Close ‘Gun Show Loophole,’ Dems Say

Josiah Ryan | May 6, 2009 | 6:24pm EDT
Font Size

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) (Photo courtesy of Castle’s Web site)

( - Democratic lawmakers and one Republican told on Wednesday that the so-called "gun show loophole" -- sales between private individuals, which never require a background check -- ought to be closed.

Republicans, meanwhile, told that creating more rules on how a gun can be legally purchased will not prevent criminals -- who do not follow the rules anyway -- from obtaining weapons in illegal ways.

Federal law requires a background check when a weapon is purchased from a federally licensed firearms dealer, including those who set up tables at gun shows. 

Sales between private parties are not subject to background checks at gun shows or anywhere else the sale happens to take place. (Dealers selling weapons from their private collections are not required to do background checks on those particular sales.)

Reps. Michael Castle (R-Del.) and Carolyn McCarthy, (D-N.Y.) held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with survivors and families of those killed at Virginia Tech to announce the introduction of a bill that would require a criminal background check in every weapons purchase.

“This is a good step towards making it harder for the criminal to get a gun,” Castle told after the press conference on Wednesday. “There is no bill we could create that’s going to prevent everything, but we can do a better job, and this is a good step towards making it harder.”

“I think it’s very important,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told when asked if she thought the rules on private gun sales should be changed. “It’s critical; it’s good for everybody’s security to close the gun-show loophole.”

Feinstein said even though criminals may be able to purchase weapons in other ways, it is important to make the purchase more difficult.

“Currently felons can go and get a gun, a juvenile can buy a gun;  I had a staff of mine who went to a gun show, and they tried to sell her a .50-caliber sniper weapon,” said Feinstein. “It makes no sense. If you want to protect people, you want to keep guns in the hands of the legitimate.”

Feinstein said she believes there is no question that gun violence will drop if the "loophole" is plugged.

“No question in my mind the answer is yes,” she said when asked if she thought criminals would find it harder to get weapons in other ways.

But Republicans told that creating more laws and regulations on weapons purchases will not affect criminals who don’t follow the law anyway.

“I don’t think there is really a loophole,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told on Wednesday. “Criminals don’t have to go to gun shows to get guns. In fact it is very dangerous for them to go to gun shows to get guns. They can get them through a bunch of black market sources and other sources, and that’s how they get them.”

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) also told that further regulation would be invasive and ineffective.

“I think it’s important [that] we keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but I do not think that plugging the so-called gun show loophole is really what they are going to do,” said Tiahrt referring to the legislation announced by McCarthy and Castle earlier in the day. “Just think about how it is going to work. We are going to have federal agents walking around our malls and supermarkets?”

“To think that would stop these sales is really a misnomer,” said Tiahrt of the legislation. “We have over 14,000 gun-control laws in America today. We have other ways of keeping guns out of the hands of bad guys and people who are mentally deranged. And that’s what we ought to do.
“The gunshow loophole will not fix that problem, and I don’t support anything that does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” he added.

McCarthy said the point of the bill is not to take away people’s weapons.

“I am not trying to take away your right to own a gun," McCarthy said. There should just be responsibility. Statistics say that above 80 percent of gun owners say this loophole should be closed.”

Speaking of statistics, according to the National Rifle Association, the most recent federal study says only 0.7 percent of criminals get their guns from gun shows.

The NRA says calls to "close the gun show loophole" are really intended to create gun owner registration. Some proposals would require private citizens wishing to sell weapons at gun shows to sign up as “special firearms event operators."

"A private citizen who enters a gun show hoping to sell or trade a firearm, but who does not find a buyer and leaves with his own gun, would be on file with the Justice Department forever as a 'special firearms event vendor,'" the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action warns on its Web site.
mrc merch