The survey showed that 67.3 percent had experienced an attempted straw purchase in the previous year, while 42.4 percent had experienced an attempted undocumented purchase. In all, participants reported 2,051 attempted straw purchases and 2,254 attempted undocumented purchases. Pawnbrokers reported greater numbers of both. The survey also found that theft was a common occurrence; more than 25 percent of respondents reported that they had experienced theft in the previous five years.
Extrapolating from this data, Wintemute estimates that the 9,720 retailers experienced nearly 34,000 attempted straw purchases and 37,000 attempted undocumented purchases.
Generally, participants refused to complete illegal sales but only notified law enforcement or alerted other retailers 75 percent of the time. However, when asked about sentencing, retailers often specified long sentences, for both customers and retailers.
For a retailer who sold 50 weapons to traffickers, the median recommended sentence was 10 years; the median fine was $50,000. The retailers indicated they would impose the same sentences on buyers.
"The sentences they recommended were often harsher than current law," Wintemute said. "Many felt bad retailers should face stiffer sentences than customers. Also, the survey gave participants the opportunity to let their peers off the hook: if they were in a tough community or afraid for their safety. But the retailers did not do that. They laid responsibility directly on the person who committed the crime."
In addition, 59.5 percent of respondents believed that retailers who often have firearms used in a crime traced back to their store are not asking enough questions and probably know these sales are illegal.
"Even after factoring in their sales volume, a small number of retailers sold a disproportionate share of the traced guns," Wintemute said. He also suggests this minority could be a prime focus for law enfor
|Contact: Carole Gan|
University of California - Davis Health System