by Dave Kopel
Charleston Gazette, November 10, 2002. More by Kopel on gun shows, on gun registration, and on "ballistic fingerprinting."
The vast majority of guns used in crimes don't come from gun shows. More guns used in crimes come from actual gun stores where people go through background checks. Gun shows barely register statistically as a source of crime guns - less than 1 percent, according to a 1997 study of prisoners by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. There is no gun show "loophole." The federal laws about gun sales apply exactly the same regardless of where a firearms sale takes place - whether at a gun store, a gun show or at a hunting club.
The proposed congressional legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole is a classic bait and switch. Colorado's new law adding extra background checks at gun shows was just a few sentences long. In contrast, the McCain-Lieberman Bill consumes 3,900 words. It is loaded with poison pills, which could allow a single, anti-gun bureaucrat to ban gun shows entirely.
The bill strikes not only at the right to bear arms, which is guaranteed by 43 state constitutions as well as by the Second Amendment, it also strikes at the First Amendment right of assembly and speech for gun shows, which are a major source of political speech and the dissemination of political literature.
I am not opposed to all regulation of guns. I think there are some gun laws that really help things. For example, John Lott's research showed that after a state like Texas enacted concealed-handgun laws, deaths from mass shootings in public places declined 78 percent.
He also found that more extensive training requirements in states like Texas were associated with saving more lives. Perhaps better-trained gun owners felt more confident about intervening to protect someone than they would have without the extra training.
However, I am opposed to laws that require registration. It is an undeniable historical fact that confiscation is frequently facilitated by registration.
Moreover, gun registration doesn't save lives. The people who would register their guns in compliance with the gun registration laws are not the people who commit the crimes. The people who commit the crimes will never register.
The misnamed "ballistic fingerprinting" gun registration programs in Maryland and New York have not solved a single crime, but they have wasted millions of tax dollars that could have been spent on effective law enforcement programs.
From Lexington to the Alamo to Normandy, the American gun culture has defended the culture of freedom. As long as we are self-governing citizens rather than servile subjects, the vast majority of Americans will continue to defend the right to keep and bear arms, a right that now more than ever helps to defend our homeland, protect our homes and secure the blessings of liberty.