Gun Stories of the Week: National Gun Show Bill is Revived

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Maloney’s gun show background checks bill revives anti-gun McCarthyism

A New York House Democrat has introduced legislation that would require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to hire investigators to inspect gun shows and examine records kept by gun show operators and vendors while mandating all sellers to obtain a background check for all guns sold at gun shows.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on May 19 reintroduced the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act, a bill that has failed to pass muster at least three times in the last five years while being championed by former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.).

The bill would subject anyone selling or transferring a gun to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and require that transfers be reported to the attorney general. Maloney said a background check is required when a Federal Firearm Licensee wants to sell firearms at a gun show, but no such requirement exists for private sales.

“Background checks keep guns out of criminal hands, but for no good reason current law allows many guns to be sold without this basic step,” Maloney said in a news release posted by Bob Owens of Bearingarms.com on May 20. “It wouldn’t be hard for gun show hosts to set up a background check station for private sellers. Many states already have this requirement, and my legislation would nationalize it.”

The bill failed to get to the House floor for a vote in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Among the reasons why it hasn’t progressed is it would not do what sponsors claim it will, Owens writes.

“While they vary in size and dealer makeup around the nation, the most constant thing about gun shows is that the supermajority of firearms -- generally more than 90-percent -- sold are through FFLs, who conduct on-the-spot NICS background checks with each and every sale,” he writes. “Of course, the number of high-profile mass killers we’ve seen pass background checks shows that they simply don’t deter future crime, but logic has never been a strong point with anti-gun Democrats.”

A more accurate name for the proposed legislation is “Let’s Build An Illegal Database Of Gun Owners Bill,” Owens continues, because it “would require that the transfer of private property from one individual to another be reported to one of the most politicized and abused offices in the executive branch -- the Attorney General.”

Owens writes that Maloney’s anti-gun McCarthyism revival is “like a New Jersey Democrat’s bill to create a database of ammunition purchasers” and “is part of a concerted effort by anti-gun Democrats to know who you are, and what your capabilities are as an armed citizen. If that doesn’t alarm you, you aren’t paying attention.”

POLICY OR POLITICS?

Feds raid Stag Arms plant, confiscate AR-15 parts for ‘use and benefit of the United States’

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents on May 18 seized more than 100 AR-15 parts from a Stag Arms plant in Connecticut, claiming the manufacturer violated the National Firearms Act (NFA) by failing to stamp serial numbers on the semi-automatics’ lower receivers.

According to Dave Collins of the Associate Press, who inaccurately described the AR-15 parts as “machine gun parts,” the ATF sought search warrants for Stag Arms manufacturing plant in New Britain after routine inspections in July and August found more than 3,000 AR-15 parts without serial numbers.

Both are violations of the NFA, prosecutors said in documents filed May 6 in federal court in Bridgeport. The actual confiscation of 103 parts occurred on May 18 and was first reported by The Hartford Business Journal on that day.

The allegations against Stag Arms says it engaged in “criminal sale or transfer” of firearms by not serializing the parts. Prosecutors filed the claim within a forfeiture request, asking a judge to allow the ATF to keep 103 of the seized assault rifle parts for "the use and benefit of the United States,” according to the AP’s Collins.

Stag Arms owner Mark Malkowski admitted the gun parts were manufactured by his company but said the employee responsible for placing serial numbers on the parts was on vacation when the inspections occurred, court papers said. No criminal charges were filed against Stag Arms, which released a statement on May 19 saying it is cooperating with government officials.

"Although the allegations relate primarily to timing and record keeping, and Stag believes public safety was never compromised, the company takes its obligation to comply with all laws very seriously," the statement posted by AP said. "Stag has made comprehensive changes to ensure that similar problems cannot happen again."

The general consensus among gun owners on website bulletin boards, such as AR-15.com, is the seizure is more about politics than NFA violations. Of particular speculation is the statement in the forfeiture request that the AR-15 parts were to be seized for “the use and benefit of the United States.”

Stag Arms gained a high profile in Connecticut when Malkowski became a vocal critic of a stricter state gun-control law passed in the wake of the 2012 Newtown school shootings. The manufacturer employs more than 200 people and is allegedly seeking to leave Connecticut for a state with a less restrictive regulatory environment.

Others say Stag Arms induced the seizure and the on-going ATF investigation by its own lackadaisical actions in complying with long-established federal regulations.

“Stag Arms is in very serious jeopardy for their technical violations of federal law regarding the serialization of AR-15 lower receivers. Let’s not forget nor minimize those allegations, as they seem to have legitimacy,” writes Bob Owens in May 19 blog on Bearingarms.com. “What they clearly aren’t doing, however, is engaging in the criminal sale or transfer of un-serialized lower receivers, and it is idiotic for ATF to make that claim. “

STATE LEIGISLATURE ROUNDUP

Waco shootout doesn’t derail momentum to pass Texas open carry bill

Deliberations over a bill that would allow for the open carrying of handguns in Texas went on as scheduled May 18 in the state’s Senate despite the previous day’s gun battle between rival biker gangs and law enforcement agents at a Waco restaurant that left nine dead, dozens wounded and 170 alleged gang members in jail, each with $1 million bonds.

According to Adam Chandler’s May 20 article in The Atlantic, lawmakers reiterated their support for open carry and defended the measure, which has already passed in the Texas House.

“This bill does not have anything to do with what went on yesterday," Chandler quotes an unnamed state senator. This sentiment was echoed by others, he writes, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who told the AP on Monday: “The shootout occurred when we don't have open carry, so obviously the current laws didn't stop anything like that.”

The proposed open-carry law would bring handgun policy in Texas in line with 44 other states that “allow” some form of open carry. According to an analysis by the Dallas Morning News, there’s been “a decades-long evolution” among Texas lawmakers regarding open carry. In the 1990s, the DNM reports, opponents of looser gun rights laws attached open-carry amendments to gun legislation “in an effort to sink the bills. Some Republicans, fearful of just that result, said open carry was unnecessary.”

Now, Chandler writes, “open carry supporters point to the 90s as an indication that predictions of increased violence from loosened gun laws are overblown. In 1995, then-Governor George W. Bush signed a concealed carry bill into law. Firearm homicides in Texas declined 30 to 40 percent in the ensuing decades.”

Texas Carry Chief Instructor Matt Harrell told KFDM News’ Sarai Demien that the right to openly carry his handgun is something Texas Carry has been striving to make legal in the state of Texas for years. “Our group we are the only ones to really put out the licensed open carry bill which has been a point of contention that's kinda polarized some of the gun groups," he said.

The Waco shootout should not be part of the conversation, Harrell said. "I don't think that that incident really has that much bearing on what we're doing on open carry. Without the facts of the case I'm hesitant to go too deep into but I would like to know how many of the individuals were licensed holders, how many individuals were intoxicated," he said.

IN THE COURTS

D.C. weighing appeal of court ruling that loosens gun control law

A federal judge on May 18 ruled unconstitutional a District of Columbia law requiring “good reason” for an applicant to be granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The ruling could spur other Constitutional challenges of similar “good reason” clauses in nine remaining “may issue” states.

The ruling guts a DC law passed in September that allows police to use “discretion” in granting licenses to Washington residents applying for a permit to carry concealed firearms in public. The law required applicants to show “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol,” before the District’s police department would approve the request.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said on May 19 that the District was still reviewing legal options, but she promised the Washington Post that she’d continue to “fight to ensure the District has the safest gun laws in the nation.”

In a May 19 interview on NewsChannel 8, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said without the “good reason” clause, anyone seeking a gun in the District would no longer have to provide a reason.

Of course, legal scholars and gun owners question the audacity of a government agency that demands citizens present a “good cause” to exercise a fundamental human right guaranteed in the Constitution. The May 18 federal ruling apparently agrees with that view, clearly stating that requiring a citizen have a “good cause” clause into its law is oppressive and unconstitutional.

In addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, the following are "may-issue" states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.