New CPRC Research: “Do Background Checks on Private Gun Transfers help Stop Mass Public Shootings?”

Jan 5, 2016 | Featured

San Bernardino Shooting picture

Today President Obama addressed the issue of mass public shootings and background checks.  From the Fox News article today discussing our new study:

The report, published by the Crime Prevention Research Center on Jan. 2, argues that not only are background checks expensive, but that they have failed to thwart mass public shootings.

The findings come as President Obama on Tuesday formally announced plans to expand background checks and make other changes to America’s gun rules through executive action. The White House has aggressively pushed for background checks following mass public shootings.

After the December murders by a husband and wife terror team in San Bernardino, Calif., Obama told the nation there were steps the U.S. could take to “improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently: commonsense gun safety laws, stronger background checks.”

The study, however, states that the initial data on universal background checks does not confirm the claims of supporters and the White House.

“Despite the frequent calls for expanded background checks after mass public shootings, there is no evidence that background checks on private transfers of guns would have prevented any of the attacks that have taken place since at least 2000,” the study states, adding that there is no statistical evidence that proves the mass public shootings are “rarer in states with background checks on private transfers.” . . .

The common sense reform that the president emphasized was applying background checks to all private transfers of guns.  The CPRC is has new research on this precise issue:

“Do Background Checks on Private Gun Transfers help Stop Mass Public Shootings?”


Persistent claims have been made that expanding background checks to include any private transfers of guns would reduce mass public shootings. Yet, this is the first study to systematically look to see if that is true. In fact there is no evidence that these laws reduce the risk of these attacks. Examining all the mass public shootings in the US from 2000 through 2015, we find that states adopting additional background checks on private transfers they see a statistically significant increase in rates of killings (80% higher) and injuries (101%) from mass public shootings. There is not one mass public shooting that occurred over that period where these checks would have prevented it from occurring.

A copy of the study can be downloaded here.

Fox News cover for CPRC research



  1. roby

    So whats the big deal if stringent background checks are done on everyone? If you have nothing to hide then so be it. Then go about your own business. The stats mentioned can be thrown away. They prove nothing of value to support not doing background checks. No matter what happens or doesn’t happen in Congress. Something has got to be done to keep these guns out of the possession of mentally unstable people, people with felonies & a complete overhaul of the gun control archaic way of selling firearms. You can have all the weapons you desire, provided you pass a stringent background check & are registered to legally carry. Times have changed in our society since the 17th century. These are such simple steps that could save lives. So if you have nothing to hide, just follow the process. Nobody’s is taking away your rights to bear arms. And if you think as the NRA mindset I,that you will be stripped of your guns etc. Then maybe you do need psychological testing. Bottom line is that mass shootings are becoming the norm. And you just don’t care. Well maybe you would change your perspective if your innocent child was shot dead @her school. Bite the bullet! Something must change now! And not taking proactive action is no longer acceptable by those of us that have lost our loved one’s to the violence perpetrated by the lacksy daisy attitude of gun store owners, gun shows vendors & the almighty bough t & paid for NRA! If you have nothing to hide g et it done & get on with your life! And stop kicking a dead horse! We are sick of hearing the insecurities of grown men & women whining about the righ t to bear arms. What are you so afr aid of, that you won’t pass the background check????

    • CH

      You say “Something has got to be done to keep these guns out of the possession of mentally unstable people, people with felonies & a complete overhaul of the gun control archaic way of selling firearms.”

      First, the radical left wing in this country, represented by current leadership of the Democratic (uh Socialist / Communist) Party will NOT allow the exclusion of “mentally unstable” people, because it would “violate a person’s civil rights” for society to classify them as “mentally unstable” without irrefutable evidence from multiple psychiatrists.

      And people with felony convictions are quite unlikely to try to buy a gun legally. They will steal a gun, or buy it on the black market. How is it that Chicago and the State of Illinois, with the nation’s toughest gun control laws, still see rising gun violence and rapidly increasing murders with guns inside the City of Chicago? The State of California has tough gun control laws, but the 2 Islamic Terrorists in San Bernardino had an arsenal of automatic weapons. How did they get them with such tough gun control laws? Or are you recommending profiling of Muslims? Good luck with that.

    • AndrewA

      The problem is that background checks do NOT stop criminals and terrorists from acquiring whatever weapons they desire. Criminals statistically buy guns on the black market or steal them. Terrorists in other countries have been very successful in smuggling their weapons of choice (bombs and machine guns). Here, they have so far used patsies to do their bidding in acquiring weapons.

      None of those methods will be slowed or stopped with background checks.
      So, if background checks are useless at stopping criminals and terrorists from acquiring weapons, why do we put up with them at all?

    • Martin Vigesaa

      Your scenario: ” Well maybe you would change your perspective if your innocent child was shot dead @her school. .”
      You also have to look at this scenario: “Well maybe you would change your perspective if 2 of your children were shot dead because your background check delayed you from getting a gun to protect them”.

      Looking at the data, I don’t see any indication that increased background checks will be of any net benefit. I prefer starting with what both sides agree on like increased penalties for crimes committed with guns.

      • johnrlott

        My books, The War on Guns and also More Guns, Less Crime, have evidence on this point. The War on Guns covers a number of different types of crime.

    • Randy Jefferis

      I never thought that I would ever need a handgun, I only owned long guns for hunting. Things changed real quick when my next door neighbors live-in boyfriend started using meth, getting me up in the middle of the night to borrow money, and threatening my neighbor and her daughters. I decided when I turned down a tweaker I needed a firearm and also to protect my neighbor should I observe the tweaker getting agitated. I went to the gun store and had to wait 3 days to get my Glock. During those three days things escalated and I felt like I really needed that gun. I made due with an old pump shotgun. The shotgun was not the best option. Good news, the guy cleaned up his act and now seems to be doing well.

  2. William Thomas

    Dr Lott Saturday you cited a case to me when I asked about Federal authority to compel background checks on individual to individual firearms transfers. I didn’t write it down at the time. May I have the case citation again? I enjoyed your talk st DSC, very informative. Keep up the good work

    • johnrlott

      Dear William: Thanks for writing. Starting with Wickard v. Filburn in 1942 the Supreme Court has said that as long as private actions impact interstate trade the Federal government can regulate them. I don’t agree with the case law, but to change this you would need at least four more new members of the Supreme Court.