Close the Gun Show Loophole Once and For All--Nationwide!

Colorado and Oregon, like a handful of other states before them, have closed the gun show loophole. But now the time has come to close it at the Federal level. Not state by state. This is a loophole in Federal law, so it should be closed at the Federal level!

There are two proposals in Congress right now to close the gun show loophole. Please urge your member of Congress to support either of them. Below are some background materials to familiarize you with the issue, as well as answers to the opponents' arguments!

Background-What is the gun show loophole?
Licensed dealers are those who sell guns for a living and work out of some type of shop. Licensed dealers are required to conduct criminal background checks of all their customers. Everyone else who sells a gun is considered an unlicensed seller. Unlicensed sellers don't operate out of shops, and they are NOT required to conduct background checks or keep any records. Therefore it's easy for a criminal to buy a gun by buying from a private seller, particularly at a gun show, where there are so many guns being sold under one roof. That's the gun show loophole.

According top law enforcement, it's not uncommon for 25% to 50% of the gun sellers at a gun show to be unlicensed sellers.

Please be aware that most background checks are completed in less than two hours-in fact, many states have an "insta-check system" that completes most checks in less than 15 minutes.

There is no longer a 3-day waiting period-once you pass the background check, you can purchase a gun. The Federal (and some state) laws give law enforcement up to three days to complete the background check. Even though 90% are completed quickly, law enforcement sometimes needs more time-especially in cases in which the gun buyer has an arrest record but court records are not complete enough to show whether the buyer was convicted.

Closing this loophole is an important public safety issue. It's a common sense way to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and kids. According to the FBI, the Brady Law has already been successful in preventing the sale of 200,000 guns to prohibited buyers.

Closing the gun show loophole ensures that all sellers and buyers at gun shows play by the same set of rules: if you buy a gun, you'll undergo a background check, regardless of who you buy from!

Answering the opponents

Here are some of the arguments you'll hear the gun lobby use against closing the gun show loophole. I've heard them all, so I'll provide my brief responses to them all:

Criminals don't obey laws! They won't obey this one!

The fact is that we outlaw murder, and we have a death penalty. We know some people will commit murder despite those laws, but we still keep those laws. More important, the fact is that criminals will have to obey this law-they won't be allowed to buy a gun at a gun show without a background check!

Criminals don't buy their guns at gun shows.

Says who? How do you know that? Have you conducted a background check? Consider the fact that a number of criminals, like the Kehoe brothers, were frequent gun show traders. Consider that Timothy McVeigh was a frequent unlicensed seller of stolen guns at gun shows. Did the gun show operators know that he was a criminal and soon-to-be mass murderer?

Criminals will just get their guns elsewhere, if not at gun shows!

Then make them! We should make it harder for criminals to obtain a gun, not easier. We shouldn't allow them to just buy their guns in such a public place as a gun show. Maybe they'll go to the black market-but there they run the risk of getting caught by law enforcement. Right now they face few risks at gun shows.

Furthermore, think about how we treat kids and smoking. We know that kids can somehow get cigarettes. But, as a matter of public policy, we don't let them buy them in our retail stores. And the same should apply to criminals and guns.

We should be enforcing existing gun laws rather than making new ones!

We should do BOTH. This argument represents a "false choice." Who says we have to choose between the two? We need tougher enforcement of our gun laws, but we must also close loopholes in existing laws and strengthen our weak gun laws. .

Also, think of it this way: for years we have made it illegal for convicted felons to possess firearms. But how can we enforce that law if we openly let them buy guns with no background checks at gun shows? Closing the loophole is about enforcement.

This will just lead to more and more gun laws.

We are asking the gun show loophole to be closed. Nothing less, nothing more. As citizens we have a responsibility to look at the consider proposed laws that are brought before us and consider their merits. It's irresponsible to ignore the merits and benefits of a proposed law simply because someone believes "it could lead to something else."

This would attack the rights of law-abiding citizens rather than hurt criminals!

No it doesn't. A law abiding citizen is able to purchase a gun once they pass a background check.

A gun seller doesn't know who is a law abiding citizen or who is a criminal! That's why we conduct background checks. And most background checks are completed in less than an hour -a minor inconvenience.

The fact is that here in Colorado our Bureau of Investigation rejects about 800 background check requests every month, so it's clear that ineligible people ARE trying to buy guns at shops and gun shows.

People don't like to be told they can't protect themselves.

Closing the loophole doesn't take away people's guns or prevent them from protecting themselves. Again, it simply denies guns to criminals and other people who are ineligible--law abiding citizens are able to buy a gun for protection.

This will prevent people from selling guns through classified ads or from selling their own gun collection.

The proposed laws before Congress would only cover someone selling more than a certain number of guns-one bill at 50, the other at 75.

One more gun law won't make a bit of difference.

Yes, it can make a difference. That's how we make our laws in this country-one at a time. No one law will stop murder. But, combined, our laws are intended to deter crime.

I refuse to follow the fatalistic logic of the gun lobby. Saying that 'laws won't help' and 'people will always kill anyway' is a fatalistic view that essentially says "We give up. There's nothing we can do." Most of us are reasonable and don't give up so easily. We want to do all we reasonably can to protect the lives of our children and ourselves.

Closing this loophole will destroy gun shows! -or- It will put private sellers of guns out of business?

Not at all. After all, licensed dealers already conduct background checks, yet they continue to operate at gun shows. Why should it be any different for unlicensed sellers? Gun shows and private sellers are still operating in states that have closed the loophole.

We already have 20,000 gun laws, why do we need more?

A law is no good if it has a loophole in it, and this is certainly one loophole that should be closed.

If it's true that we have 20,000 gun laws, the fact remains that, despite those laws, we still have the easiest access to guns in the Free World. What are the gun lobbyists complaining about if it's so damn easy to get a gun?

The reason we have "many gun laws" is that we lack a strong, comprehensive set of federal gun laws. The gun lobby won't allow it. So, instead we have passed piecemeal laws. Also, because the federal laws are weak, , many local governments pass local gun laws. For example, many cities prohibit the firing of guns within city limits; with many of them doing so, you begin to see how the gun lobby counts "many gun laws."

Closing the loophole would not have changed what happened at Columbine!

We'll never know. The fact is that Robyn Anderson, who bought three of the guns for the Columbine killers, has testified that she would not have bought the guns if she would have had to sign her name on anything. (Maybe the killers would have just gone to someone else, but what if that person said "no" or turned them in? We'll never know!)

The fact remains that there are numerous gun shops within 10 miles of Columbine; however, the people who bought guns for the killers drove over 20 miles away to buy them from a gun show; they did so for a reason-because they could buy them anonymously from a private seller, with no accountability, no background check, no questions asked, no trace, and no paperwork. That's one of the lessons we should learn from Columbine.

But, in the end, closing the loophole is about much more than Columbine. We can't turn back the clock and prevent Columbine. But we can take some positive steps to try to prevent future tragedies by doing more to keep guns out of the jands of criminals and kids.

You can't prove how many guns are sold through this loophole.

Well, there's one thing we can agree on. Since unlicensed sellers aren't required to record their transactions, there's no way of knowing. But that's the whole point! This is a side of the gun trade that operates in the dark, out of sight.

We can't allow bureaucrats to dictate whether they will allow us to buy a gun.

A common ploy to discredit something is to blame it on "bureaucrats! But the fact is that it's our law enforcement agencies that conduct these background checks and they follow written guidelines to determine who is a criminal or is otherwise ineligible for a gun purchase. (")

Closing the loophole infringes on the Second Amendment guarantees of the right to bear arms.

Closing the loophole denies that right only to criminals, kids, and others who are ineligible to purchase a gun-felons, wife beaters, the criminally insane. Law-abiding citizens shouldn't fear a background check.

If this is an infringement on the Second Amendment, then why hasn't the NRA appealed the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban to the Supreme Court?!? They haven't done so because they know they would lose.

The NRA claims that there are 20,000 gun laws in this country; well, that's an awful lot of laws that have withstood court challenges, isn't it? The fact is that the federal Courts since 1939 have upheld reasonable gun laws and even indicated that the Second Amendment confers a right to the states, not to individuals.

In 2000 a group of 47 constitutional scholars from our country's most prestigious colleges wrote to NRA president Charlton Heston with their opinion that the Second Amendment permits broad and intensive regulation of firearms. They urged the NRA to focus on the real issue facing our country -- what sort of firearms legislation and policies will best prevent the killing and violence that plague our country?

This is an attack on private sales of guns.

No, it's just a way of ensuring that private sales at gun shows go through a background check, just like sales by licensed dealers. Nothing more, nothing less.
After all, the gun bought from a private seller can kill just the same as a gun purchased from a licensed dealer!

We just need more gun safety education, not new laws.

What would gun safety classes have done for the Columbine killers? Make them change their minds? Make them better shooters?

Of course those who use guns for sport or defense should all take a gun safety class. But there's no evidence that such classes prevent crimes or stop criminal intent. That's why we need to take strong
preventive actions, like closing the gun show loophole. Training and punishment alone aren't enough.

This is another step toward gun registration

No, this is an important step in keeping criminals from buying guns. It has nothing to do with gun registartion.

A few words about "gun registration." There is no national gun registration system. When you buy a gun, licensed dealers keep a sales records of your purchase. They keep the records, not the FBI, and they're kept by make, model and serial number, not in a file that tells someone, for example, how many guns John Doe owns. This helps law enforcement track guns used in crimes.

But law enforcement has to go to a licensed dealer to find out who purchased a certain gun. But once a gun is sold privately, after that FIRST sale, no records are kept. Therefore, very often law enforcement can't determine where a gun used in a crime was obtained or who owns it.

These laws are just an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to Columbine!

Columbine was a wake-up call for many people. But it's certainly not the only shocking killing. The U.S. has over 30,000 gun deaths every year. That's 10 times all of the world's other industrialized countries combined. An average of 10 young people are killed by guns each and every day-almost a Columbine every day! Is it a knee jerk reaction to want to reduce the loss of 30,000 lives?!? Hardly.

The emotional knee-jerk reaction actually comes from our opponents, who, whenever a gun control measure is even mentioned, scream out "They're trying to take all your rights away and will confiscate your guns!" There's simply no place for such irresponsible claims in this serious debate.

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