immigrants.'
Gun shows are an important source of weapons for crimes used in the US, Canada and Mexico. In 2005, guns were involved in almost 430,000 violent crimes in the US, including 10,100 homicides.