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Saturday, January 31, 2009

KTN-Virginia lawmakers should reject gun show legislation

This is why I subscribe to the Kingsport Times News and not that Bristol paper. From the Editorial page at KTN.

A Virginia Senate committee has passed along for full Senate vote a bill requiring “private dealers” at gun shows to perform background checks on buyers. Advocates contend the bill closes a loophole in state law, but this bill will do nothing to make Virginians safer from gun crime.

It also happens to be blatantly unconstitutional.

A licensed firearms dealer has to conduct exactly the same background check at a gun show as in his primary business location. Private sales at gun shows are protected under the Second Amendment, which explicitly permits the sale or trade of weapons in a face-to-face transaction. And that’s as it should be.

The ability of individuals to privately sell that extra 12-gauge they inherited from Grandpa to a fellow hunter is perfectly harmless. And through the years literally millions of guns have been bought and traded in this fashion.

Indeed, some abuse this protection, and the volume of their private firearms sales marks them as gun dealers in all but name. Anyone selling dozens of guns at a time is a dealer and should be licensed. Likely, these individuals are not only violating state and federal firearms laws, but also failing to report their income.

Licensed gun dealers can provide a real service if they see these private sellers in show after show by reporting them to the proper authorities. After all, they have a direct economic interest in stopping such questionable transactions.

Similarly, there’s nothing to stop the attorney general or commonwealth’s attorneys from investigating private firearms sellers who appear repeatedly at gun shows. These considerations aside, the faith that advocates have in the efficacy of background checks is puzzling, if not seriously misplaced.

In the wake of the Cho Seung Hui rampage at Virginia Tech in 2007 that claimed 32 victims, the FBI reported Virginia led the nation in the number of mental health records it shared with that agency. Records showed at the time Cho committed his crime, the commonwealth had provided approximately 80,500 of the 165,800 such records held by the FBI. Red-faced officials explained that the failure to identify Cho was an oversight.

No matter what euphemism proponents of this legislation use, the protections afforded private citizens by the Second Amendment cannot fairly be characterized as a loophole. Even if this law passes, it will be successfully challenged and ultimately overturned on constitutional grounds.

Legal hurdles aside, logic also reveals that if filling out a background check reliably prevented homicidal maniacs from gaining firearms, Cho Seung-Hui’s victims would be alive today. But then, Cho didn’t obtain his weapons from a private individual at a gun show.

He bought them from a licensed gun dealer in a transaction that perfectly comported with federal law.

Closing the so-called gun show loophole is as unnecessary as it is unconstitutional. Passing such a law would foster the false impression that the average Virginian was safer merely because a new database of private gun sales exists.

Virginia lawmakers should resist the public pressure to do the expedient thing and reject this bill.

Well said. The loophole is a myth and "Closing the so-called gun show loophole is as unnecessary as it is unconstitutional." pretty well sums it up.

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