Gun show background checks just common sense

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Columnist Bud Kennedy recently took issue with the suggestion of the Tarrant County Democratic Executive Committee that we take common-sense action to keep guns out of the hands of those likely to do harm. (See: "Democrats fire blanks at Tarrant gun shows," Feb. 27)

Let's be clear: Tarrant Democrats didn't call for doing away with gun shows.

As President Barack Obama said at the Sandy Hook prayer vigil: "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. We must change."

Fort Worth crime statistics show that 63 murders were committed in the city in 2010. The Fort Worth crime rate report compiled by the FBI in 2010 reveals that violent crimes were committed in Fort Worth at a rate 42 percent higher than the national average. A large number of those unfortunate victims were younger than 25.

So, should our response to these alarming statistics be to do nothing? I think not.

The resolution offered by Tarrant Democrats simply does what all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, agree on: Let's keep the guns out of the hands of felons, drug cartels, domestic abusers and the mentally ill. After all, as we hear over and over again, "guns don't kill people, people kill people," right?

According to a comprehensive study released in 2000 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there is ample evidence that the very people who should not be able to own guns are buying them at gun shows, simply because it is so easy to do.

Exploiting the fact that no background checks are required for sales by individuals at these shows, the bad actors are buying these weapons because it is not necessary for them to reveal their criminal pasts or their histories of mental illness. Tarrant Democrats merely suggest that we close the gun show loophole in Fort Worth.

Avoiding this important issue by saying it is something best left to the Legislature, as the Star-Telegram Editorial Board has suggested, is passing the buck at its worst. Even if the City Council's power to close the gun show loophole is unclear, a bill has been introduced in Austin to allow cities to take this kind of action, and our City Council needs to get behind it.

There is something we can do right now. If a licensed gun dealer sells a gun at a sporting goods store, background checks are required. Some of the persons who sell guns at shows are licensed gun dealers -- and they are required to conduct background checks on those sales. But individual sales aren't subject to the requirement.

Why not close the loophole that is allowing guns to be purchased by the people who shouldn't have them? That protection is easy to implement: Require individual sales of guns at gun shows to be governed by the same rules that apply to licensed firearm dealers. Thanks to vastly improved national data banks, running background checks, even at gun shows, is easy and fast.

Will closing the gun show loophole put an end to shootings of innocent people? Regrettably, no. But it is a first step toward protecting the rights of people to own guns while ensuring that the people most likely to misuse those guns are prevented from easily obtaining them.

If even one shooting of a young person is prevented because of this common-sense requirement, will anyone say it wasn't worth it? Ask the parent, the child, or the spouse of someone who has lost their life to a bullet and see how they answer that question.

Steve Maxwell of Fort Worth is chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party.

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