Thursday, May 1, 2014

Interesting Interview with Dr. Garen Wintemute

Dr. Garen Wintemute (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)


You recently did a large survey of federal firearms dealers. What was the most interesting finding?
We learned that a majority — not a large majority, but a majority — of gun dealers and pawn brokers are in favor of comprehensive background checks.
Do you know why some dealers supported background checks and others didn't?
There is a sense in the country that retailers who have lots of traced guns [i.e. guns that show up at crime scenes] are themselves bad guys, and I just don't believe that is always the case.
Retailers who had higher frequencies of attempted straw purchases, higher frequencies of attempted off-the-books-purchases, were more in favor of comprehensive background checks. They're in the business. They know that when they say "no" to somebody, that guy is just going to go somewhere else to someone who says, "yes," and they don't want it to happen. They said "no," so they want the system to say, "No."
One of the policy proposals you've been looking at is whether people with a history of alcohol abuse should also be banned from purchasing firearms. Is this ever going to be a realistic policy — that two DUIs could mean that someone could lose their legal right to buy guns?
Yes. Last year, I floated the idea to the California legislature, and the legislature passed it. The governor vetoed it, or we'd have it now. His veto message said there's not enough evidence. There's tons of evidence of alcohol as a risk factor of violent activity. I think he meant evidence specific to gun owners. We've started one study, and are in the process of another. We'll come back with the evidence.


  1. The NSSF ran a counter campaign to Wintemute's survey encouraging FFLs to tear up the form. Nothing good could come out of working with someone with such a strong anti-gun agenda. ations%29

    So we must remember that this isn't some random sample of FFLs, because the strongest supporters of 2A rights tore it up and sent the enclosed $3 to the NRA. Still, it's good to see that even amongst those that did answer, a good deal of them still support rights over profits, as banning private sales is a huge boom for FFLs.

    1. What boom? You mean the nominal charge for performing the check?

    2. It's a weakening of the private market. Generally, you can buy used things cheaper on the private market than the same used things from dealers who are operating a business- like cars. When it is no longer cheaper, that changes the market. Plus it is bringing potential customers into the store. Any business would love a law that forces people into their store.

  2. And, of course, the money that licensed dealers get from running background checks has nothing to do with it.

  3. Just out of curiosity, how many millions of dollars has Wintemute received from the Joyce Foundation and other sources over the years? More importantly, how does this compare to researchers such as Lott who, it is my understanding, have paid for their research out of their own pockets all the time.

    1. Maybe you didn't read the whole interview. This guy is far less biased than your sainted John Lott.

      The NRA has been critical of your work, and says you're funded by anti-gun groups.

      I won't take money from advocacy organizations.

      So, what groups would be on that list?

      The National Rifle Association, The Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Actions, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

      Have you ever accepted funding from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

      I have not.

      How do you draw the line between nonprofits whose funding you do accept, and "advocacy organizations"?

      I've been offered money to do studies where the conclusion was basically determined from the design of the study. It wasn't really science. The organization that was offering to fund the study was also going to control the interpretation of what the analysis meant. They were going to make the decision of whether or not the study got published. As a scientist, I just can't enter into such an agreement. We have to let people know what the truth is, even if the truth makes someone uncomfortable.

    2. Oh, this is funny. So Wintemute is admitting that gun control groups have approached him in this way, and you're using it to boast.

      I guess they went to Kellerman next.