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The gun show 'loophole': A numbers game

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Some ado is being made over the National Rifle Association's decision to change its position on background checks for private gun show purchases. But the NRA's switch is as prudent as the so-called “gun show loophole” is regularly misrepresented by anti-gun zealots and the media alike.

Gun show purchases from licensed dealers always have required background checks. Sales between private individuals, typically hobbyists and collectors, have not. And while the Obama administration and others have implied that such sales are responsible for up to 40 percent of show transactions, the real number is far less. Try 4 percent.

“The ‘gun-show loophole' is an exaggeration designed to foster the false impression that this is how the bad guys acquire firearms,” reminds Washington Times gun scribe Emily Miller. Furthermore, a mere 0.7 percent of those “bad guys” (state and federal prison inmates) purchased their guns in such a manner, Ms. Miller adds, citing Justice Department statistics.

The NRA once favored universal background checks. Now it does not. But it makes perfect sense for the NRA to reverse course, given the statistics. And as NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre notes, such checks would be ineffective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

“It's time to do something,” President Obama implored Monday in Minneapolis, pushing for stricter gun laws. Enforcing the plethora of laws already on the books, regularly unprosecuted, would be the better tack.

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