I read with great interest Renee Ordway’s April 4 column “Maine needs to close gun loophole.” In the column, she speaks of the Columbine shooting as a primary reason for voting for LD 814.
While I do not intend to in any way diminish the pain and suffering caused by the tragic events that day, I do not follow Ordway’s logic. LD 814 would require private sellers of guns at gun shows to have background checks run on anyone wanting to purchase a gun at the show. Currently, anyone buying from a licensed gun dealer, i.e., a trading post or gun shop, must run what is called an NICS, or National Instant Criminal Background Check System, before selling you a firearm.
According to Ordway the woman who took the Colorado teens to a gun show where they purchased the guns says the teens kept asking vendors if they were licensed. In hindsight she now sees that was so they would not have to go through a background check. Ordway further quotes the woman as saying she “wouldn’t have helped them buy guns if I had faced a background check.” That statement only makes sense if she knew these teens were up to no good in which case she should be in prison for being an accessory to murder.
If the teens’ female friend had been required to go through a background check there is nothing to indicate it would have deterred her. Her actions are a clear indication that her intentions were not altruistic; she had already taken them to a gun show for the express purpose of buying guns. Stopping these teens from buying the guns at a gun show would not have prevented them from obtaining them.
We have been attempting to stop the flow of illegal drugs with marginal success for years and we know how well Prohibition worked out. Keeping the sale of firearms aboveboard and in the open is a far more logical approach than driving them underground. Criminals will always find a way to get what they want so why restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens.
So what is the big deal about requiring an NICS check at gun shows? First, you are placing a tremendous liability on the organizers of the show who are subject to huge fines if one of the vendors does not follow the rule. Second, if you look at the dealers at a gun show, most are licensed dealers and already must follow the rule. The rest are people who like firearms, and need to sell this gun so they can buy a different one, have decided they don’t need all the guns they have because their hunting habits have changed or need to get a little cash to pay bills. It is important to note that nobody can sell or own automatic weapons without a special permit at a gun show or anywhere else, despite all the rhetoric about “assault weapons” being sold at gun shows.
Finally, Ordway says the NICS checks are “nearly instantaneous and should not delay a sale.” This is absolutely untrue. The last gun I purchased was less than a year ago and the process took well over a half-hour. That sale took place at a licensed gun shop during the week, during normal business hours. Gun shows take place on weekends outside of normal business hours. How many phone lines are available at the Bangor Civic Center to run the NICS checks compared to the 100 or so vendors that have paid good money for the chance to make a few sales? Huge bottlenecks can easily occur. Anyone who has purchased a firearm from a licensed gun dealer will tell you that the process always takes 20 minutes or more; I have spent less time filling out the paperwork to buy a car than to buy a gun.
Why not institute a half-hour waiting period to buy liquor or cigarettes; both kill far more people annually than guns. Only licensed dealers can run the NICS checks so the show organizers would have to hire someone to do the checks and purchase liability insurance.
LD 814 is not the answer and will do nothing to make us safer but will further erode the rights of those of us who wish to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed right to “keep and bear arms.”
David Plowman of Hampden is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.