Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.
Legislative Action Committee
As reported in the Nashville City Paper edition on Monday, April 28, 2008, Nashville's new liberal mayor - Karl Dean - is going down the path of the fatuous assertion that there is a loophole in existing firearms laws relative to private sales.
Dean considers movement to clamp down on â€˜gun show loopholeâ€™
By Nate Rau, firstname.lastname@example.org
A national movement among urban mayors against illegal guns and the so-called â€œgun show loopholeâ€ has made its way to Knoxville and Memphis. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said he is exploring joining that cause.
Over 250 mayors from 40 states have signed on to the coalition, which seeks to cut down on the illegal purchasing and selling of guns. The first battlefront is eliminating the so-called â€œgun show loophole,â€ which allows individual gun owners to sell to other private citizens without conducting background checks.
As their latest television ad states, the movement has members who support presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and the two Democratic presidential finalists Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Among them are mayors of Tennesseeâ€™s two other major municipalities â€” Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam.
Dean, mayor of a city that hosts regular guns shows and has for almost three decades, said he is considering the idea.
â€œI will look into the coalition and see if thatâ€™s something that can further the cityâ€™s public safety efforts,â€ Dean said.
Background checks not required
When an individual goes to a retail establishment with a federal firearms license â€” anywhere from the local gun shop to Wal-Mart â€” an instant background check is performed through a state agency like the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The results of the background check typically come back within a few minutes and if the person passes, they are clear to purchase the gun.
However, the laws in many states including Tennessee, allow gun sales to take place between individuals without a background check. For instance, if an individual gun owner wants to sell his or her rifle, they may place an advertisement in the newspaper. When someone comes to purchase that gun, a background check isnâ€™t required.
Such sales happen frequently at gun shows across the country, typically weekend events where licensed gun-dealers, firearms collectors and individuals can rent space to sell guns and other wares. Gun owners can also bring unloaded firearms into the shows and attempt to sell them both to dealers at tables or to other gun owners while walking the grounds of the show.
A licensed gun dealer is required to perform a background check with TBI on any deals it conducts at gun shows, but not for individual owners looking to sell their personal firearms. The organized gathering of gun owners and dealers combined with the owner-to-owner sales has caused proponents of stricter gun laws dub this the â€œgun show loopholeâ€ to background check laws.
â€œNot only is there no background check on the person purchasing the gun, thereâ€™s no record on the gun itself,â€ Rivergate Guns and Knives owner Rick Uselton said. â€œSo the gun could be stolen and the person buying it back would never know.â€
Not a Second Amendment issue
With one gun shop in Madison, another on the way in Franklin and his own custom gun manufacturing business, Uselton says heâ€™s proudly â€œ150 percent behind the Second Amendment.â€
Uselton is especially fond of the phrasing at the end of the amendment, â€œthe right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.â€
If the National Rifle Association was looking for a Nashville-area spokesman, Uselton would make perfect sense. Besides his gun shops and manufacturing business, heâ€™s also a deputy sheriff in Sumner County.
But thereâ€™s one issue where Uselton breaks the party line and thatâ€™s on the topic of perceived lackadaisical laws surrounding sales at gun shows.
â€œIn this era, the idea that there are places criminals can go and buy guns with no accountability, it doesnâ€™t do my business any good and it doesnâ€™t do law-abiding gun dealers any good,â€ Uselton said, referring to the loophole.
David Goodman is a Kentucky-based gun show promoter who has brought gun shows to Nashville for about 25 years, mainly to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Goodman said the movement to require background checks at gun shows is misguided and unnecessary.
â€œThere is no such thing as the gun show loophole,â€ Goodman said. â€œThe law applies equally no matter where youâ€™re going to sell. Whether itâ€™s the newspaper, your neighbor, the flea market, the same law applies to everybody.â€
Goodman, whose show comes to Nashville May 3-4, said efforts to clamp down on gun shows would effectively put him out of business.
â€œOne of the things thatâ€™s been mentioned is having all individuals who want to sell or purchase guns to register 72 hours in advance of the show,â€ Goodman said. â€œThereâ€™s just no way I could do that, how am I supposed to know in advance who all is coming into a show?â€
Goodman also maintains that a gun show would be a foolish place to conduct an illegal gun sale. Although background checks are not required, selling guns to a felon is illegal.
â€œThe place is crawling with ATF and TBI agents,â€ Goodman said. â€œAt my shows, Iâ€™ve got a booth for the ATF, so why someone would do an illegal gun sale with the police right there, it doesnâ€™t make sense. The whole movement is just a ploy.â€
An ATF spokesman acknowledged the agency does have a presence at gun shows, but disputed the notion they are â€œcrawling with agents.â€
In the last few weeks, the mayorsâ€™ coalition has rolled out national television spots, which have begun running in Nashville.
One of the coalitionâ€™s initiatives is to give cities and local governments the right to have their own illegal gun policies, including eliminating the gun show loophole.
â€œFrom a public policy perspective, I absolutely believe quality of life issues are under our purview,â€ at-Large Councilwoman Megan Barry said. â€œWe should be able to say what we want to happen in the confines of Davidson County. If that means restricting access to firearms, we should be within our rights to do it.â€
Not a widespread problem
Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron said the department has no reason to believe criminals purchasing guns at gun shows in Nashville is a widespread problem.
â€œAre criminals purchasing guns on the streets? Yes. Is home burglary gun-theft a problem? Yes,â€ Aaron said. â€œAre criminals purchasing guns illegally at gun shows? I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t have any reason to believe itâ€™s a widespread problem.â€
The weight of the issue isnâ€™t lost on Dean, who said spending most of his career as a public defender made the issue of illegal guns a personal one.
â€œI know, having worked in the criminal justice system for much of my career, that an illegal firearm can turn a basketball game into a murder or a card game into a murder,â€ Dean said. â€œWe need to do all that we can to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles and felons.â€
Aaron said the Crooks with Guns law passed last year, which gives harsher sentences and more difficult parole terms to illegal gun offenders, has led to 92 arrests already this year. Dean said initiatives like that are key in the fight against illegal guns.
â€œ[Metro Police Chief Ronald] Serpas and [District Attorney Torry] Johnson were part of the successful lobbying effort for the Crooks with Guns legislation and I support their ongoing effort to enhance the law by making it applicable to first time convicted armed robbers,â€ Dean said. â€œAnd I look forward to further exploring the coalition of mayors against illegal guns.â€
[Note on the foregoing article, David Goodman, although not even a Tennessee resident is a Life Member of TFA. Rick Uselton, a Tennessee resident, has never been a TFA member and from all appearances has never donated to TFA. Just as TFA members have successfully talked with merchants such as Lowe's about posting issues, maybe we should also talk with vendors who make a living off of firearms to encourage them to be members of TFA and support our efforts. Thanks David!]
On the issue of whether the counties in Tennessee can do anything about any perceived loophole, state law prohibits local action of this type and reserves exclusively to the Legislature the authority to enact laws of this type:
39-17-1314. Local regulation of firearms and ammunition preempted by state regulation â€” Actions against firearms or ammunition manufacturers, trade associations or dealers. â€”
(a) No city, county, or metropolitan government shall occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or combinations thereof; provided, that the provisions of this section shall be prospective only and shall not affect the validity of any ordinance or resolution lawfully enacted before April 8, 1986.