HB263: New bill bans private gun show sales and creates gun registry

by Chad D. Baus

"So what's to guarantee me that, you know, any one of the members in this chamber who hold a concealed carry wouldn't shoot me in the head?" - Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard in floor debate over HB45, May 11, 2001

With that one ignorant statement, Rep. Tracy Heard (D-26) apparently proved to the radical gun ban lobby that she was the perfect choice to carry water for proposed legislation that would effectively end gun shows in Ohio.

And so, on Monday, June 13, Heard held a press conference to announce the introduction of House Bill 263, a bill that seeks to ban private transfers of firearms at gun shows, and which seeks to create a registry of every single person who buys or sells a firearm at a gun show.

Heard was joined at the podium by the Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, the Ohio chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), an anti-gun rights group which has promoted this type of legislation in other states and as well as in Congress. The NRA has said such legislation "would drive gun shows out of business."

From The Columbus Dispatch:

Saying that even terrorists know they might not need to pass background checks to buy firearms at gun shows, a state legislator said yesterday that she is introducing legislation to require such checks.

"To not close this loophole is knowingly reckless and irresponsible to Ohioans and our region," said Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, D-Columbus. "With the challenges we face with gun violence, it is nothing short of negligent to not correct this situation immediately."

The proposal was heralded by Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and City Councilwoman Michelle M. Mills, who joined Heard in a news conference held across W. Broad Street from Westland Mall, where a gun show is scheduled for this weekend.

The show's promoter branded the legislation a folly, and the Buckeye Firearms Association called it a grab at the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Coleman hinged his statements on a video released this month on the Internet in which an al-Qaida spokesman noted the ease with which guns can be bought in the United States.

"America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms," said Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a 32-year-old American. "You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So, what are you waiting for?"

Ken Hanson, legislative chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said linking gun shows to terrorism was blatant fear-mongering. "These guys are getting explosives in their underwear on planes. They don't need to go to Westland to get a gun."

He also noted that ownership of automatic weapons is tightly controlled by the federal government. "It is 100 percent demonstratively false that you can go to a gun show and come home with a machine gun," he said.

This isn't the first time that anti-gun organizations have tried to claim that terrorists buy guns at gun shows. Yet the cases they point to don't prove their point. What's more, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this week that "tightening gun laws to address the threat would be to surrender to terrorists at the expense of Americans' rights."

"We've seen time and again that terrorists will use anything, including our own rights and freedoms, to plot attacks against innocent Americans," Smith said in an email. "But simply because terrorists abuse our liberties doesn't mean that we should limit the rights of law-abiding Americans. On the contrary, to limit our rights is to give in to terrorists and the fear they try to spread."

Gun ban groups like MAIG also claim that "a loophole in the law enables criminals to avoid these checks if they buy from gun-sellers who don't have licenses. Often operating at gun shows, these unlicensed sellers give criminals the opportunity to sidestep the background check system and easily purchase guns."

But under current federal law, it is illegal to "engage in the business" of "dealing in firearms" without a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.[1] "Engaged in the business" means buying and selling firearms as a regular business with the objective of profit.[2] Violations carry a five year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.[3] It is also unlawful in Ohio to recklessly sell, lend, give, or furnish any firearm to any person who may not possess a firearm.

As for the overall allegation that these shows are the source of American criminals' guns, the article also quotes Annette Elliott and her husband, Steven, who run gun shows in several states, including those at Westland:

A savvy criminal won't go near one, she said. "He knows the cops are there, and he knows the ATF is there," she said. "Gangs do not congregate in gun shows."

Indeed, in a recent series of Dispatch articles bought and paid for by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, an admitted firearms trafficker said he "avoided gun shows and, though he wouldn't go into detail, said, 'I preferred to go get my guns out of town.'"

That anecdotal evidence is backed up by the largest study of the subject ever conducted by the federal government found that only 0.7 percent of prison inmates who had used guns, had obtained their guns from gun shows.[4] Another federal study found only 1.7 percent of federal prison inmates obtained their guns from gun shows.[5] A earlier study found less than two percent of criminals' guns came from gun shows.[6] An FBI study of criminals who attacked law enforcement officers found "None of the [criminals'] rifles, shotguns, or handguns...were obtained from gun shows or related activities." Ninety-seven percent of guns in the study were obtained illegally.[7]

So if crime and terrorism aren't the issues, what is HB263 truly all about?

They want to end gun shows in Ohio forever, because they know gun shows are as much a place for like-minded people to gather and exchange information as they are to exchange guns.

Gun owners typically mobilize to help candidates who run against people like Tracey Heard. As has been pointed out at BuckeyeFirearms.org previously, "It drives them insane that the NRA signs up hundreds of members each gun show, that pro-gun candidates get to spend several hours in a cost-free campaign communication exercise, meeting gun owners in person, signing up volunteers and receiving donations in a "target rich environment." It is far too easy for groups like Buckeye Firearms Association to hand out literature attacking their favorite, anti-gun candidates for the mere cost of photocopies. Because clearly gun shows are pro-gun organizations' highest volume, lowest cost channel with which to do their work.

"Antis don't have this. Candle light vigils just don't compare. Early in the antis' game plans they secured innumerable grants from liberals like Soros and Joyce, figuring they would out-spend, out-organize and out-communicate gun owners with professional, paid staffs and large budgets. Yet pro-gun organizations out-work them and out-smart them with volunteers using nearly-free methods and channels. It drives them insane, so they pass laws to try and exterminate talk radio (including NRA News) and try to shut down our gathering places.

It is not coincidental that these bills always go far beyond a background check at a gun show and "mission creep" into eliminating private commerce in guns (i.e. face-to-face transactions, making gun ownership much more burdensome) and/or eliminating gun shows.

For example, under current law, the local police cannot just stroll in and look at a federal firearms licensee (FFL)'s books. But HB263 seeks to change that - requiring private sellers to go through a licensed dealer and register guns in records accessible by the police at any time and for any reason, and without a warrant. Furthermore, the bill forces all licensed gun dealers at gun shows to participate in new gun registration scheme, even for guns sold from FFL's stock.

Additionally, one provision in the bill would create a paperwork bottleneck for FFLs. According to the bill, a seller is not allowed do a background check unless an FFL is transferring the gun. In order to sell a gun, the seller must first transfer it to the FFL. Then the FFL can put it on his book, then the buyer can do the Form 4473 background check. If the buyer doesn't pass, or for some reason changes his or her mind, now the dealer has to do another 4473 on the seller in order to transfer their gun back to them!

The bottom line is this - if HB263 became law, it would lead to the end of all gun shows in Ohio, just as its anti-Second Amendment authors want.

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

Click here to read the legislation.

FLASHBACK August 21, 2010: Activists demand background checks for all Ohio gun show sales


[1] 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A).

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C). The term does not include occasional sales by hobbyists or collectors.

[3] 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1).

[4] Caroline Wolf Harlow, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Firearm Use by Offenders," Nov. 2001, p. 6.

[5] John Scalia, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Firearm Offenders, 1992-98, June 2000, p. 10.

[6] Pamela K. Lattimore, National Institute of Justice, "Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities: Trends, Context and Policy Implications," Dec. 1997, p. 99.

[7] Anthony J. Pinizzotto, "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers," Aug. 2006, p. 53.

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