This weekend, law-abiding citizens will attend the Mississippi Gun Show and undergo a background check to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed firearm dealer. Unfortunately, criminals will have the opportunity to purchase guns as they can avoid a background check by purchasing from unlicensed sellers.
Gun sales are barred to those who have a felony conviction or indictment, fugitive status, court restraining orders, mental illness and misdemeanor domestic-violence convictions.
At gun shows, a federal law requires federally licensed firearm dealers to conduct a background check on all prospective purchasers.
Unlicensed sellers, however, are exempt from this law and can, therefore, sell firearms to anyone, hence, the "gun-show loophole."
A study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) found that unlicensed sellers make up 25 percent to 50 percent of gun-show vendors. It also found that gun shows have become a major channel for gun trafficking and are related to 26,000 firearms that were "diverted from legal to illegal commerce" over two and a half years.
"Gun Show Undercover," a recent 2009 report on the investigation of gun shows in several states, found that undercover investigators who informed private sellers that they probably could not pass a background check were able to purchase guns from 65 percent of the sellers.
While seven states require that unlicensed sellers conduct background checks at gun shows, most do not. A study found that those states that do not require background checks for all sales at gun shows have an average "crime gun" export rate that is nearly two times the rate of states that do require background checks at gun shows.
Mississippi ranked second among the top 10 states with the highest rate of guns that have been recovered in out-of-state crimes. None of those states requires background checks for handgun sales at gun shows. Most of Mississippi's guns that are involved in out-of-state crimes have been recovered in Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The gun-show loophole can be closed across the nation with federal legislation. Bills are pending in the U.S. Senate and House that would require all firearm sellers to conduct instant background checks of all prospective gun buyers at a gun show.
The legislation has received the support of many of the nation's mayors.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bi-partisan coalition of 450 mayors, has voiced strong support for the legislation. "As mayors, public safety remains our highest priority. It is wrong that this glaring gap in our background check system remains open. It is time to close this loophole
," the coalition wrote.
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., who is not a member of the coalition, also supports the legislation. "I strongly support legislation which will keep illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. A background check performed by any gun seller (licensed or otherwise) should be mandatory," he explained.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, an opponent of the legislation, stated that he shares my "concern with the amount of firearm related crimes and accidents occurring in our country. "However," he added, I do not feel more gun control laws are the answer to this problem. I believe tougher enforcement of existing laws is a more effective means of addressing this issue."
Omodare Jupiter, an assistant federal public defender in Jackson, supports the legislation. "There is no reason why firearm sales
at gun shows should not be regulated. The idea that anybody has any trouble getting a gun in America is ridiculous, and no law-abiding citizens are in danger of losing their right to keep firearms in their homes for protection, collection or killing animals," he said.
U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, an opponent of the legislation, says that "reports have repeatedly shown that a very small percentage (less than 1 percent) of 'crime guns' is actually acquired at gun shows. The bottom line is that this bill is another attempt by the anti-gun lobby to restrict the Second Amendment right of law-abiding American citizens to purchase a gun, and I oppose this bill," he said.
Doug Pennington, assistant communications director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, dismisses Harper's argument because "it ignores how the illegal gun market actually functions in that gun traffickers tend to buy guns from unlicensed sellers at gun shows and resell the firearms on the streets to individual criminals, who are likely not aware that the guns were purchased at gun show. While the study is accepted at face value, one should not conclude that crime guns don't come from gun shows as the ATF study has found," he countered.
The National Rifle Association is attempting to block legislation as it successfully did in 1999. Currently, it is targeting mayors of the who support it and demanding that they resign their membership.
The NRA's success or failure will be determined by our silence or call to action. Its mission is to increase gun sales; ours is to keep our communities safe and support mayors in their effort to do so.
We don't need another gun law criminals aren't going to pay attention.
All this will do is make it harder for gun collectors to sell and traded guns with other collectors. It will do nothing to stop criminals from getting guns. The sell of guns between two individuals from the same state is still legal.
If 26,000 guns out of the millions that have been sold at gunshows in the past 2 1/2 years have wound up in the hands of criminals,the gun laws we have are working very well.
What exactly distinguishes a licensed dealer from an unlicensed one, other than having to undergo a background check when purchasing a gun?
Is there a set of criteria to be met to become licensed, and are there benefits to being licensed? Why would a dealer want to become licensed if there was the possibility of higher sales because of not having to conduct background checks?
There's no such thing an unlicensed dealer, either you are a licensed dealer or not. Licensed dealers have to keep records,do background checks,can do transfers for people,can order direct from the factories and gun wholesalers.
You have to get a license from the ATF to be a dealer.
The people selling at the guns shows that don't have licenses are collectors. They can sell to any one who is a resident of our state. They can't order guns from wholesalers,or do tranfers for people or have to do background check. They are selling guns they have bought from dealers or other collectors. If a collector sells too many guns a year (don't know if there is a set number or not) the ATF will frown on that and make them get a license.
A licensed dealer sells more guns than a collector because he has more inventory and can order what you want, where a collector can not.