Virginia Firearms Trafficking Research Update

Hey guys,

I have now attended two gun shows, one in Chantilly–the Nation’s Gun Show– and one in Harrisonburg. Both shows were great learning experiences in their own right. The Chantilly gun show was a bit intimidating, as I had not yet had direct contact with any firearms dealers and had never been to a gun show before. Needless to say, it was definitely a bit of a culture shock, but I think I can honestly say that I jumped right in and did my best to test out my first two surveys there. It took me 3 hours to get 10 dealers with FFLs (Federal Firearms Licenses) to answer the two short surveys that I had prepared. The dealers did NOT receive the surveys well and many wrote notes about how the questions could be improved (as well as made other less polite remarks). After the show, I took to the drawing board and read a well written article about Political Science survey writing and watched some videos about good survey writing.

This left me in a much better place to redraft and compile the survey questions into one shorter survey for the Harrisonburg show last weekend. That show went much smoother. It was a smaller show, so there were less tables, and I already knew many of the dealers there. They remembered me and were much more willing to answer my questions. The survey was received with less complaints. At this point, I am contemplating emailing the revised surveys out to as many FFLs as I can via GunBrokers.com, a database of all of the licensed dealers in Virginia, but I’m not sure that the questions are quite good enough to do so yet.

My goal with the surveys is to make them as non-biased as possible (obviously a critical element of any survey research) but still have them relate to relevant, research-backed policies that might reduce firearms trafficking out of a locality. I want the dealers to consider how each policy/regulation/practice might impact their own sales, and the scale on my survey is a 5 point meter, ranging from “Very Negative” to “Very Positive.” At this point, it is difficult to see many overarching trends in the data, since I really only have 9 respondents, since the Chantilly surveys were edited. These respondents will most likely be a test sample that will not be included in any final data sets for my thesis (if I get enough respondents to run a real quantitative study). One potential trend in answers is a general feeling that any new laws/regulations would not impact dealers’ sales at all. That being said, I have heard such a range of information, many times conflicting, depending on who I talk to, that I’m not sure that survey questions could every capture the complexity of this market. It is simply overflowing with ideology and paperwork.

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