Pro-Gun Advocates Say Gun Control Group Proves Their Point

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - A Second Amendment rights group said Thursday that information publicized by a gun control group proves the pro-gun argument that regulating the behavior of law-abiding citizens does little or nothing to prevent crimes committed by outlaws using firearms.

Americans for Gun Safety (AGS), a pro-gun control group that promotes itself as the voice of moderation in the Second Amendment debate, issued several press releases in mid-August decrying the "Nation's Leading Gun Trafficking States" and listing the 10 worst offenders.

"Illegal gun traffickers have figured out that the feds simply don't enforce the gun laws on the books," said AGS Policy and Research Director Jim Kessler in one such press release. "When you combine shoddy federal enforcement and lax firearms laws, it makes Mississippi a gun runner's paradise."

Mississippi ranked at the top of the list, per capita, as the source of guns used by criminals in other states, but only sixth on the overall list. According to AGS, of the 109,870 crime guns traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 2001, 36,828 (33.5 percent) were originally purchased in one state and used in crimes in another.

In 2001, the top 10 states from which criminals obtained guns they then used in other states were:

    Virginia - 2,489;
    Georgia - 2,428;
    California - 2,228;
    Florida - 2,048;
    Texas - 1,851;
    Mississippi - 1,772;
    Ohio - 1,697;
    Indiana - 1,684;
    North Carolina - 1,454; and
    Alabama - 1,301.

AGS complained that lax law enforcement is partially to blame for the number of guns originating from one state and being used by criminals in another.

"The federal government has done a fairly poor job of enforcing the gun laws generally, and particularly the guns laws that are relevant to gun trafficking," said Matt Bennett, AGS communications director.

But some federal prosecutors immediately criticized the report for not including prosecutions of gun traffickers and criminals illegally in possession of guns for crimes other than those relating to the firearms, which yielded longer sentences for the perpetrators.

"There's a thousand things you can criticize us for," Tim Morrison, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, told the Associated Press after the report's release. "But I'd like to have accurate data."

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), a pro-gun group that advocates the Second Amendment's protection of a citizen's right to own and carry firearms, also commented on the AGS report.

Joe Waldron, CCRKBA executive director, noted that at least three of the states on the AGS list have restrictive gun laws identical to those promoted by anti-gun groups as legislative remedies to keep criminals from getting guns.

"The solutions that they offer today and in the past are, in fact, the law in some of these states," Waldron told "Yet it doesn't appear to have had any impact on stopping the gun trafficking."

Waldron noted that many anti-Second Amendment groups have promoted so-called "one gun a month" legislation as the most effective tool to keep traffickers from buying guns in states with less restrictive gun laws and then transporting them to states that practice virtual gun prohibition.

"Virginia has had this law on the books since 1996, yet it doesn't appear to have stopped the gun traffickers at all," Waldron noted.

AGS also cited the failure of states to prohibit unregistered sales between private citizens at gun shows, the so-called "gun show loophole," as another fault leading to gun trafficking.

"Most of the states on the list, save I believe California - there may be one other - have not closed the 'gun show loophole,'" Bennett said. "At least in our view, a lot of guns being trafficked that end up being used in crime may have come from traffickers purchasing them at gun shows."

But Bennett acknowledged that criminals, and by extension the traffickers who supply them, would not necessarily want to share the company of either the small number of on-duty law enforcement officers present at gun shows to provide security or the usually large contingent of off-duty law enforcement officers who attend the shows, legally armed, as firearms enthusiasts.

"California, right there near the top of the list of their top 10, already has the 'gun show loophole' closed," Waldron explained. "In fact, they have closed the 'gun show loophole,' and they have closed the 'private sale loophole.'"

No citizen of the State of California may sell a firearm to another citizen of the state without both the seller and the purchaser going to a federally licensed gun dealer and undergoing a Brady Instant Background Check, which creates a de facto registry of the gun purchase.

"There is no gun 'loophole' of any kind in California, and yet it appears that California still is at or near the top of this gun trafficking list," Waldron noted.

Bennett argued that California would not be on the top 10 list if it were based on per-capita data, but Waldron said that misses the point, which is that the state with the laws gun control groups seek most is one of the top states supplying guns to criminals.

"The bottom line here is that the solutions they are offering have, in fact, been tried in other states. They're not solutions," Waldron concluded. "The solution is to focus on the people who are misusing the guns, not to pass more and more restrictive gun laws that apply to the general population.

"Ninety-nine percent of the gun owners out there are never involved in criminal activity," Waldron added. "Why waste finite resources on those people when we should be focusing on the criminals?"

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