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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Prosecuting Background Check and Straw Purchase Violations Depends on State Laws

A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that prosecutions in Pennsylvania for violating the state’s straw purchase law increased by nearly 16 times following the 2012 passage of a law requiring a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for individuals convicted of multiple straw purchase violations.  So-called straw purchases involve a prohibited person, such as someone with a criminal record, enlisting the aid of another person to buy the firearm on their behalf.

In Maryland, prosecutions for background check violations decreased by nearly half following the 2006 Chow v. State of Maryland decision that concluded that temporary gratuitous loans of firearms, where no money changed hands, were not ‘transfers.’ Following this decision, state prosecutors had to prove that a firearm recovered from someone other than the registered purchaser had been permanently transferred, not merely loaned.

This new research, published online in Injury Prevention, was a collaboration between researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which is based at the Bloomberg School, and the University of California, Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. It is believed to be the first study to assess enforcement of state laws related to the private transfer of firearms.

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