Sometimes Criminals Walk Among Us: Self-Enforcement is Key at Gun Shows

By Gerard Valentino

The national establishment media is getting a lot of mileage from another of New York Mayor Bloomberg's dirty tricks. In this case, the Mayor sent private investigators to gun shows in several states to prove that illegal gun trafficking is taking place, and that criminals can easily buy firearms in unregulated private transactions.

Video collected at several guns shows showed private citizens selling guns, even though the prospective buyer claimed he could not pass the background check required to buy a gun through a licensed gun dealer.

Clearly, Mayor Bloomberg set up a situation to benefit his view that guns bought at gun shows are the cause of violent crime in New York. He also needed to show New Yorkers that the guns used in crimes in his city are coming from outside of New York, and that the situation is therefore out of his control.

This issue, however, is bigger than Mayor Bloomberg's crusade to end private gun ownership and show the gun violence in New York is not his fault.

Each time someone takes part in an illegal sale at a gun show, it puts the rights of law-abiding gun owners at risk because it plays into the hands of the anti-gun movement by giving credence to the existence of a "gun show loophole."

We can, as pro-gun advocates, rail on about enforcement, and about how Mayor Bloomberg's studies show a small percentage of the gun-buying public. However, that isn't as likely to work in this case, because the general public can clearly see people at gun shows appearing to be violating the law.

When that happens it puts all gun owners in jeopardy, and sheds a bad light on the gun culture.

With a notorious gun grabber in the White House, we can't afford to let a few bad actions derail gun shows, and the pro-gun culture that spawned them. Gun shows are a key component to furthering the shooting sports, and because of the reckless actions of a few criminals they are now at risk.

Luckily, in Ohio, where one of the Bloomberg's schemes took place, Governor Ted Strickland rightfully pointed out that illegal gun sales at guns shows are an enforcement issue, and that no new gun laws are needed. But, that viewpoint is incredibly rare in today's Democratic Party. When other politicians that don't understand the situation see such a damning video, it can change their view of guns and gun shows.

If gun advocates defend these illegal acts, it plays right into the hands of our adversaries. We know the gun community is largely made up of honest, law-abiding people who demand a lot of other gun owners. We expect people will be responsible with the rights so many have fought to protect over the years.

But defending criminals is not part of that pact, and all gun owners need to be outraged that criminals used gun shows to ply their trade.

If the gun community stands by idle, or defends those actions it can do damage to the movement out of all proportion to the act. That is what gun owners and liberty-minded people can't let happen. What we need to take away from this debacle is that sometimes criminals aren't always what they seem. Sometimes, they appear completely different than what we see in Hollywood, or on television.

There are times when the kindly-looking gentleman standing next to you at a gun show is a criminal, and it is our job to make sure people of that ilk are turned away at the door. The sentiment that the government has no place regulating private gun purchases is completely correct, and the fact that the Constitution affirms our right to bear arms can't be any plainer.

Therefore, our own enforcement on this issue is paramount, and if someone at a gun shows sees an illegal transaction, it has to be reported to the organizers, who in turn must notify authorities. That isn't the government injecting themselves into the situation, but instead is the private sector policing itself.

If, as gun advocates we do anything to try and mitigate the illegal actions of these criminals caught by Mayor Bloomberg, we play into the hands of our enemy. They will not only win the short-term battle, but by showing the general public that gun advocates will defend criminals, it proves all of their misguided claims that the gun culture is responsible for gun crime.

Refusing to defend criminal who illegally sell guns at gun shows is a message that has great value to the gun movement, since it not only helps the pro-gun cause, it has the added benefit of being morally and legally just.

Gerard Valentino is Buckeye Firearms Foundation Treasurer, and author of the Valentino Chronicles (paperback) now available through

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