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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Gun Show Loophole"



Published December 28 2008

Local view: Firearms prohibitionists take their meddling to people’s living rooms

By: Russ Stewart , Duluth News Tribune

A week before Minnesota’s firearm deer season I visited my 86-year-old father. He regaled me with an entertaining stream of tales from his 70 years as a deer hunter in the north woods. He lamented his failing eyesight and then rose from his ancient recliner and went to the closet where he keeps his guns. He took out a battered old case and handed it me. “I want you to have this.”

I knew what was inside. A Savage model 219 single-shot 30-30 rifle. My father bought it in 1944 for $12. It’s well worn after more than 60 years of hard use. It was an honor to be given such an heirloom. Over the past few years my father has passed on most of his modest collection of firearms to his children and grandchildren. It is his way of passing on our family’s heritage.

However, if some people had their way, my father would be a felon the next time he passed on a firearm to a family member. These people complain about a so-called “gun show loophole,” which, if you were to accept the rhetoric of firearm prohibitionists, is responsible for an endless stream of death and carnage.

In truth, attempts to close the “loophole” are really attacks on cherished freedoms that have been quietly enjoyed by millions of Americans since the founding of our nation. With the exception of those unfortunate residents of a few nanny-states, citizens of the U.S. always have been able to gift, buy, sell and trade firearms without the interference of government.

But if people like Duluth’s Joan Peterson, a member of the national board of trustees of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (and the author of the Dec. 9 Local View commentary, “ ‘Gun show loophole,’ still open in Minnesota, must be closed”) are able to enact their legislative agenda, this liberty will be extinguished. The sad part is that if they are successful, crime rates would be unaffected. It is well established that only a tiny fraction of guns used to commit crimes come from gun shows. But that doesn’t stop the prohibitionists from scaring people with exaggerated stories.

Peterson wrote that we need to pass a law to “require unlicensed sellers to perform background checks on buyers at gun shows and other venues.” What she didn’t write was that these “other venues” include my father’s living room. The proposed legislation requires a background check for every private firearm bought, sold or gifted. So when Peterson claimed the proposed law “wouldn’t change anything for law-abiding citizens,” she was simply wrong.

Another thing firearm prohibitionists won’t tell you is that in order for a universal background check system to be effective, every gun would need to be registered with the government.

There are those who would take offense at my use of the term “prohibitionist” to describe members of groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Northland Million Moms, but actions speak louder than words. While speaking of “reasonable gun laws,” they advocate a program of incremental prohibition of private firearm ownership.

Our nation already has more than 20,000 laws relating to firearms, and 99 percent of them are an affront to liberty. As new laws are introduced in response to Brady Campaign scare tactics, I am reminded of the words of Ben Franklin: “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”

I’ve got news for the prohibitionists of the world. My father won’t give up his freedom to pass on his legacy without government interference — and neither will I, nor will my family, nor my friends. Nor will millions of other freedom-loving citizens. The passage of a new set of gun-control laws would simply create a new class of felons out of formerly law-abiding citizens.

And that may have a set of unintended consequences all its own.


RUSS STEWART of Duluth served two terms on the City Council and is a professor at Lake Superior College.

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