By Paul Helmke
Let me explain.
It was about this time eight years ago when two depraved and calculating killers began terrorizing Washington, D.C. and its suburbs from the trunk of a Chevrolet Caprice by randomly and ruthlessly gunning down men, women, and children. They became known as the D.C. (or Beltway) Snipers. When their bloody spree ended weeks later they had killed 10 people, injured six — including then-13-year-old Iran Brown — and left millions in the region psychically scarred.
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The Bushmaster assault rifle that Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, used to attack was later discovered to have been “missing” from the Seattle-area Bull’s Eye Shooter’s Supply. However, the shop never reported it missing or stolen.
Thanks to the Legal Action Project lawyers at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who brought a lawsuit on behalf of the victims, Bull’s Eye paid $2 million to the families of those killed by the snipers. Bull’s Eye’s long history of corrupt gun dealing was exposed, and its owner, Brian Borgelt, lost his license.
Yet Borgelt is exactly the kind of gun dealer that the NRA is campaigning to further protect with its so-called “Reform and Modernization Act” for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) (H.R. 2296 and S.R. 941). This legislation would gut commonsense gun laws and policies designed to close down corrupt gun dealers — the very dealers who supply guns to criminals– and further weaken the ATF’s ability to fight gun crime.
The NRA lobbyists have persuaded the Senate to hold a hearing on this bill Tuesday, September 14, and hopes to persuade the House to hold a hearing September 21. With all the challenges facing the country, and with only a few days left before Congress adjourns to campaign, spending time on this legislation is a bad idea, and a dangerous one, too!
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Each time Wayne LaPierre and the NRA bosses are asked about their objections to strengthening, or enacting new, commonsense gun regulations, they evade the question and shoot back, “We should enforce the laws on the books.”
But once, again, the truth has been revealed. The NRA bosses don’t care about enforcing existing gun laws and they don’t care about helping law enforcement stem the tide of blood flowing from violent drug dealers, gangs, felons, or assault-rifle-wielding snipers.
Indeed, the NRA bosses keep proving that they are the best friends of crooked gun dealers, such as Brian Borgelt, and are even closer with shady Sandy Abrams. An NRA board member until the wave of bad publicity and legal investigations drove him out, Abrams was cited by the ATF for more than 900 federal gun law violations at his Valley Gun store in Baltimore.
Coined “Death Valley” by the Brady Center, it ranked in the top 40 among 80,000 gun shops for supplying guns used in crimes. Guns from his store were linked to 483 crimes, including 41 shootings and 11 homicides. One gun was used to shoot and kill a police officer.
If these bills get hearings and eventually pass, they would devastate the ATF’s ability to protect our communities and families from gun dealers who sell guns into the illegal market.
Specifically, the bills would:
1. Cripple the ATF’s ability to shut down crooked gun dealers. Before the ATF could revoke a crooked dealer’s license and put him out of business, ATF would have to show that the dealer not only violated the law, but had the specific intent to break the specific law. This is an almost impossible standard of proof for law enforcement to meet.
2. Prohibit ATF from revoking licenses of gun dealers who commit many dangerous crimes, for instance, allowing hundreds of guns to “disappear” from their inventory with no record of sale.
3. Cap fines at extremely low levels for violations found during an inspection of a gun dealer. For example, a dealer with 900 federal gun law violations could face a maximum fine of less than $8.50 per violation.
4. Allow most dealers who violate gun laws to continue selling guns for 60 days after their licenses are revoked, even if they had committed willful violations of federal law.
Call or e-mail your congressional representative today, as well as the members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, and tell them to kill this corrupt gun dealer protection act. Tell them to protect our communities and families from the next would-be snipers and gun criminals, and please, tell them now.