Last week, in a typically misleading move designed to bolster their political agenda rather than reduce violent crime, the Brady Campaign released a report calling for background checks on "all gun sales in America, including at gun shows." The Brady report was intentionally designed to correspond with, and bolster, a "gun show loophole" bill (S. 843) introduced this week by fanatical anti-gun Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In fact, the Brady report was released at the press conference Lautenberg held earlier this week.
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign, said in the group's press release, "We can do this. It will have no impact on any law-abiding gun owner in the country." Of course, that is absolutely false—the proposal will ONLY impact law-abiding gun owners, including any law-abiding person selling a firearm to a law-abiding buyer. Does Helmke really think that criminals, drug cartel members, and violent gang thugs are going to start legally purchasing firearms and submitting to a background check? Law-breakers, by definition, break the law. They are criminals; they are predatory, they operate outside of the law. You know that, we know that, Lautenberg knows that, even Helmke knows that.
Lautenberg's new bill is essentially a re-introduction of the same bill he introduced in the 110th Congress—S. 2577. And as before, S. 843 calls for massive new government powers to register gun show customers, register gun owners, retain information on people who pass criminal records checks when buying firearms, heavily tax both gun collectors and gun sales, and require gun show promoters to police gun show customers, as if they were agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The bill is not about gun shows. Rather, S. 843 is a solution in search of a problem; numerous government studies have determined that gun shows are an insignificant or miniscule source of firearms misused in crime. For instance, a 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, "Federal Firearms Offenders, 1992-98," found only 1.7% of federal prison inmates obtained their gun from a gun show. Similarly, a 1997 National Institute of Justice study reported less than 2% of criminals' guns come from gun shows.
In reality, gun shows are large, public events held in convention centers and banquet halls. But S. 843 defines "gun show" so broadly that it would include a person's home. Merely "offering" to "exchange" a firearm at an "event" could be banned. The National Matches at Camp Perry and your local gun club's Sunday trap shoot could be defined as "events" subject to the bill's provisions. Even talking about a gun at an "event" could be seen as an "offer" to sell a gun. Even if you are not a dealer, but you display a gun at a gun show, and then months later sell the gun to someone you met at the show, you would be subject to the same requirements as if you had completed the sale at the gun show. The restrictions and regulations S. 843 would impose upon real gun shows, and upon gun owners' personal activities that the bill would preposterously define as "gun shows" and "events," are unprecedented. S. 843 actually imposes restrictions on "gun show" transactions well beyond those required for firearms transactions at a gun store. And running afoul of S. 843's numerous, far-fetched provisions could send you to prison for years. Among other things, the legislation calls for:
Gun show customer registration: A person who attends a show, even without a gun, who even discusses the possibility of selling a gun, would be required to sign "a ledger with identifying information." Gun show promoters would have to retain the ledgers indefinitely for inspection by the BATFE.
Absurd requirement on gun show promoters: Because a promoter cannot know whether a person who attends his show will discuss the sale of a gun, he will have to require every customer to sign the ledger, and check every customer's identification to verify the information required on the ledger.
Invasion of privacy: In addition to records kept on gun show customers, this bill would allow the FBI to retain, for 90 days, personal information about people who clear instant checks when buying guns.
Gun collector registration: If you are at home with a collection of fifty or more firearms, it would be a five-year felony to "offer" or "exchange" a single gun -- even between family or friends -- unless you first registered with the BATFE and paid a fee, the amount of which would be at BATFE's discretion.
The real objective of this legislation is to over-regulate gun shows out of business. Rest assured we will continue to actively monitor the bill and will apprise you of any developments.