First, it's important to note that both gun violence and crime, in general, are at historic lows. Low enough that gun control shouldn't even be discussed, simply because crime rates are lower than they have been in a long, long time. That said, conservatives believe gun control won't happen in the U.S. for several reasons. The primary argument is that criminals are often the ones who engage in gun violence, and things like background checks won't stop them.
There are so many misunderstandings that it’s hard to know where to begin. For one, we need to remember that we've have had a remarkable decrease in violent crime and gun crime in the U.S. since the early 1990s, even though the number of firearms has increased by about 10 million every year. There’s no simple correspondence between the number of firearms in private hands and the amount of gun crime, and I often find it somewhat strange that there seems to be a perception that things are worse than ever when, in reality, things are really better than they’ve been for decades.
Studies have found criminals sidestep the legal process to buy guns through black markets and social connections. That means there's an entirely separate pool of guns and markets that fuel crime. Things like universal background checks or gun bans won't do anything to address the criminal use of guns. It will only make it harder for law-abiding citizens to get guns.
These ideas, while important, do not address the core of the gun-violence problem: male-on-male acts of aggression, largely by men with criminal records, sometimes quite extensive ones. Few career criminals get their guns from licensed dealers, where a background check would be run and records kept.
Inmate surveys indicate that criminals overwhelmingly get their guns through social connections instead. A recent study of 99 criminals facing weapons charges in the Chicago area revealed why they were more likely to have acquired guns through social connections than in private deals with strangers. Illicit gun sellers avoid doing business with strangers because they worry about being caught in a sting operation; buyers, meanwhile, are fearful of being sold a gun that has been used in a crime. Most of the guns that criminals use are old and change hands repeatedly, sometimes being borrowed rather than sold. However, legally purchased guns often quickly make their way to criminals; several inmates reported that gun suppliers bought weapons in stores, reported them stolen, and resold them.
Others argue even if universal background checks were implemented, it'd be a waste of time. Any major roadblocks to gun ownership would eventually create a black market for guns. That's just the world we live in. People who want guns enough will get their hands on guns. Time and time again, we see prohibition doesn't work, no matter how tough the penalties are. Some experts say there are better ways to reduce gun violence than gun control.
I think we need to work on law enforcement strategies aiming at the people who are most likely to commit gun crimes, so we’re looking at drug dealers, gang members, people who have engaged in violent crime in the past, and the areas in which they operate. We should also draw a line in the sand—a serious red line—that if you commit a gun crime, you’re going to do a lot of prison time. That policy is uncontroversial and we can work off that consensus.
Besides, there's the Second Amendment. Many people believe it's a constitutional right to own a gun. Period. Any law that encroaches on that right, no matter how well-intentioned it is, is fundamentally wrong. Guns are a part of this nation's foundation. The U.S. was created by an armed citizenry which overthrew a tyrannical government for their own self-determination. The Supreme Court upheld this right in "District of Columbia v. Heller," where it found individuals have a right to possess firearms, including for self-defense in the home. No gun control legislation can contradict that.