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Saturday, June 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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J.R. Labbe: Gun limits imperfect, but needed

By J.R. Labbe

There’s a practical reason the proposed law requiring private gun owners to conduct background checks on potential buyers at a gun show is unworkable. Only federally licensed firearm dealers have access to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

An individual gun owner, who’s paid a rental fee to set up a table at a gun show to sell from a personal collection, can’t place that call, which is probably why Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg, Dianne Feinstein and Jack Reed think that it’s a peachy idea to make it part of federal law.

Lautenberg, of New Jersey, recently filed a bill that would “close the gun show loophole” by making a nonlicensed person who wants to sell a gun “use an FFL (Federal Firearms License) at the gun show to complete the transaction.”

“The FFL would be responsible for conducting a Brady check on the purchaser and maintaining records of the transaction,” said Lautenberg’s news release about the bill, which is supported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Question: Who’s going to force the FFL holder, who’s invested a lot of time and money to meet the requirements for getting that license, to take time away from his or her business to run a check for the guy at the next booth? Even if one agrees to do it, there will no doubt be a hefty fee. Say goodbye to private collectors at gun shows.

In this great land of ours, citizens have the right to do what they will with their private property. If you want to sell Grandpa’s old .22 squirrel rifle to the next-door neighbor so his kid can plink cans off a fence post at the deer lease, you have every right to do so. Changing the venue from your garage to a gun show, or to the want ads, does not negate your right to sell or trade your property.

You think the aforementioned senators care? Their mission is to shut down gun sales, and now they have the bogeyman of Mexican narcotraffickers to bolster their argument.

Lautenberg said last month that by tightening requirements of personal gun sellers at gun shows, law enforcement officials could more closely track firearms and possibly curb the number of weapons used by drug cartels in Mexico.

The oft-repeated statistic – uttered by the likes of President Barack Obama – that “more than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States” is not, in fact, what the government’s records show. The accurate way to state that is, “More than 90 percent of the guns that Mexican authorities recover in crimes and submit to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for tracing come from the U.S.”

According to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF in 2007-’08 for tracing. That was less than half of the 29,000 firearms Mexican officials recovered at crime scenes. Of the 11,000 submitted, 6,000 could be traced because of serial numbers or other distinctive markings. Of those, according to the ATF and reported by Fox News, 5,114 or 90 percent were found to have been smuggled from the U.S.

But let’s be practical. The United States is the closest one-stop shop for south-of-the-border criminals, especially because Mexico has some of the gnarliest gun laws on any books (and haven’t they worked miracles in reducing crime?), and it’s dang near impossible to own a gun there unless you’re a cop or in the military. A majority of the guns probably do come from the U.S. That’s a diversion from the real problem.

Columnist Roy Exum of hit the bull’s-eye on the real issue. Guns are a sideshow “because we are doing a lousy job of stopping the illicit drugs flowing from Mexico into our country. So maybe by focusing on the firearms that go out of it, we can find a victory somewhere,” Exum wrote in the May edition of Gun Week magazine.

The truth is that the feds aren’t honest enough to admit their failure in securing the border, nor do they have the will to weed out the small percentage of people with bad intent who frequent gun shows. It’s much easier to just restrict the rights of everyone.

Jill “J.R.” Labbe is editorial director of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her e-mail address is

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