Op-Ed, 599 words

Close the Gun Show Loophole

Some weapons are too dangerous for civilian use.


Dozens of Americans will be murdered, hundreds of others will be shot, and nearly 1,000 will be robbed or assaulted with a guntoday.

The United States has some of the weakest gun laws in the world. To make us, our families, and our communities safer, we need to beef up a few of those laws — now.

As President Barack Obama has urged, Congress should vote soon on common-sense gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Sensible steps include requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale, making gun trafficking a federal crime, and banning the military-style assault weapon that killed so many people in Newtown on December 14.

It’s madness to allow guns to be sold to felons with a history of gun violence or to the mentally ill. That’s why current law requires that no gun can be sold by a licensed gun dealer without a criminal background check. But millions of guns are sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through websites with no background checks. We need to strengthen current law to cover all gun sales. The few minutes it takes to complete a computerized check would save lives.

NRA Lesson Plan, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

NRA Lesson Plan, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The federal background check law has blocked more than 1.5 million illegal gun sales over the past 14 years. It works. The problem is that the law doesn’t apply to private sales, so the bad guys (and gals) can avoid a background check and get any kind of gun, no questions asked.

Both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the national Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed mandatory, universal background checks because they know they will save lives. It’s time to close the gun show loophole.

I support the Second Amendment. Even gun owners overwhelmingly favor requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun. It will lead to fewer firearm deaths.

Some weapons are too dangerous for civilian use. That’s why the federal government imposed taxes and strict regulations on the manufacturing and distribution of sawed-off shotguns, silencers, very high-caliber firearms, grenades, and bombs nearly 80 years ago. Military-style assault weapons — like the one used to murder defenseless children and educators in Newtown — are versions of military weapons that are designed for rapid fire. They’re weapons of war, and like machine guns, extremely dangerous. We’d be safer without them.

And hunters and sportspeople don’t use these weapons to kill game. Rapid fire is contrary to the whole point of the sport. In the decade that the federal ban on assault weapons was in effect, the percentage of assault weapons traced to crime fell by 66 percent. The ban worked.

Some gun accessories should be outlawed. High-capacity ammunition magazines are designed to shoot a lot of people, quickly. There is no hunting or sporting purpose for these magazines — and that was a major reason for the ban on them between 1994 and 2004. Just like silencers, high-capacity magazines are simply too dangerous for sale to civilians.

The Tucson massacre is a good example. Rep. Gabby Giffords’ shooter had an ammunition magazine with 31 bullets. He was tackled after he shot out his clip and was trying to reload. If the magazine had only 10 rounds, a lot of lives could have been saved.

Let’s work together. Let’s ask our leaders to prevent the next mentally ill person from going to a gun show and buying an automatic weapon with a huge magazine without getting a background check. The police chiefs are asking for this.

What is Washington waiting for?

Elizabeth Rose is the communications director for the Campaign for America’s Future, an organization that promotes progressive policies. Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

  • talferris

    Interesting. Full of rhetoric and misleading information, but interesting. Didn’t you read your own link inclusions? It’s not illegal to own a machine gun in this country. It’s highly regulated, but it’s not illegal; you can buy them. It’s not illegal to own silencers either and the same types of regulation apply.

    Did you read the 2nd Amendment? What does it say? No, not what you think it means, what does it say, and then go so far as to read any of the relevant case law from the USSC, for the interpretation of that Amendment.

    There are already laws on the books that make it illegal and in many cases a felony for a convicted felon to own or even possess a firearm. Considering the number of convicted felons that are often found in possession of firearms, they don’t seem to view those laws as a great hinderance to their criminal undertakings. So is there something here that I don’t know or that you didn’t state that is significant in that regard?

    Do I support mandatory background checks? Sure. I also support a database for those that have been determined, adjudicated, or diagnosed as mentally infirm. If you can’t distinguish the difference between right or wrong, or you can’t appreciate the consequences of your actions, why are you out here walking up and down the street in the first place? I don’t support bans however. If bans worked so well, no one told the bootleggers during prohibition.

    I also notice that you failed to mention Chicago. A city with some of the strictest gun control laws outside New York, and yet, crime seems to be running rampant right along with the number of people being killed. If gun prohibition worked so well, there should be a long line of people wanting to get in to Chicago. I haven’t seen that so far though.

    I am a retired Chief of Police and I’m not asking for it. I’m fully aware of the IACP’s agenda and I ceased being a member long before I retired because of their stances since mandatory background checks is not the only thing they advocate in this debate.

    If you want to impact this sort of travesty, control behaviors. The implement is inconsequential relative to the behavior. Drunk driving, aggressive driving, reckless driving are all approached from the aspect of the driver, not the vehicle. Why are you not doing the same with weapons violence? Nothing you propose or advocate for affects, alters, or addresses the behavior of the person, only the implement. Why? Do you think a firearm is the only thing that can be used to carry out one’s ideations, fantasies, or perverse instruction?

  • admin


    Sorry about the misinformation on the NFA. That statement has been updated.

    Regarding the Second Amendment, the author makes no claims about the interpretation.

    We’ve provided a link that shows that, indeed, thousands of felons are regaining gun rights every year, including a specific example of a man regaining rights within 6 months of completing a 3 year gun-related prison sentence.

    In reference to the high crime in Chicago despite its tough gun laws, we find it irresponsible to report a statistical anomaly as an accurate representation of the national situation. Instead, visit: https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/02/07-8
    for some statistics for gun-related deaths in states with strict gun laws versus those without them.

    Thank you for your readership and your extensive public service.

  • talferris


    Thank you for the acknowlegement. It was not my literal intent to call Ms. Rose into scrutiny. She’s not the first to have made the same factual mistake concerning the NFA.

    My comment concerning the 2nd Amendment was two fold; Foremost, how can one say they support the 2nd Amendment followed by the next paragraph which states, “Some weapons are too dangerous for civilian use.” All weapons are dangerous, which Ms. Rose acknowleges. However one is not more or less dangerous than another. They are all dangerous, period. Secondly, the cartoon used to illustrate the content of the 2nd Amendment. I’m not a member of the NRA, but that’s stooping to their level in inciteful drivel contrasted with their statement concerning the President’s children and their security.

    With regard to Chicago, I’d like to mention circular logic. The study referenced came from the Brady Center. Released in April of 2004, had a demonstrable stake in the data and conclusions since the ban was due to sunset that same year. Am I to believe that The Brady Center would sponsor a study on any gun control topic that would demonstrate gun control not viable? What wasn’t cited were the overall crime statistics for the same years. Crime had started a downward trend and continued, remarkably so, with the sunset of the Semi-Auto (call it what it is) weapons ban after 2004. So that conclusion, based on a nine year old study, with no other controls for dependent or independent variables is a tad skewed. And yes, I took you up on the offer of the VPC data. I have questions concerning their methodology and conclusions, but those aren’t for you.

    Felons. No, felons shouldn’t be allowed possession of firearms. I’m not convinced that should regain their citizenship, but if they do, it should be at some point in time, say 10 years, after they have left prison. Not within minutes of exiting the front door. Now, there are those that say they should not be denied their right of blah, blah, blah. I’m thinking they shouldn’t have committed a felony. But, there are those, perhaps on your staff, that probably feel that these people have paid their debt to society, have been rehabilitated, turned over a new leaf, and can be productive members of society. Maybe they can. But they can do it without gun ownership. Currently the rules don’t allow the selective exclusion of Constitutional rights however. Due process and equal protection are not something to be subverted, the means does not jusify the end just because we desire it.

    I like your website and enjoy the articles I read and believe it or not, actually agree with most of it, save this one notable exception.

    Am I in favor of people, unlicensed dealers, renting tables at gun shows and selling firearms? No. They avoid the licensing provisions of the Federal Government, they avoid paying for a State or local business license, and they don’t pay tax on that money. So in that regard, you should be prevented from engaging in open commerce in weapons. If I have a gun in my collection that I no longer want and decide to sell it, then I should be able to. It’s not unlike my selling any other piece of personal property I own that I no longer desire. But not at a gun show. And the people who put on gun shows could regulate that. If you’re going to engage in firearms transactions, you have to have a Federal Firearms License. How easy would that be? I should have said a few hundred words ago.