The question of an illegal straw purchase was broached with a different, much smaller sample:
The researchers also made 20 follow-up calls to randomly chosen dealers and said they needed to buy guns for girlfriends or boyfriends because they were not "allowed to."
In 16 of those cases, or 80 percent, the dealers responded with unequivocal "nos," indicating that the purchases would clearly be illegal. In the remaining four cases, the dealers agreed to sell the guns, even though they indicated that they knew that would be illegal, the researchers said.
In other words, the percentage in the headline for "Dealers Willing to Sell Handguns Illegally" was off by a factor of two and a half, and that's assuming the sample of 20 dealers adequately represented gun retailers nationwide.
The original study from UCLA doesn't make the headline's claim, but the abstract can easily leave one with that impression. It does make the statement "Most dealers were willing to sell a handgun regardless of the end user", but one has to go digging to find out that in most cases, the dealer was being asked if they'd make a legal sale. Only a small percentage were asked about blatantly illegal sales. And of those, most in the small sample said "no".
Of course, one can brush off the Times as being only a little more reliable than the World Weekly News. When they start reporting on Bat Boy, let me know. I am, however, disappointed with the study's primary author, Susan Sorenson. I know Dr. Sorenson. And while we may not agree on firearms policy, I would have hoped for better. The study is sloppy and the results misleading. The study compared dealer behavior across jurisdictions. What's shady for one dealer may be perfectly legal for another. And in most cases, the dealers were asked if they would be willing to make legal transactions. (What a shocker; they were willing to do so!) Larger samples chosen on a per jurisdiction basis would have been revealing. Also, though I don't know what difference this would make, the study limited calls to dealers in large cities with more than 10 dealers. Los Angeles is mentioned as just such a large city, but there aren't 10 dealers in the city limits. Thus L.A. dealers should have been excluded. Should the handful of dealers in the nation's 2nd largest city have been included? Perhaps so, but the paper doesn't make it clear if they were or weren't.
All in all, the study confirms that gun dealers are willing to sell guns. Some, though we cannot say with any confidence how many, will sell guns illegally. In the same fashion, we can also guess that tobacco dealers will sell cigarettes; and that some small percentage will sell to minors. In short, some part of any population, like the population of gun dealers or tobacco dealers, will break the law. Most, however, do not. The study's claim that a Federal gun registry would solve the problem is unwarranted. Tracking transactions between law-abiding parties will not do anything to affect the behavior of those who break the law.