Earlier this week, a shootout at a Waco, Texas, bar left nine dead, 18 injured, and more than 170 arrested. The vast majority of those involved appear to be members of various rival biker gangs. More than 100 handguns were among nearly 500 weapons collected—an alarmingly high concentration of guns in the hands of a volatile population.
While we don’t yet know the origin of the guns recovered at the scene of the firefight, motorcycle gangs and other organized crime groups tend to rely heavily on trafficked guns, which are often all too easy for dangerous people to obtain through illegal means or legal loopholes:
- Corrupt Dealers: Trafficked guns most often come from licensed firearms dealers who sell inventory off the books. Strong dealer regulations like videotaping transactions and employee background checks help curb this practice.
- Straw Purchases: Felons and other people prohibited from possessing guns often engage another person—someone who can pass a background check—to execute the paperwork when purchasing a gun, which is illegal.
- Private Sales: Many states do not require a background check for the private sale of a gun, which makes it shockingly easy for prohibited people to get their hands on firearms. Universal background checks prevent dangerous people from accessing guns and save lives.
We know that guns used in crimes move from states with weak gun laws, like Texas and Arizona, to states with smart gun laws, like California and New York. Enforcing existing laws and bringing in new legislation like universal background checks will prevent dangerous people, such as those involved in organized crime, from obtaining the weapons that allow them to wreak such havoc in communities like Waco.