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The Layman’s Guide to Black Market Firearms

by Curt Bolding
Copyright 2000

Curt Bolding is a 16 year police veteran with experience spanning four jurisdictions in Illinois.  Still active in his chosen profession, he currently serves as both a street officer and as a Control and Arrest Tactics instructor.

Everybody’s heard the term “black market.”  Most of us have a pretty good general idea what that means, but many may be unaware of the causes of a black market and the eventual cost of allowing its existence.  Especially when it comes to the subject of guns.

Everybody remembers prohibition, although most of us only remember reading about it.  What happened there was that the powers that be decided that alcohol was no longer a good thing, so they outlawed it.  Problem was, there were too many people who still wanted their booze.  This sounds suspiciously like the way America is supposed to work, doesn’t it?  If the majority of the people want something, it’s supposed to be legal, right?  Well, not always, as we’ll see in a minute.

Now, as you may have noticed from my by-line, I’m a cop.  Been one for a long time.  As such, I tend to dislike criminals (rather intensely).  I mean REAL criminals, not the guy or gal who missed the traffic light.  No, I’m talking about the people who are doing things to purposely hurt other people and profit from it.  So let’s talk about profit for a minute. 

We’re going to talk about guns eventually, too, so bear with me.

Back during prohibition, obviously, there were a lot of people who still wanted alcohol.  And there were plenty of other people who were enterprising enough to provide it for them.  The way was wide open for the speak-easies and….  you guessed it, a black market.  Now then:  providing alcohol was obviously illegal, which means getting caught and convicted carries penalties, financial for sure and maybe even doing time.  So why risk it?  Because people want it so bad that they’re willing to pay more for it than they did when it legal.  Also, now that it’s illegal, there are fewer places to get it, so the provider has a LOT of customers.  So now we also have the fact that there’s a ton of money to be made by our individuals who are both enterprising enough to pull this off and ingenious enough to operate without being caught very often.  This sounds suspiciously like the way the drug trade works, doesn’t it?  That’s because this IS the way the drug trade works.  The reason that highly organized smuggling operations continue to abound is that there is an unbelievable profit to be made.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.

Everybody knows what smuggling is.  People bring stuff in somewhere they’re not supposed to.  Kind of like those two beers you had in your pocket or purse last ballgame you went to.  But now we’re talking about tons of cocaine, for which the bad guys make ungodly amounts of money with every shipment that gets in.  They make so much money that they can afford boats, planes, and every other thing you can conceive to get the stuff into the country, in elaborate ways to avoid detection.  There are a series of supervisory levels between the top guys in the cartel and the distributors on the street.  That’s why the lower level guys are the ones who get caught and the top guys almost never are.  That’s why we make a big bust every so often and the papers report it’s the biggest single cocaine bust in history or whatever, and a week later the same operation is still functioning, but now they have a different way to bring the stuff in and it’s back to square one for the cops and what’s changed?  Nothing, that’s what.  Six or eight dirtbags get jail time and the top guys are still rich.

Now, finally….. what’s this got to do with guns?

There are a lot of people right now pushing “common sense gun legislation.”  The gals behind the Million Mom March, God bless ‘em, have their hearts in the right place - but not their heads.  Their “solutions” are a waste of time, because they can’t work.  There are several thousand gun laws in place in this country already, but the problem isn’t how many laws there are---it’s whether or not they’re enforced.  Every day in this country people commit violent crimes while carrying firearms, and they’re arrested by good cops for it.  It’s what happens AFTER that where the problem comes in.  Ever heard of plea bargaining?  If I charge a guy with five charges, he might plead guilty to ONE of them in order to get the others dropped.  Easy conviction, no lengthy and expensive trial, and maybe we get a couple other cases cleared.

Speaking of money, that’s the magic word whenever you’re trying to figure out how the world works (or doesn’t work).  Look at any given situation that you don’t understand, figure out who could conceivably make money off it, and suddenly the light goes on.  The drug cartels don’t WANT drugs legal.  If that happens, all that black market cash goes out of their pockets and into the government’s, who will now tax and regulate the stuff.  Just like they do with booze.  Which might also make you wonder if there might not be some politicians getting their pockets lined with cartel money to make sure drugs STAY illegal.  Nah.  Couldn’t happen.  This is America.

So, after all that, to the gun issue.  Ladies and Gentlemen of America, people are always going to have guns available to them, no matter what.  Always.  Without fail.  If it becomes illegal or too difficult and expensive for a law-abiding citizen to own a firearm because of all the hoops he’s got to jump through, guess what he’s going to do?  He’s going to go down to the corner and talk to Mickey the Mope, who can get him a gun and avoid all that legal red tape.  And it may cost Mr. Citizen a few more bucks, but if the legal method is just too much of a pain in the ass, or if he wants it bad enough, that’s the route he’s going to take.  This is not a hypothetical, or a theory.  It’s happening right now.  In Illinois, if you’re a convicted felon, you’re not supposed to be able to own a gun.  Guess how many of them do.  That’s right.  There is already a black market for firearms, and further gun legislation will accomplish nothing but make the criminals richer.  It works with exactly the same success that the drug trade has.  Incidentally, I hope no one reading this is naïve enough to think that we’re actually WINNING the “war against drugs.” 

Yes, every day, firearms are smuggled into this country (and OUT of it, by the way).  And the more we try to limit people’s access to guns or anything else, the more money goes into the pockets of criminals, because they have figured out how to make money off the situation because there are SO many people who want these particular services. 

Just how much possibility is there that we can eliminate a black market?   Just how much is it worth to the criminals to maintain this situation?  Well, I’ll put it in real simple terms.  Everybody’s heard the news stories about the problems and gunfights and all that we’ve had with the drug dealers.  Now just think about THIS for a minute:

These criminals are receiving SO MUCH in return from their illegal activities that they are willing to ENGAGE IN ARMED CONFRONTATIONS WITH TRAINED POLICE OFFICERS IN ORDER TO CONTINUE THEIR ACTIVITIES.

Read that last sentence again.  Now ask yourself:  how much would it be worth to each one of you to engage in activity that would put you in a situation where you’d be willing to enter a firefight with the police?  It’d have to be a helluva lot.

So here’s the bottom line on what you need to know about the black market.  If enough people want an item or a service and are willing to pay for it, other people are going to provide it whether it’s legal or not.  Drugs, gambling, prostitution, you name it.  Those things have been around since before recorded history, by the way, they’re with us still, and they always will be because there are enough people who want those services that the cash rewards are worth it to the criminals. 

Personal and parental responsibility is the only way to reduce firearm-related tragedy.   Ladies and Gentlemen of America:  Do you love your children?  If the firearm issue is an important one to you, then the best thing you can ever do will be to take a gun safety course with your child.  When you’re dealing with something like a weapon, your best course is to obtain knowledge and understanding, not trying to make the problem magically go away by passing meaningless laws that aren’t prosecuted.  Talk to your local State’s Attorneys and make it clear to them that you want gun-related crime like armed robberies and the like prosecuted to the fullest extent. 

Adding more laws that don’t work to the already existing thousands that are not enforced is like smoke in the wind.  Our children are too precious to waste any more time on “solutions” that don’t work.

Disclaimer:  The above expressed opinion is solely that of the author, and not any other organization or entity.  The author assumes no responsibility for the improper use or misuse of this information, nor for the questionable disappearance of any doughnuts left unattended in the author’s immediate vicinity.


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