I’m bothered by the so-called “gun show loophole.”
According to an article at about.com (http://civilliberty.about.com/od/guncontrol/a/Gun-Shows.htm): “In 33 states, private gun owners are not restricted from selling guns at gun shows. Buyers who purchase guns from individuals are not required to submit to the federal background checks in place for licensed dealers.”
What this means is that if Joe or Jane-Q-Public attend a gun show with one or more guns to sell, he or she is free to sell those weapons without performing the required background checks that vendors with a Federal Firearms License are required to perform.
Gun control opponents argue that, in practice, the gun show loophole doesn’t truly exist.
In claiming that the gun control loophole is a myth, Tom Knighton of unitedliberty.org writes: “What spurred the discussion of a loophole is that often times, a regular guy will take a gun to a gun show in hopes of selling or trading it for another gun. I’ve seen FFL holders purchase these guns, then turn around and sell them a few hours later. However, there is nothing to stop that same guy from selling that gun to me instead.”
Knighton continues, “Because the seller isn’t an FFL holder, he’s not required to run any kind of background check on me. This is what people are referring to as the gun show loophole. So why is it not? Well, to start with, it’s no different than a face to face purchase by a couple of guys. It just happens to occur at a gun show.”
Knighton’s argument, however, is flawed on two levels.
First, it overlooks the fact that the gun show loophole actually extends beyond gun shows.
Consider the case of Jitka Vesel, a 36-year-old Czech Republic immigrant gunned down by a former boyfriend in April 2011.
According toguardian.co.uk, Vesel’s killer, Demetry Smirnov, was a Russian immigrant who purchased his gun from a “private seller” (the legal term for vendors not required to conduct background checks) on the website armslist.com.
Although the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit against armslist.com last month on behalf of Vesel’s killer, the website isn’t legally culpable because it merely connected buyer and seller.
More, although the private seller in the Vesel case violated federal law by selling to a foreigner (private sellers are also prohibited from selling to anyone they know wouldn’t pass a background check), one can easily see that Smirnov’s purchase wasn’t quite so innocuous as a “face to face purchase by a couple of guys.”
There was, in fact, no face-to-face interaction involved in the Smirnov purchase.
The Guardian adds, “At least 4,000 [web]sites engage in weapons sales in the US,” meaning these sites are helping to link thousands of private sellers with prospective buyers across the country — no face-to-face interaction or previous affiliation required.
You can bet, too, that the seller in the Vesel case isn’t the only one not bothering with troublesome issues such as whether the buyer is a foreigner or would pass a background check. And though the seller in the Vesel case has been sentenced to 12 months in federal prison, how many other illegal private-seller transactions won’t be uncovered until the weapons are used in a crime?
Also consider an undercover investigation conducted last year by the gun-control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG is founded and headed by NYC and Boston Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, respectively).
According to both the Guardian article cited above and to the MAIG website (prtl-sitea-maigs.nyc.gov), in that investigation, MAIG sent undercover investigators to seven gun shows in three states. The investigators were able to purchase numerous guns and hi-capacity magazines despite, in many instances, telling the sellers they likely couldn’t pass a background check.
Of the findings in that investigation, the MAIG website states:
“— 35 out of 47 sellers approached by undercover investigators at these gun shows completed sales to people who appeared to be criminals or straw purchasers.”
“— 19 out of 30 private sellers broke the law by completing a sale to a buyer who they thought could not pass a background check.”
“— 16 out of 17 licensed dealers approached by investigators at gun shows were willing to sell to someone who appeared to be a straw purchaser (a straw purchaser is one who legally buys a gun on behalf of someone who couldn’t pass a background check or otherwise legally purchase a gun. A straw purchase is a felony).”
Moreover, according to Gregg Lee Carter’s book “Guns In American Society: An Encyclopedia,” a sizable list of police organizations support “past and present legislative efforts to control guns,” including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Troopers’ Coalition, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations.
I can think of no one better informed on gun-related issues and laws than the men and women who patrol and protect America’s streets day and night.
And despite the already sizable length of this piece, I could continue for pages and pages. On its surface, the issue seems very complicated.
Hardly anyone will disagree, however, that we, as a society, must do a better job of keeping guns — especially semi- and fully-automatic ones — out of the hands of criminals and of the mentally ill.
With more than 300 million handguns, rifles and shotguns (www.csmonitor.com) currently owned by Americans (translating into roughly 88.8 guns for every 100 people as of 2007), what better way to begin curbing senseless gun violence in this country than to start with taking the most dangerous, unnecessary weapons out of circulation?
Yes, I know, some will argue there are plenty of law-abiding Americans who are perfectly capable of responsibly handling a Bushmaster .223 (the civilian version of an AK-47 and the weapon used in the Newtown massacre).
But I ask you, what price for the freedom to own such weapons? And as Adam Lanza demonstrated Dec. 14, not everyone who gets hold of these weapons will be properly trained in their use or capable of using them responsibly.
Perhaps it’s me who’s thinking about this from the wrong perspective. So I ask you Decatur County, tell me what I’m missing. Why do we need these assault weapons available to the general public? Why is the “gun show loophole” necessary? Why do we need more than 300 million guns in the US civilian population, including semi- and fully-automatic assault weapons?
I welcome any and all to email me your differing opinions or your reasons for agreeing. In the final analysis, what I’m looking for are constructive, realistic solutions for keeping guns out of the hands of evil people like Adam Lanza. I’m looking for meaningful, real-world ways to keep our children safe — yours and mine.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.