Close the Gunshow Hoopla


    It virtually shouts like a screaming child every time I log on to Blue Virginia:

    “CLOSE THE GUNSHOW LOOPHOLE ACT NOW ” — it demands ,in bold white and red, from the top of the right hand margin.

    “This loophole,” it whines, “has resulted in countless shootings, including those at Columbine and the recent shooting of Pentagon police officers.”

    “Countless shootings?” Countlessness has a count, apparently: a click will route one to a page where “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” (MAIG) professes that 30% of illegally trafficked guns are “connected” to gun shows — a statistic we supposedly should keep in mind as we solemnly commemorate Columbine and Virginia Tech. .”

    More below the fold!

    Why do MAIG’s shrill internet ads so annoy? Its not because there isn’t a case to be made for the “loophole’s” closure: the majority of gun sales at gun shows already go through the “instant check” system. A modest law that would encourage private sellers on gun show premises to use such a system would not necessarily seriously burden the gun market and could do some modest good.

    But the emphasis of such loophole proposals-and their anticipated results–should be on “modest:” According to the largest study conducted by the federal government, only a very small percentage of prison inmates — 0.7% — got their guns from gun shows. Moreover, not one of the shootings cited by MAIG turn out to be caused by the gun show loophole: Virginia Tech’s Cho passed his background check before he got his guns through a gun store; the Columbine killer’s guns (mostly) came from a straw purchaser. The Pentagon shooter – John Patrick Bedell – no one knows where he got his guns. Some of these guns passed through a gun show at some point, and so can be “connected” by MAIG to gun shows – in support of their “statistics” and dishonest claims. But insofar as anyone knows, not one of these criminals got their guns from gun shows and not one shooting would have been stopped by a “gun show loophole” bill.

    Not one shooting prevented – and very little in the way of honest data — from MAIG. It’s the kind of thing one comes to expect from “Consumers for Competitive Choice,” “Conservatives for Patient Rights,” the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Rifle Association: the moneyed interests that assault our intelligence every day with ads big on imagery and small on facts. But increasingly, it’s also the kind of thing one comes to expect from … well … from people like those behind the MAIG campaign– Michael Bloomburg, the former republican Wall Street maven; Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for Senator from Illinois; Paul Helmke, formerly Republican mayor, now director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence; and Frank Luntz, Republican Pollster and author of a recent “Word Doctors” White Paper on how to sell gun control to the American people.

    And as one might expect, the legislation now being peddled contains many surprises:  H.R. 2324 and S. 843 would define many people who bring a gun to show for sale as “vendors” and require them to sign a ledger open to inspection by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).  Many would refuse to do so, and gun show attendance would plummet. One of the bills would require the names of every such “vendor” to be disclosed to the Attorney General no later than 30 days in advance of the show — an impossibility. All gun shows would have to have to register and pay an unspecified fee to the BATFE. BATFE would be permitted to conduct warrantless inspections of all records of licensed firearm dealers while dealers are at shows to conduct business.

    Now if one is of the opinion that there should be no such thing as private gun sales, or gun shows, or that all private gun sales should be registered with the government, such provisions probably cause little distress. For example, Sen. Carl Levin was recently on senate floor promoting S. 843 because he believes background checks should be required for all private gun transactions, which he claims, account for 40% of all gun sales. Gun control supporters propose requiring all private transactions to be checked with the government — and for the government to hold the records of these checks indefinitely — because they support the use of “loophole” legislation as a back door to general gun registration, and eventually, confiscatory policies.

    Levin, at least, is honest about his intentions. But gun owners, and most American people, don’t want the government to register or remove their guns or control every private gun transfer. We are as sick of the lies and hidden agendas from Bloomburg, Helmke, Luntz et cetera, as we are from their equally demagogic counterparts.

    So what will it be? Screaming blogads or modest claims in support of a modest – and doable — proposal?  


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