Skip to comments.Gun control back as national issue
Posted on 08/15/2007 11:29:17 AM PDT by neverdem
FORT WORTH -- Don Burrows needed some cash for a recent scuba diving trip.
So the East Texan drove to Fort Worth, taped a "For Sale" sign to his back and walked around a gun show, hoping to sell extra ammunition he had stockpiled.
"I needed some extra beer money," he said with a grin.
There, he was among gun aficionados privately peddling guns and ammo, saying it's a good way to cash in on belongings they want to unload.
But in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings and other gun violence this year, critics are calling for more regulations on everything from gun shows to background checks.
The battle over gun control is back, and it's reaching into city halls, state legislatures and the halls of Congress. Presidential candidates are talking about it, Jesse Jackson is talking about it, and Congress is on track to possibly pass the first federal gun control legislation since 1994.
Part of the push is for tougher restrictions on gun shows, which have been popular in North Texas for decades. Gun advocates like Burrows believe that's misguided.
"These are law-abiding citizens here," Burrows, marketing director for a nonprofit in Tyler, said at a recent High Caliber Gun and Knife Show at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
"If there are undesirables, most people won't sell to them. Criminals will always get guns" and don't care about gun control laws, he said.
Each year, countless guns change hands at thousands of gun shows nationwide.
A recent study of gun shows cites a continuing problem of illegal transactions, including gun sales by unlicensed dealers and "straw purchases," in which people with no criminal or mental-illness history buy guns for people with records. The recent study by Garen Wintemute, director of the violence-prevention research program at the University of California, Davis, contends that police presence at the shows is too small to discourage illegal activity.
In 2005 and 2006, Wintemute attended 28 gun shows in Texas (in Dallas and Houston), Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California -- areas where he said guns are acquired and later used in crimes in California. Afterward, he urged lawmakers nationwide to put more restrictions on gun shows.
"I would like to see a policy change that makes direct private-party transfers of guns illegal," Wintemute said. "And I'd like much more vigorous law enforcement presence at gun shows. I noticed the illegal stuff was conducted right out in the open.
"Bad guys had no concern they might be caught."
While Congress and state legislatures debate the issue, officials in communities such as Colleyville and Arlington say gun control isn't on city council agendas right now.
The most recent major debate was in Fort Worth in 2000, when city leaders considered putting more restrictions on gun shows held at city facilities. Fort Worth officials talked for months about proposals to encourage federal lawmakers to require background checks at gun shows or even restrict the leasing of city facilities for gun shows so that only licensed dealers could sell firearms.
For now, that debate is unlikely to be revived, some say.
"We have plenty on our plate ... to keep us busy," Mayor Mike Moncrief said.
In fiscal 2005-06, the city picked up more than $122,000 in revenue from 11 gun shows at the Will Rogers Memorial Center and one at the Fort Worth Convention Center, city records show.
Proposed changes to federal firearms laws are on the table in Congress, where gun control advocates have failed to toughen regulations since 1994.
One measure calls for strengthening the national background check system. It also includes spending $400 million a year for five years to help states automate lists of people barred from buying guns, including the mentally ill and convicted criminals, and report those lists to the FBI. That is part of the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act, prompted largely by school shootings.
A Senate committee approved the plan this month. Officials said they hope to prevent another tragedy like the Virginia Tech shootings in April, when Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people before shooting himself. A similar House version approved this summer set aside $250 million to help states with the background check system.
Several groups, including the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Violence Policy Center and the Legal Community Against Violence, say they support the overall goal but see problems in the Senate bill.
That version, they say, may create loopholes that could rearm drug dealers and sex offenders and make veterans who had been prohibited from owning guns because of mental-health issues eligible to have them again.
"The bill's original intent ... is an important objective that would improve enforcement of federal laws governing persons prohibited from possessing firearms," said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Legal Community Against Violence. "The amendments ... risk undermining those laws."
Also pending in Congress is a "Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2007," geared to require criminal-background checks for all firearm transactions at events where guns change hands.
This has drawn criticism from groups such as the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, which said the measure "masquerades as reform -- imposing bureaucratic restrictions aimed at shutting down gun shows -- without fixing real problems." The NRA, however, has supported some of the proposed federal changes.
Jesse Jackson is going to trial in November on a charge of criminal trespassing after he refused to move from a gun-shop entrance in Illinois. He stood there this summer in support of stronger gun laws.
"No jail cell can break our spirits," Jackson told a church congregation. "We have never lost a battle we fought; we have never won a battle we didn't fight. So we must fight now to plan our children's futures, not their funerals."
Jackson has also declared Aug. 28 -- the 44th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington -- a national day of protest for tougher gun laws.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has likewise called for a day of action, in support of what its members consider their Second Amendment rights to own firearms.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is criticizing the Bush administration for not banning assault rifles after nearly three dozen children were killed with them in Chicago during the past year.
"Our playgrounds have become battlefields," the Illinois senator has said. "Our streets have become cemeteries.
"I'm sick and tired of seeing our young people gunned down."
Supporters of another presidential hopeful -- Ron Paul -- showed up at the recent gun show in Fort Worth, handing out fliers stating that the Surfside Republican believes in the constitutional right to bear arms.
To spread the candidate's message, they also carried signs, including one that said "Ron Paul Thinks Your Guns Are None Of His Business."
At the show in Fort Worth, crowds perused everything from guns and knives to Western wear and flashlights.
A line grew at the entrance as police unloaded and secured guns and rifles being taken in for possible sale.
Inside, people milled around, looking at Tasers, gun safes, sunglasses, hunting knives, belt buckles -- and guns.
Among them was Don Wright, an X-ray technician from Waco.
He was trying to sell an extra Colt .45, but he said he enjoys gun shows so much that he now does his grocery shopping on Fridays so he can travel around to shows on the weekend.
And he's not worried about security or illegal gun sales.
"If somebody really wants a gun, they can get one," the 52-year-old said as he watched police officers walking around the show. "When people go around shooting people, it's not because of the gun. It's because of the psycho holding the gun.
"More restrictions are not needed. People will go around getting [guns] anyway."
Staff writers Susan Schrock and Bill Teeter contributed to this report.
New gun restrictions proposed in other parts of the country include:
Illinois: The governor called a special session for lawmakers to work on a gun control bill geared to prevent a "large-capacity ammunition-feeding device" from being made or sold in the state.
Philadelphia: Lawmakers recently approved a gun control bill compelling police to trace illegal firearms confiscated from people under 21 and report the guns to a registry.
San Francisco: Leaders created city ordinances banning possession of firearms or ammunition on county property, following the lead of Los Angeles County. They also required privately owned handguns to be stored in a locked container or with a trigger lock.
Ventura County, Calif.: A new rule in several communities requires owners to report the loss or theft of their guns within 72 hours or face misdemeanor charges.
Martin Luther King and guns: a history lesson
Both sides in America's long-running dispute over gun control have declared a national day of protest on Aug. 28, the 44th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the historic civil rights march on Washington.
Gun control advocates plan marches in at least 25 cities, including Dallas, to demand tougher restrictions on firearms purchases and possession. Gun rights advocates are scheduling counterdemonstrations and urging their backers to buy weapons and ammunition and visit gun ranges that day.
Both sides are using King's legacy to bolster their arguments.
Jesse Jackson, the chief organizer of the demonstrations for stronger controls, points to King's crusades for nonviolence in rallying support. "We have the right to live safe and secure, no matter where we live in America," said Jackson, who was with King when he was assassinated in 1968.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said: "The great hypocrisy here is that Dr. King's historic march was to promote and defend civil rights. What Jesse Jackson is planning is designed to crush America's most important civil right -- a right that Dr. King exercised by owning a handgun."
Did King own a gun?
Yes. In his writings and in interviews, King, the object of many death threats, acknowledged once owning a gun in Montgomery, Ala., and seeking a license to carry in a gun in his car. In The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., he wrote that the issue of armed protection arose after a bombing at his home. He ultimately rejected armed defense, however, because he decided that it was inconsistent with his message.
The explanation in King's words
"After the bombings, many of the officers of my church and other trusted friends urged me to hire a bodyguard and armed watchmen for my house. When my father came to town, he concurred with both of these suggestions. I tried to tell them that I had no fears now and consequently needed no weapons for protection. This they would not hear. They insisted that I protect the house and family, even if I didn't want to protect myself. In order to satisfy the wishes of these close friends and associates, I decided to consider the question of an armed guard. I went down to the sheriff's office and applied for a license to carry a gun in the car; but this was refused.
"Meanwhile I reconsidered. How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection? Coretta and I talked the matter over for several days and finally agreed that arms were no solution. We decided then to get rid of the one weapon we owned. We tried to satisfy our friends by having floodlights mounted around the house, and hiring unarmed watchmen around the clock. I also promised that I would not travel around the city alone.
"I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house. When I decided that I couldn't keep a gun, I came face-to-face with the question of death and I dealt with it. From that point on, I no longer needed a gun nor have I been afraid. Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors."
-- From The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nothing like an unbiased source...
Already the law there, champ.
Get back to me when a bad guy breaks down your door at 3am
At this point I don’t think either party wants this settled. It makes such a handy campaign issue that they just can’t bear the thought of not being able to use it any more.
San Francisco “They also required privately owned handguns to be stored in a locked container or with a trigger lock.”
I guess threatening an intruder with AIDS tainted blood will work too, since there is more of that than handguns I bet.
WHY THEY WANT OUR GUNS!!
Yup... Wintemute’s about as unbiased on guns as Algore is on hybrid cars.
Desperate Libs Beat Anti-Gun Drum
Gosh, I hope so.
I'd *love* to see the Democrats lose dozens of races and the Presidency in 2008.
As we all know, good gun-control results in tight groupings.
Some of the things he has described as straw purchases aren't necessarily straw purchases either.
He claims these crimes are rampant despite the fact that a large amount of law enforcement officers attend these shows out of uniform on their own time.
He is in effect accusing many, many law enforcement officers of turning a blind eye to this.
He offers no proof, and even the examples he provides could be perfectly legal activity.
If the media were honest and competent, he would be ignored due to lack of credibility. However, the media is neither honest or competent when dealing with the issue of guns and gun laws.
I hope Democrats are dumb enough to ‘go there’ again in 2008.
Actually, I think the Democrats just wish the whole issue would go away.
They've learned too many times that they don't win elections supporting gun control. They lose them.
There are many people out there who might agree with the Democratic candidate on every other issue but will cast their vote for the candidate who supports the rights of gun owners --often at the Democrats' loss. Hence, all the pro-gun Dems who won congressional races last year.
This issue is a loser for Democrats..
Not really. I bought an almost new Springfield Armory XD 9 at a show and when I asked about waiting time, required paper work, receipt, bill of sale, the seller told me that since he wasn't a business, but a private citizen who rented table space at a gun show, none of this was necessary and I walked out the door with my new purchase. On the way out, carrying my new purchase in it's plastic case, people in several booths asked me whay I had to sell or trade.
I was very surprised that it was so easy as I was under the impression there was more to it.
whay = what
And since cars kill many times more people than guns each year I'm sure Mr. Wintemute would also like to see a policy change thatn makes direct private-party transfers of cars illegal too, right?