The New York Times Op Ed, Listen to the Families, laments the roll-back in local, state and federal laws restricting gun ownership and the right to carry a firearm on your person hither and yon. “The only bright spot in all of this is that gun victims’ families and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan group co-led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, are fighting back. They have begun a campaign to get Congress to close the loophole that has allowed criminals, troubled teens and the mentally ill to evade federal background checks and purchase weapons from unlicensed private dealers at weekend gun shows.” I’m not going to explore the fallacies in their argument here, because there are no real facts on offer, save the usual one: trust us, we don’t doctor. But the next bit is a pretty powerful piece pf polemical persuasion, devoid as it is of anything remotely resembling the truth . . .
The Columbine shooters used four high-powered weapons obtained by a friend, no questions asked, from “hobbyist” gun-show dealers. These shows are a leading source of illegally trafficked guns — a large number of guns recovered in crimes come from states that do not require background checks at gun shows
That’s just flat-out false. A 1991 U.S. Bureau of Justice study (based on interviews with prisoners) concluded that less than five percent of criminals MAY have acquired their handguns at a gun show.
Family and friends accounted for 31 percent of weaponry. The black market delivered 28 percent. While 27 percent of these inmates turned to “the retail market,” that category does NOT include gun shows. That would be “other” (five percent).
Gun shows are not “a leading source of illegally trafficked guns.” Period. [download BoJ pdf here.]
It’s also true that the vast majority of guns purchased at gun shows are purchased from federally licensed (FFL) dealers, who perform the usual criminal background checks.
There are plenty of good reasons to stop private citizens from selling guns to one another. But to pretend that any such move is aimed at “the gun lobby” or “evil gun dealers” is disingenuous. And then some. It also fails to highlight the fact that “closing the gun show loophole” would be yet another extension of federal power over heretofore private commercial transactions.
Gray Lady: if you’re good with that, good for you. Just don’t mislead your audience with spurious, emotions-based arguments with no factual foundation. A reader’s trust is a terrible thing to waste.