This morning’s jsonline.com has a long, comprehensive but not particularly coherent article about felons renting firearms at gun ranges. And other stuff. The bottom line is at the top of the piece: No background check needed to fire gun on range. Shock! Horror! Well, horror anyway. Although, strangely, the article doesn’t do much in the way of illustrating the physical and psychological mess left behind when renters take themselves out of the gene pool. “Badger Guns owner Adam Allan said the store recently stopped renting guns after two men – including one who was barred from having a gun – committed suicide on the store’s shooting range on April 27 and May 1.” As for the shock, it’s of the usual “when good guns go bad” variety . . .

Badger Guns has started keeping the names of shooters who use its range, and it allows West Milwaukee police to run their backgrounds later. Badger Guns made the change after intense scrutiny for its sale of a gun used to shoot two Milwaukee police officers last June. All six police officers shot in the past two years were wounded with guns purchased at Badger Guns or its predecessor Badger Outdoors. Milwaukee police launched an ongoing undercover investigation that revealed felons regularly frequent the store and use the range . . .

Officers have continued to stop felons leaving the store in recent weeks. [ED: They are allowed to leave, eventually.]

Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors have been the top sellers of crime guns recovered by Milwaukee police for at least the past decade, according to records obtained [but not specified] by the Journal Sentinel.

On Saturday, police found another crime gun from the store at a homicide outside a downtown Milwaukee bar, said Anne E. Schwartz, department spokeswoman. The man killed – who was a felon – had a gun purchased from Badger Guns, Schwartz said. Police are looking for the shooter and his gun, she said.

The article conflates a number of different issues: guns that end up in the hands of violent criminals, gun ranges renting guns to criminals who falsify the records provided for access (the “no background check: meat of the story) and suicides on gun ranges. The overall impression: gun stores and gun ranges don’t give a damn about public safety. And, of course, something must be done. Or not. Or yes.

“The fact that they don’t check everyone who comes in and handles a gun in no way will stop us from prosecuting a felon or any other prohibited person,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Manning. “The U.S. code tells us felons can’t possess guns. The law is written by Congress, and that is the law we will enforce.”

In the case of Badger Guns, West Milwaukee police and prosecutors say they are getting cooperation to make cases against felons using the range or trying to buy guns.

Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney Laura Crivello called the cooperation encouraging, but said she is concerned about chasing crimes after the fact instead of preventing felons from handling guns.

“It is a great concern because you are potentially putting a gun in the hands of a felon,” Crivello said of renting guns . . .

A group representing the gun industry said stores are simply following the law. To do a background check for a rental would be against the law, said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“The gun shop is not the police.  . . .  If a felon is in there committing crimes, it is law enforcement’s job to develop probable cause and arrest them,” he said. “To suggest the dealer, who cannot legally conduct a background check, is responsible for felons breaking the law, I think, is uninformed.”

One of the more interesting off-shoots of this “debate,” mentioned in the comments beneath the article, is why ALL felons must lose their Second Amendment rights. Some suggest that only violent felons should be so prohibited. As our Martin Albright mentioned in previous posts, the forthcoming Supreme Court McDonald decision could open the gates for challenges along those lines. Watch this space. And we’ll keep an eye on whether or not gun ranges face a legislative crackdown.

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