The ‘Loophole’

The ‘Loophole’

An editorial by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

America has a problem with unlicensed restaurant operators. Week after week, millions of these scofflaws cook elaborate meals without any official authorization, or even an inspection by a government health agency. The problem grows particularly acute at Thanksgiving, when some unlicensed chefs prepare meals for a dozen or more people. The result? Every year countless Americans are sickened by salmonella, campylobacter, and other food-borne bacteria. You might know the cooks as Mom and Dad, or Grandma and Grandpa, or Uncle Mike and Aunt Karen. But don’t let their down-home manner fool you. It’s time to close the regulatory loophole that lets these scofflaws dodge the rules of restaurant safety.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But that’s precisely the approach being taken by gun-control advocates who want to close what they call the “gun-show loophole.” Opponents of gun rights use that expression to describe the occasional sales of firearms between private citizens — whom they call “unlicensed dealers” and “unlicensed vendors.” (Eeek!)

Recently the gun prohibitionists gained a high-profile ally: Gerald Massengill, the former head of the Virginia State Police who headed up the inquiry into April’s massacre at Virginia Tech. Massengill endorsed stricter regulation of private gun sales when he spoke to the Virginia Center for Public Safety. That group laments the fact that while federal firearm licensees are required to perform criminal background checks on buyers at gun shows, “this law does not apply to individuals who are not licensed dealers.”

That’s true. It doesn’t — just as restaurant operators’ licenses don’t apply to individuals who are not licensed restaurant owners. What’s next — having to obtain a caterer’s license to sell pastries at a bake sale? Or an ABC license to host a cocktail party?

Gun-control advocates say gun shows are “a major source of criminal activity” and a “chief source of crime guns” — the very phrases used in a recent report by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. But the assertion is true only if “major” and “chief” mean “insignificant” and “minor.” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “Firearm Use by Offenders,” only about 1 percent of guns used in crimes come from gun shows. In fact, most crime guns — 57 percent — come from just 1 percent of licensed dealers. Private sales among the hunters and target-shooting enthusiasts who frequent gun shows are simply not a significant source of weapons used in crimes.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence report condemns “unregulated private sales at gun shows.” But those unregulated private sales can occur just as easily in the parking lot, or through advertisements in periodicals or online, or at target ranges or hunt clubs. The “gun-show loophole” argument is simply a means of getting the camel’s nose under the tent. The only effective way to thoroughly regulate the private sale of firearms is through the regulation of private firearm ownership.

And that, of course, is the gun-control advocates’ ultimate goal. The gun-show loophole is not the big prize they seek. Their ultimate aim is to close the bigger loophole known as the Second Amendment.