David Shaver: Close to the wild west show

The recent shootings and killings in Tucson last month has resulted in the pretense of civility in Congress, prompted calls for more gun-control measures, and a greater commitment to the mentally ill.

Very shortly, President Obama will likely call for increased gun-control laws to preclude future mass murders by American extremists on both sides of our political spectrum. Is this what we need to do?

What is the real answer? It is more than likely that a combination of limited gun-control measures and a greater financial commitment to house the potential, criminally insane would do. I don’t know much about the criminally insane class of citizens, so I will confine my remarks to guns.

Advocates of the Second Amendment will start to become uneasy and uncomfortable about this point in the column. Not to worry. Your author is a gun owner — a Garand M1 rifle of World War II and Korea fame (which I shoot semiregularly at a regional, state-sponsored range), and a 9mm pistol for personal protection. Yes, I have a permit to carry. Why? If you have read one of my columns with which you didn’t agree, how far would you take up your opposition? Letter to the editor? Probably not to Jared Loughner’s extremes, I’ll admit, but then one never knows.

When I attack (in print) Muslim shariah law and U.S. illegal immigration, I make enemies, both foreign and domestic, "natural-born" ones. So now that we know that I support the right to own and carry, and I believe our founding fathers’ many comments like "the strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government" (Thomas Jefferson). But there is a need for gun control in one arena — the local or regional gun show.


I recently attended a regional gun show. There were what seemed like thousands of people coming and going from the venue, many with out-of-state license plates. Any one of them could buy a gun at the show without a waiting period or background check, pay cash, and be on their way, convicted felons included.

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 and its waiting period and background checks only apply to federal firearms licensees, (registered dealers), not to individuals who only make "occasional" sales within their state of residence.

These traders/collectors are under no requirement to conduct background checks on purchasers or maintain records of sale. That’s just plain stupid. Arming previously convicted felons, including the criminally insane, without any control is way beyond the right of lawful citizens to purchase firearms.

Not all states are as "open" as mine about gun show laws. The rules of the game do change from state to state. 

What we need is to implement a national, common sense management law over gun and ammo assets and inventories in the free marketplace. I am not addressing any restrictions on law-abiding, mentally competent Americans. What I am suggesting is that we find easy ways of cutting down on the gun flow to illegal and incompetent members of our society by finding solutions like Illinois’ pre-sale clearance checks — FOIDs — for individuals who purchase from gun shows.

That to me means placing the same restrictions on gun show collectors as we require from the Federal Firearms Licensed dealers and apply it nationally so that cross state border transactions are eliminated.

I am expecting predictable comments from NRA advocates. But turning our backs on gun sales that should be illegal by any rational account is by itself de facto support for criminals. We can afford to tighten up our gun control laws without closing gun shows, or creating the proverbial "slippery slope" here. The Illinois law is proof of that.

Keeping the status quo gun show laws in some states and not others, doesn’t make us safer. Let’s close these "wild west" loopholes throughout the country before even more damage is done and restrictive laws are passed.


Dave Shaver is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former tenured faculty member of the U.S. Army War College.

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