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State Programs for Screening Handgun Buyers

Philip J. Cook and James Blose
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 455, Gun Control (May, 1981), pp. 80-91
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1044072
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
State Programs for Screening Handgun Buyers
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Abstract

Three to five million handguns change hands each year. Almost half the states-including 64 percent of the population-require that buyers be screened by the police, with the objective of preventing certain groups of potentially dangerous people-felons, fugitives, ex-mental patients, drug addicts, and so forth-from obtaining handguns. These state systems operate within the federal framework created by the Gun Control Act of 1968, which requires that most all interstate transactions in firearms be handled by federally licensed dealers or manufacturers. The states' main problems are (1) weak federal regulation of licensees, (2) incomplete state criminal history files, and (3) the difficulty of regulating hand-to-hand transactions in used handguns. States that wish to increase the effectiveness of their screening systems will probably have to assume responsibility for regulating retail dealers and will have to institute civil liability for dealers and individual gun owners, together with a more comprehensive registration system, to make the screening system more difficult to circumvent.

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