Cleveland officials looking for criminals with guns in all the wrong places

by Chad D. Baus

Violent crimes, including those committed with guns, are on the increase in Cleveland, and city officials continue to attempt to point the blame at everyone but themselves.

BFA's Ken Hanson recently wrote about how the city was calling for the repeal of statewide firearm preemption in order to, in their words, address the problem of "gun violence," instead of recognizing that the only PROVEN method of reducing violence is removing violent persons from circulation, either through imprisonment or by vibrantly empowering the potential victims to remove the violent person when confronted by one.

Now, Cuyahoga County fair board directors are considering a request by law enforcement officials to require criminal background checks for vendors and for people who buy firearms from non-licensed sellers during gun shows at the fairgrounds. This is curious timing, considering the request comes on the heels of a September 25 Plain Dealer editorial entitled "Ohio needs a law to require background checks on all gun sales."

From the article:

Felonious assault shootings have increased 14 percent in 2011. And there have been 59 homicides so far this year, compared with 50 in 2010. There were 11 slayings this September alone.

[Mayor Frank] Jackson on Tuesday announced a new partnership with federal, state and county law enforcement agencies aimed at reducing gun violence. And Councilmen Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson said Wednesday that they are planning a summit with corporate leaders and other local officials in November to explore ideas about reducing violent crime.

Fair board members said Wednesday that they would consider the requests for background checks on vendors and private firearms sales.

"We have an obligation to do that and we will not take it lightly," said fair board President Tim Fowler.

The gun shows, which are held several times a year at the fairgrounds, have a mix of federally licensed gun dealers who are required to vet buyers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and private sellers, who are exempt from such rules. Private sellers are only required to ask for a buyer's identification to ensure they are Ohio residents.

"The problem is, you don't know who's here," Flask said. "You don't know who's selling guns, legally or illegally. You don't know anything. You just know who you're renting the space to and he's the promoter."

It's unclear how the background checks for private sales would be done. But it was suggested that licensed dealers could do the checks on those buyers.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said he doesn't think it is possible for a licensed firearms dealer to access the background check system for someone else's transaction. Licensed dealers are only permitted to use the NCIS system for their own sales, Irvine said.

"They need to change federal law to give me the power to do it first," Irvine said.

Irvine also informed the writer of this Plain Dealer article that gun shows are simply not a source of crime guns, but that fact was not included in the article.

Consider the following from the NRA's Fact Sheet entitled "The Gun Show Myth."

The most recent federal study, a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on "Firearms Use by Offenders," found that only 0.7% of U.S. "crime guns" came from gun shows, with repeat offenders even less likely than first-timers to buy guns from any retail source. This 2001 study was based on interviews with 18,000 state prison inmates and is the largest such study ever conducted by the government.

Previous federal studies have found few criminals using gun shows. A 2000 BJS study, "Federal Firearms Offenders, 1992-98," found only 1.7% of federal prison inmates obtained their gun from a gun show. Similarly, a 1997 National Institute of Justice study reported less than 2% of criminals' guns come from gun shows.

In 2006, an FBI study of criminals who attacked law enforcement officers found that within their sample, "None of the [attackers'] rifles, shotguns, or handguns … were obtained from gun shows or related activities." Ninety-seven percent of guns in the study were obtained illegally, and the assailants interviewed had nothing but contempt for gun laws. As one offender put it, "[T]he 8,000 new gun laws would have made absolutely [no difference], whatsoever, about me getting a gun. ...I never went into a gun store or to a gun show or to a pawn shop or anyplace else where firearms are legally bought and sold."

With so few criminals obtaining weapons at gun shows, officials are, once again, focusing the blame in the wrong area. Rather than pinning the blame on gun shows, law enforcement should focus on the fact that criminals get their firearms though unregulated means, such as through black market channels, or by stealing them.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

UPDATE October 22, 2011, Cleveland Plain Dealer - Cuyahoga County fair board unsure whether it can tighten gun show 'loophole'

Ken Hanson, an attorney for the Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights political action committee, said he approached officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2009 about a voluntary system of background checks on private sales but was told licensed dealers did not want to take responsibility.

And in Dayton, the new rule does not apply to sales by "aisle walkers" -- people who pay admission and sell their guns to another attendee, Hanson said.

Hanson argued that ATF studies show that few guns bought at gun shows are later found to have been used in crimes. He added that Cleveland officials have little or no credibility because they don't do enough to enforce the city's gun laws.

Cleveland cannot point to anything showing a violent-crime increase that can be tied to the death of local gun laws or people buying guns at gun shows, Hanson said. "This is the trap of proving a negative."

Related Articles:
The truth about Cleveland's "Assault Weapon Ban" - Part I

The truth about Cleveland's "Assault Weapon Ban" - Part II

It's the Criminals, Stupid - Man is dead after City of Cleveland fails to get violent felon off the streets

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