"Saturday night special" (SNS) is not a term for a real thing.  Gun control advocates use the term with no precise definition so that they can call any handgun they want an SNS.  And they want to call every handgun an SNS.  Because some of them have started trying to restrict on the pretense of a concern about reliability and safety, which are related to quality, they have come to call their targets "junk guns" rather than "Saturday night specials."

Although gun controllers publicly say that an SNS or "junk gun" is a small, cheap, unsafe, low quality handgun, every law they have proposed to restrict these phantom things would actually restrict many of the highest quality handguns made by the best manufacturers.  Also, none of the proposals has made price a criterion, and they would all restrict some not-so- small guns.

Although the gun control advocates say they are trying to restrict "unsafe" handguns of low quality, the criteria they have proposed have generally not been about quality or safety even though they claim so.  Their initial tries used BATF criteria (supposedly based on the federal 1968 gun control act) which they claim are about quality and safety.  But those criteria were actually designed to block import of handguns no more suitable for sporting purposes than handguns made in the U.S., and quality and safety are only part of the criteria for a handgun for sport use.  The guns the controllers are trying to ban are made for self protection, not sporting use.

In the last part of the 1998 legislative session, the proposal being pushed in California was changed to supposedly be about protecting people from low-quality, unreliable and unsafe products, although some of the requirements had no connection with quality or safety.  Purchasers of guns are already protected by the ability everyone has to sue for damages.  The firearms and ammunition industry has an association that produces independently evaluated standards.  Failure of a manufacturer to meet the applicable standards would be deemed as evidence of a quality deficiency in any suit brought against the manufacturer.  There are extremely few instances of people being injured as a result of a firearm malfunction.

This idea of billing the restrictions as being for the sake of quality and safety was carried over to the bill that was proposed in the 1999 session.  The idea was just a sham, since there was no quality or safety problem to address with a law, and proponents continued to justify the bill on the basis of eliminating "criminals' guns of choice."

The bill that finally passed during the 1999 session allows police to continue to possess the "unsafe" handguns.  Why would police want low quality, unsafe handguns?  They don't.  The gun control advocates just knew that they had to exempt the police in order to get police support for their proposals since many police would want at least some of what the gun controllers wanted to ban.

Gun control advocates say that the guns that are "the problem" are those guns made by a handful of southern California manufacturers--what the advocates call the "ring of fire."  One anti-gun "researcher" has done several studies from which he concludes that guns made by these manufacturers are disproportionately used in crime, and that people who buy the guns disproportionately have prior criminal records and disproportionately become criminals after buying the guns.

The contention of gun controllers is that something about the guns must be particularly desirable for criminals and people who will later turn to crime-- that is, that the guns they want to ban are "the criminal's weapon of choice" or, when that fails, the "weapon of choice" for some category or another of criminal.

The gun control advocates are hard pressed to explain why even a criminal would prefer an unreliable firearm.  The best they can do is claim that some criminals intend to use the gun, then throw it away, so they don't want to spend much on it.

Although a criminal who shoots someone or shoots at someone is likely to dispose of the gun, this occurs in only a small portion of crime and the huge majority of the criminals that do so can readily replace even the highest quality, most expensive of firearms.  Good guns are readily available to criminals at below retail cost because of the ease with which the black market is supplied by people who are desperate for any amount of money they can get for a stolen gun.

Also, surveys of criminals confirm what most gun owners know from understanding of firearms use:  criminals prefer the same good-quality, medium- to high-caliber handguns that law abiding gun owners prefer for defense of themselves and others against criminals.  Criminals aren't as stupid as gun control advocates.  Criminals want the gun to be effective if they use it, just as gun owners in general do.  Most any handgun is readily concealed by wearing the right clothing or carrying something like a bag.

SELECT THIS LINK for details about the deficiencies of the cases made that criminals prefer cheap handguns because the guns have some special value to them.

There is no doubt that certain categories of criminals and people who will later become criminals are more likely to buy low-cost handguns than are the general public.  However, this is only because the criminals and those who will become criminals tend strongly to have low incomes.  The criminals are not more likely to buy low-cost handguns than are other poor people.

The fact is that criminals and people who are going to be criminals tend to have low incomes and be unemployed much more than the general public.*.  It's natural that they would disproportionately buy the same handguns that other poor people buy.  Of course, the gun controller approach is to eliminate economical handguns.

What would be the effect of eliminating the cheap handguns or making them more expensive?  Whatever guns were then cheapest would be bought disproportionately by criminals and the other poor.  Some of the innocent poor would not be able to buy a gun any more.  Criminals would tend to just pay the higher prices for the tools of their trades.  Poor people would be even more at the mercy of criminals than they already are.  Crime against them would increase.  Gun control advocates would push to ban the new "weapon of choice" for some category of criminals.  The net effect is to penalize the poor because criminals are poor.

The result will be ever more victimization of the poor, not just by criminals but by our government and its knee-jerk emotion-based laws driven by hysterical, ignorant gun control advocates, until victim disarmament makes criminality so prosperous that the criminals no longer tend to have low incomes.  Then, the gun controllers will decide that criminals prefer the best guns and will go after them.  Rather than use our resources to do something about a real cause of crime, like poverty, the gun controllers prefer to sharply divide the country by trying to disarm people who know it would be disastrous.

Is the penalty for poor people significant?

It is well established that low income people are disproportionately victimized by crime.  The poor are convenient targets because the criminals tend to have low incomes and therefore live in the same neighborhoods as the poor victims.

The poor are also disproportionately unable to defend themselves.  In the early '90s, based on data from the General Social Survey, only 9.5 percent of people with incomes under $10,000 per year reported owning a handgun, while the rate was 11.4 percent for those with incomes from $10,000 to $20,000, and around 20 percent for all higher income levels.  The ownership levels drop dramatically below $20,000 per year income.  Low income severely restricts the ability of people to buy firearms already with the current handgun prices.

See more info about this study.

*Many people who become criminal do so in part because of their poverty and they tend not to be able to make much money while they are criminals.  Before their encarceration, the portion of inmates who had annual incomes of less than $5,000 was (in a '91 study) 3.0 times the portion of the general public who had income in that range.  The portion for $5,000 to $10,000 was 1.3 times the portion for the general public.  For annual incomes greater than about $13,000, the portion of criminals having those incomes was only about half of what it was for the general public.