Gun rights activists split on ‘gun show loophole’
Second Amendment advocates split on expanded and more stringent federal background checks at American gun shows.
“Having the national instant criminal background checks system at gun shows is really about fairness,” said Richard L. Feldman, president of New Hampshire-based Independent Firearm Owners Association.
“It places licensed dealers and private sellers on an equal playing field,” said the former police officer. IFOA’s mission is the promotion of safe and responsible firearms ownership.
A gun show is a temporary exhibition where firearms, firearm accessories, ammunition, literature, knives, and miscellaneous collectibles are displayed, bought, sold, traded and discussed.
Federal law requires that persons engaged in dealing firearms must hold a federal license and perform background checks on all firearm purchases, however under the terms of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, individuals who only make occasional sales within their state of residence are not required to conduct background checks, nor are they required to maintain records of sale.
Yet gun show sales are just like commercial retail sales, said Feldman who is the author of “Ricochet: Confessions of a gun lobbyist” and a former staffer in the Reagan White House. “You are open for business to the public, and you do not know who you are selling the gun to.”
There is an important distinction between gun shows and other transfers, he said.
“When we make a sale to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or relative we know who we sold the gun to,” he said.
“Fixing the problem of undocumented transfers at gun shows prevents our opponents from using this issue in referendum campaigns that actually do limit private sales between people who know each other,” said the gun rights attorney.
Visionary leadership is always about maximizing benefits for gun owners and minimizing opportunities for our opponents, all while obtaining policy advantages for gun owners, he said. “I am always willing to give an apple for the orchard.”
There is a way to make a deal, he said.
“Compromise has become a dirty word amongst many pro-gun activists, but life is always about compromise,” said Feldman.
IFOA joined with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to endorse the Manchin-Toomey amendment which would have required federal background checks at all gun shows. The measure failed April 17 to receive the 60-vote requirement, which was a special threshold for the amendment agreed to by Democrats and Republicans to preclude filibusters, which also require 60 votes.
“Gun owners have sacrificed enough,” said Linda Walker, central Ohio chair of Buckeye Firearms Association. BFA is a grassroots political action committee dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms.
Closing the so-called gun show loophole will not prevent violent crime, she said. “Facts show that less than 1 percent of firearms purchased at gun shows are used in a commission of a crime.”
Legislators have been passing gun control for decades, she said. “There are thousands of gun laws on the books across the United States that are not being enforced.”
The common thread of many, if not all mass killings involving firearms is mental health, she said. “Clearly, we are dealing with insane people.”
State laws that provide for data collection concerning the mentally ill is one way to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands, said Walker, who is also a National Rifle Association board member. “We must insure that the states are enforcing their mental health laws already on the books.”
Another way to stay safe is by being properly armed and trained, she said.
In conjunction with the Tactical Defense Institute, BFA has developed a three-day active killer curriculum for school teachers and other employees to train them to be proficient in firearm use, she said. “Fifteen-hundred school professionals have signed up.”
As long as the school employee has permission from the school board to carry their firearm at the school premises, they have the opportunity to train with BFA at no cost, said the NRA-certified instructor. “So far we have trained 24 school employees and we are bringing six more classes this summer bring the numbers trained to over 168.”
New Hampshire Chief of Police Michael J. Sielicki and board member of IFOA said,” With today’s technology, it is quick and simple to conduct a background check at gun shows.”
The chief said, “A national check only takes a couple of minutes.”
This is an ideal way to prevent violent felons and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms, he said. “Background checks are easy, painless, effective, and smart.”
Melody D. Burns, a grassroots activist and radio host from Albany, N.Y., said, “We should not be compromising at all.”
Each time we make a concession to the anti-gunners, we give away our Second Amendment rights, she said. “Our opposition gives us nothing.”
Law-abiding, tax paying Americans compromise all the time, said the NRA and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association member. “We sat back while politicians created laws that penalize innocent people.”
Criminals do not pay attention to the law, she said. “Do something about criminals, instead of taking away rights from law-abiding citizens.”