By WILLIAM E. FARMER
If you havent been to a gun show, you have missed a cultural treat. The folks who regularly attend these events are average Americans who love guns and will be pleased to show you what they love about weapons.
The typical gun show is held in large areas with plenty of room to set up tables for gun dealers and gun collectors who display their guns of all types for sale or for viewing by other gun folks. It is a busy fun event organized to promote gun ownership.
At the gun show there are presently two types of gun sales -- licensed dealer sales operating under Federal law (required to perform a background check on the gun sale) and private non-dealer sales and gun exchanges which are not required to perform a background check to see if the gun purchaser has a criminal record or mental health problems.
Some non-dealer gun sales without a background check occur in the parking lot out of car trunks before the gun owner has entered the gun show. This is called the Gun Show Loophole and is the subject of the proposed gun control law debate. The question is, Should we close the loophole and require background checks? Or will this type of regulation impose a loss to our individual rights under the Second Amendment?
Will this proposed background check requirement extend to private gun sales that are not part of gun show events? Will such a check help stop mad men from getting guns or is it just an attempt to stop the unstoppable? What do you think?
We know that recent polls show that 92 percent of our citizens believe background checks should occur at gun stores; 87 percent want checks at gun shows; and 75 percent are for checks on private sales (See Time/ CNN, January 2013). The impact of the Newtown and other shooting events has left a mark upon us. But what is too much? Should the rights of law abiding people be constrained because of some mentally unstable persons? Those who have been victims or have lost loved ones from gun violence will say it is necessary. Do you agree or disagree?
If it saves one life, is it worth the restriction on our freedom? What if that life was someone you love? Can the proposed background check really make a difference? We are a nation of guns. There are an estimated 310 million guns in the USA, the most guns per person nation in the world.
The second nation with highest guns per capita is Yemen, a Middle East terror stronghold. There may be a message in that statistic.
One of our greatest Founding Fathers, President John Adams, believed our citizens will meet our civic challenges by working for the common good. In the gun control debate, what is the common good? I wish John Adams was here to help us.
The proposed background check amendment recently prepared by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and others has gained some support in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Manchin has a high rating by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The proposed law requires a background check for a criminal record or mental problems involving all gun sales except to your family. Family includes your immediate family and in-laws and extends to your first cousin. In some areas of the country, being able to sell to your cousin without a background check opens gun sales to a large part of the persons county.
Under the Manchin Amendment, all sales at gun shows and on the Internet or in publications would require a background check or make the persons involved open to a Federal violation carrying a penalty of imprisonment for up to five years.
Persons who fail the background check are unable to purchase a weapon. Proponents of the Manchin Amendment claim the proposed law does not permit a Federal Gun Registry which is feared by many in the gun community. Opponents of the background check law point to the fact the Newtown tragedy would not have been stopped by this proposed law. Even so, the parents, relatives and friends of the Newtown victims have gone to Washington, D.C. to support the Manchin Amendment which closes the Gun Show Loophole.
The debate in the U.S. Senate will be interesting. After that the U.S. House will take up the subject. The House leaders have already declared the matter to be dead on arrival. What do you think should happen?
I suggest you go see a gun show before it changes. The gun folks are nice. Most are average citizens who love guns. They will be happy to see you. If the Manchin Amendment passes, the gun shows may disappear.
Editors Note: William E. Farmer is a local attorney who has served as Tennessee Democratic Party Chair and as a Lebanon City Councilor. He is a Tennessee Gun Permit Holder.