9/02 Gun Show “Loophole” Fraud: Part III

The Gun Show “Loophole” Fraud — Part III
Larry Pratt

In my previous column, I reported how Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) have no data of their own regarding the so-called gun show “loophole.” Instead, they rely completely on Americans For Gun Safety for their respective views that this “loophole” is a problem that must be solved by yet more gun control laws. So, to find out what, exactly, AFGS has to say on this subject, Matt Bennett, the group’s Director of Public Affairs, was interviewed.

    Q: “What data do you have that shows how many guns are purchased through this ‘loophole’ and are then used in crimes?”

    A: “We don’t have numbers on that because they’re very hard to get unless the government collects them.”

Bennett says the “most persuasive” data concerning the “loophole” problem is that the ATF has said that gun shows are the second leading source of guns recovered in firearms trafficking investigations.

But, right off the bat, Bennett is wrong.

In an interview, Jim Crandall, a Program Manager in Public Information for the BATF in Washington DC, says the BATF tracing study cited by Bennett tells us nothing about how many guns sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows are used in crimes. “Right,” he says. “We just have no way of knowing that…. Because we don’t have gun registration, per se, and, believe me, a lot of people in the country still love it that way.”

Well, amen, Jim! Count me as one American among those who love this status quo!

Crandall says “certainly not,” that all the weapons BATF traced cannot be assumed to have been used in crimes. He adds that once a gun leaves a seller’s hands, “we can’t say if it’ll be used well or misused.” He reiterates that ATF tracing studies do not say which guns are sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows: “No, we don’t audit those. [There are] no studies on that”.

Then, Crandall makes a surprising statement. He says the ATF does not view the so-called gun show “loophole” as a big problem. He says the ATF has no position on legislation to close this “loophole.” He says the ATF has never even testified on this subject. So, how much of a non-problem is the gun show “loophole”? It’s so much of a non-issue that the ATF doesn’t even care about it!

Back to Bennett.

Although he has already said that he has no numbers showing how many gun show “loophole” guns sold by unlicensed sellers are used in crimes, Bennett says guns going into the black market is “a huge problem.” But, he guesses that “the overwhelming majority of guns, 99 percent, that are sold are never used in crime or any illegitimate purpose.” He guesses that the “vast majority” of private gun sales at guns shows are to “law-abiding citizens.” He says his organization just wants to catch the “relatively small number” used for bad purposes.

When it is said that the real problem is that groups like his use the word “loophole” to mean any area of life not yet regulated by Federal law, Bennett says: “Look, you gotta ask: Why is someone buying a gun from a private seller? Is it for a better price? Is it the gun they want? Or is it because they’re trying to avoid a background check?” He adds that there’s no question in his mind that most people who buy from private sellers are those who want to avoid a background check and therefore are “illegitimate buyers.”

But, of course, the real problem here is the “loophole,” the empty space, between Bennett’s ears. And he contradicts himself. He’s way too suspicious and with no data to support his suspicion. I mean, there are numerous legitimate reasons for buying guns from a private seller. To say that most people who do this are “illegitimate buyers” is absurd. In fact, Bennett himself said previously that he guesses that the “vast majority” of private gun sales at guns shows are to “law-abiding citizens!”

Bennett says the only “loophole” they want to close is the private seller “loophole” at gun shows. He emphasizes that the law they want passed “wouldn’t have any impact on people selling their guns out of their own home or through newspaper classifieds or any of that.”

But, from their own perspective, this makes no sense whatsoever. Bennett is told about a 1997 Justice Department Bureau Of Justice Statistics poll of inmates serving time in state prisons who were asked how they obtained their guns? Those who bought guns from a gun show were .7 percent. Those who got their guns from friends or family were 39.6 percent!

    Q: “So, why do you want to leave open the friends-and-family ‘loophole’?! This makes no sense, from your point of view!”

    A: “Because traffickers are not buying guns from homes or paper ads but at large events such as gun shows.”

    Q: “But, certainly, if you pass your gun show ‘loophole” bill, sales would no doubt increase and shift to friends and family and from newspaper ads, would they not?”

    A: “Well, look, we’ve never alleged that [closing the gun show ‘loophole’] is going to shut down criminal access to all guns.” He says they’re just “trying to make it harder for criminals to get guns.”

    Q: “No, you’re just making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to get guns.”

    A: “No! Tell me how.”

Bennett is reminded that he himself has already said that he guesses that: “the overwhelming majority of guns, 99 percent, that are sold are never used in crime or any illegitimate purpose.” He guesses that the “vast majority” of private gun sales at guns shows are to “law-abiding citizens.” Thus, any new gun-control laws will, obviously, impact mostly law-abiding citizens!

No reply.

So, the prosecution rests. The case for closing the gun show “loophole” must be dismissed for a lack of evidence showing that this “loophole” is a problem. To repeat what she said, Rebecca Hanks, press aide to Sen. John McCain, says, regarding the evidence supplied to her boss by Americans For Gun Safety: “We have no reason to believe their data is wrong.” A truly bizarre statement since the folks at AFGS have no data showing that the gun show “loophole” is “dangerous,” as McCain has said.

In my next and final column, for now, regarding the gun show “loophole,” we’ll peer, in some excruciating detail, into the mind of Arnie Grossman, who reveals in an interview that a mind is, indeed, a terrible thing to waste.