I am writing to respond to Greg Stovall’s query on our estimates of the frequency of attempted straw gun purchases and undocumented purchases as reported by licensed retailers. The numbers he attributes to the entire sample of 1,601 subjects are actually for 589 who responded to those questions, as detailed in the research article.
The process by which the extrapolation was done is available as a supplement to the article, at http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/suppl/2013/03/08/injuryprev-2012-040715.DC1/injuryprev-2012-040715supp.pdf.
He also appears to assert that retailers can’t recognize attempted straw purchases and undocumented purchases. If straw purchases are conducted carefully — the real purchaser and the straw purchaser are not in front of the retailer at the same time; the straw purchaser is knowledgeable about firearms; the straw purchaser is not buying a suspiciously large number of firearms, either during that transaction or over time — they can be difficult to recognize. This means that our results are conservative: straw purchases are more common than we estimate them to be.
But such transactions are often conducted completely in the open. We have published photo-narratives of many of them in our report, “Inside Gun Shows,” available at http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu. Undocumented purchases can’t be missed: the prospective buyer asks to purchase the firearm without completing the required paperwork.
Garen Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H.