Anti-Gun Groups Seize on New 'Loophole'

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Grassroots gun-control groups are banding together in an attempt to ban the sale of private property -- in this case, guns -- between individuals. They want to close what they call the "gun ad loophole."

The coalition of gun control groups - which calls itself the National Campaign to Close the Newspaper Gun Ad Loophole -- plans to release a study on Thursday, showing that newspaper classified ads are a "potential source of guns ...for terrorists, criminals, and the mentally ill."

In a press release, the National Campaign said, "Sales through classified ads allow individuals to avoid going through a criminal background check in most states."

The group said its study will show that more than 75 percent of the newspapers surveyed in 16 states accept classified ads for the sale of guns.

As ammunition for its argument, the anti-gun coalition notes the case of Ben Smith, a white supremacist from Peoria, Ill., who - in 1999 -- "took advantage of the newspaper gun classified ad loophole and bought two handguns" through a local newspaper. His murderous rampage ended with two people dead, nine people injured, and Smith committing suicide.

"A domestic or foreign terrorist could easily take advantage of the same loophole," the anti-gun coalition argues.

Terrorist argument

Since Sept. 11, anti-gun groups - notably, the Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence and Americans for Gun Safety - also have employed the "terrorism" argument to call for restrictions on gun ownership.

For example, Americans for Gun Safety recently launched an advertising campaign saying, "We're fighting terrorists around the world. Why do we let them buy guns in America?"

Late last year, Michael Barnes, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, released a report saying "terrorists and guns go together."

The Brady Campaign argues that terrorists around the world are taking advantage of "weak American gun laws" to amass weapons. "Guns are used to commit terrorist acts, and guns are used by terrorists to resist law enforcement efforts at apprehension and arrest," Barnes said at a December press conference.

Among other things, the Brady Campaign wants to close what it calls the "gun show loophole." It has called gun shows a "breeding ground for gun sales to terrorists."

Lots of 'loopholes'

The word "loophole" is a staple of the gun control lexicon. It is most often used in the phrase "gun show loophole," which anti-gun groups use to describe the sale of weapons between private individuals at gun shows.

Private individuals selling personal property are not required to conduct criminal background checks at guns shows or anywhere else, although it is against the law for an individual to knowingly sell a firearm to a felon. However, federally licensed firearms dealers are required by law to conduct background checks.

Gun control groups want anyone selling a weapon at a gun show to perform background checks, and until the law changes, they will consider any private sales at gun shows to be a "loophole."

In a report on Dec. 19, noted that anti-gun groups were also looking at something called a "parts kit loophole." According to the Brady Campaign, this loophole allows terrorists and other criminals to purchase gun kits by mail, then assemble the weapons at home.

The latest "loophole" strategy, as mentioned above, focuses on classified newspaper gun ads.

In its press conference on Thursday, the National Campaign to Close the Newspaper Gun Ad Loophole said it would urge newspapers to voluntarily change their ad policies so classified gun ads will be rejected.

The group said it has written a letter to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft, urging them to support a ban on classified newspaper gun ads.

The National Campaign said it doesn't mind newspaper display ads for licensed retail gun dealers, because criminal background checks are required at the retail level.

See Earlier Stories:
The Conservative Agenda 2002: Gun Owners' Rights (17 Jan. 2002)
Anti-Gun Group Lashes Out at Ashcroft (11 Dec. 2001)
NRA Challenges Gun Show, Terrorism Link (25 Dec. 2001)
Senators Use Fear of Terrorism to Push Gun Control (10 Dec. 2001)
Justice Department Report Contradicts Anti-Gun Claims (5 Nov. 2001)