Guns, Politics, and Freedom
July 1999

‘Gun show’ bill is just a con game

By F. Paul Valone

 

The following column was published in the Raleigh News & Observer in July, 1999 in response to pending legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly. The bill in question, HB 1275, failed.

 

Have you ever seen a card shark in action?  No matter how many times you play, no matter how good your cards, he always draws the best hand.

 

Unfortunately, that describes House Bill 1275, currently under debate in the North Carolina General Assembly.  Deceptively named “Enforce Gun Laws at Gun shows,” the bill creates a massive gun registration scheme reaching into your very home.  Like good con artists, lobbyists for North Carolinians Against Gun Violence shuffle its language while concealing its true scope like an Ace up the sleeve.

 

Capitalizing on recent tragedies, gun control advocates falsely depict gun shows as “Tupperware parties for criminals.”  Focusing on private gun sales, they imply “unlicensed dealers” evade criminal background checks for buyers.

 

Yet they avoid mentioning that dealing firearms without a license is a federal crime.  When they fret about firearms purchased at a gun show and used in the Columbine shootings, they dodge the reality that a background check wouldn’t have prevented Robyn Anderson, who had no criminal history, from buying the guns.

 

And they certainly don’t discuss Mark Manes, son of a Handgun Control, Inc. member.  Like Anderson, Manes violated state and federal laws against transferring firearms to minors when he sold a handgun to Littleton murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.  Said Manes’ attorney, “Both parents preached to Mark the evilness of handguns.”  Apparently, they forgot to preach the “evilness” of circumventing the law.

 

Part of a national attack on gun shows by Handgun Control, HB 1275’s fundamental deceptiveness lies not only in its title, but in the definitions and statutory references within its language.  As NCGV director Lisa Price recently noted, it is indeed “carefully drafted.”  And each time we’ve revealed one of its hidden implications, NCGV lobbyists create a new draft more over-reaching than the last.

 

Far from enforcing existing law, the bill proposes a new permit system for gun shows which, in reality, prohibits sheriffs from issuing permits to anyone living outside the county—neatly disqualifying most promoters and shutting down most shows.

 

As defined in HB 1275, you might be a “gun show promoter.”  If you have the audacity to collect any combination of twenty-five guns, knives, razors, or stun guns and choose to sell one, you would need a “gun show” permit empowering your sheriff to inspect your home and records to “procure evidence of violations.”  The permit would cost you $100 and require you to hire a federal firearms dealer to conduct a background check.  Oddly, even a curio shop  selling old straight razors would need a “gun show” permit.

 

It would also regulate black-powder, muzzle-loading firearms primarily used for hunting.  Due to their limited utility, they are currently exempt from state and federal restrictions.  Yet under HB 1275, a buyer would be subject to the same registration requirements as for an AK-47.

 

In North Carolina, criminal background checks for handgun buyers are already mandated via the pistol purchase permit system.  Selling a handgun without a background check—whether by a dealer or an individual—is already a crime.  HB 1275 adds to the scheme only by registering private gun sales with the FBI through the National Instant Check System.  And the FBI is already retaining transaction records in violation of part of the Brady Law requiring them to be expunged.

 

Not only are the bill’s contents deceptive, so is its claimed support.  While advocates allege backing by law enforcement authorities, sheriffs we contacted, when apprised of its scope, expressed serious reservations.  Some have signed letters opposing it.  Indeed, even the legislative committee chairman for the Sheriffs’ Association was unaware of the language their lobbyist had endorsed.

 

But perhaps the biggest joke is the claim that it’s backed by the North Carolina Firearms Dealers Group.  In truth, exactly one gun shop owner, Jim Faircloth of Fayetteville, has publicly advocated the bill.  And he isn’t even a current member of the group.

 

Finally, we arrive at the melodrama of mass public support being stymied by the evil “gun lobby.”  In realty, volunteers sacrificing time, money, and sweat have thwarted the high-dollar law firm Parker, Poe, Adams, and Bernstein simply by distributing the truth.  In response, a grass roots tide of calls, e-mails, and faxes opposing the bill virtually shut down legislators’ offices.  The “gun lobby” comprises doctors, teachers and construction workers—people just like you.

 

But don’t believe me about HB 1275.  Get a faxed copy of the latest version from (919) 562-4137 or check www.grnc.org.  When you flip over all the cards, you’ll find the deck is stacked.