SHOULD CONGRESS CLOSE DOWN GUN SHOWS?
Do you want to help preserve gun shows?
Print out the letter below and send it to your local newspapers and broadcasters. You don't have their addresses? Well for Pete's sake! How are you going to fight for your rights if you don't keep contact info for your local media handy?
That's one of the great secrets of the people who manage public policy
-- they keep a simple media list up to date and handy. Next time you
read or hear a gun-related story, jot down who and where it came from,
and add that address, fax and email to your file by calling the source.
Little could be easier, and nothing is more effective. Even if they
refuse to run your story, they have to read it themselves, and you have
The letter below knocked me flat.
Maybe it would be a good idea to close down gun shows instead of merely closing the gun-show loophole. A lot of people I know certainly think so. But Congress and the public should make that choice consciously, not get stuck with it secretly by a deceptively crafted bill.
As currently written, the so-called gun-show loophole is the most minor aspect of the McCain-Lieberman gun-show bill (S.890). The news media have reported on the bill widely -- but clearly, reporters have failed to read it. As the author of six books on gun laws I'm used to reading the bills themselves. I've just finished studying these eight pages of convoluted legalese, and here is what it calls for:
1. Currently legal gun shows are outlawed without prior federal permission. Gun show promoters must agree to warrantless searches in order to operate. The right to assemble peaceably at a gun show -- or even to plan or promote one -- carries stiff prison terms unless federal licenses are issued in advance.
2. Anyone who attends must be centrally registered, whether they buy anything or not. We're talking about millions upon millions of federal records annually, only on the innocent.
3. All vendors -- not just gun vendors -- must be pre-registered. If I were to sell my books at a show without being federally registered, I could be imprisoned, and the gun-show operator could go to jail too.
4. Massive new bureaucracy is created because all shows and their exhibitors must be registered 30 days before the show, then again 72 hours before the show, and again five days after the show. That's in addition to anyone who walks in, plus "any other information" the Secretary of the Treasury decides, by regulation, is necessary on vendors, attendees, and the show itself.
Isn't this supposed to be about requiring background checks? What's going on here? None of this even deals with the criminals for Pete's sake.
It's so bizarre that many people don't believe it, so I posted the technical details and citations on my website, gunlaws.com. The most astonishing part was discovered by attorney Michael P. Anthony, my collaborator on the unabridged guide, "Gun Laws of America."
Here's the real hidden Catch 22. If a gun-show operator allows even a single unlicensed gun vendor to attend the show, federal agents can lock up the operator. They have a ton of extra money in this bill for exactly such enforcement.
If any person attending the show offers (not even sells, but offers) a gun to anyone else at the show -- even a gun they don't have with them -- they become, by the bill's definitions, an unlicensed vendor, and everyone is subject to arrest -- the seller, the buyer, and the gun-show operator. You don't even need a prohibited possessor (a criminal) involved. No one will run a show exposed to that kind of legal risk.
To protect against this, the only way a gun-show operator could safely run a show, would be to pre-register everyone in attendance as a vendor, not just as an attendee. That means personal ID and centralized registration at pretty much the level an FFL (licensed gun dealer) must endure.
The McCain-Lieberman gun-show bill, promoted as a way to prevent criminals from avoiding background checks, is instead a sneak attack on the very existence of gun shows, and crushes fundamental freedoms Americans hold dear. That's no way to run Congress. The promoters of this travesty should be ashamed.
It's my belief that reporters have an ethical duty to clarify the situation, and to call these Senators to task for their actions. Which would be worse -- the Senators don't know what's in their own bills, or that they knew all along and didn't say?
Alan Korwin, Author