March 28, 2008
Dear Fellow Republican:
Two things today. Conventions and Second Amendment.
For all of you in Fairfax, tomorrow is the deadline to file for the local convention on April 12th, the 8th, 10th, and 11th Congressional District conventions – which are all being held on May 17th, and the State convention on May 31st. You can click on either of the following links to get your form, http://www.cuccinelli.com/10th and http://www.cuccinelli.com/11th BUT REMEMBER, you must deliver it yourself to one of the 10 locations around Fairfax. And remember this too, the world is run by those who show up, so fill out your form, turn it in on time, and show up!
2nd Dose of 2nd Amendment
In the last issue of The Compass I told you about the incredible experience of attending the arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller. In this issue, I’m going to recount for you a speech I gave on the floor of the Senate during this past session where we were – again – dealing with legislation to cut off private sales at gun shows (this is the legislation that the proponents refer to as ‘closing the gun show loophole’).
Senator Robert Hurt suggested during the session that the speech would be a good subject for The Compass. I think he’s right, but now you get to be the judge.
I am on the Courts Committee, the committee in the Senate through which all legislation related to the 2nd Amendment must pass. As a result, upon my arrival in the Senate in 2002, I was the leader in defending the 2nd Amendment. I have continued to lead the defense of the 2nd Amendment in the Courts Committee even as others have joined me: Sen. Obenshain after the 2003 election, Sen. McDougal when he took Bill Bolling’s seat in 2006, and this past session with the addition of Sen. Hurt.
Passions were running particularly hot this session on gun bills due to the tragedy at Virginia Tech last year, but many of the bills were similar to bills we’ve seen and rejected in the past. One aspect that is difficult in arguing about some of these bills is the availability of information that is directly related to the question at hand.
For example, the biggest single study of the source of guns used in crime was done by the Department of Justice during the Clinton administration. They traced over 16,000 guns used in crimes and found that only 0.7% of them were purchased at gun shows. However, what they did NOT determine is whether or not the guns purchased at gun shows were bought legally, i.e., by law abiding citizens with a legal right to purchase a gun.
Why does this matter? Because if every single one of those guns was purchased by a law abiding citizen who had a right to purchase the gun, then shutting down those sales wouldn’t have prevented the illegal transfer of even one single gun. Do I want to stop illegal gun sales? You bet! Is there any evidence that closing down private sales just at gun shows would do anything to stop illegal sales? No, there isn’t.
Well, as luck would have it, my friends at C&E Gun Shows were coming to Fairfax during February – in the midst of this debate, so, as I often do, I dropped in Saturday night during the weekend-long show. I was talking to Annette Elliott (she and Steve Elliott run the show) and she mentioned to me that last year a reporter at their show in Roanoke had asked to walk around filming, which they allowed the reporter to do. Annette told me that during the ‘walk around’ they found 1, yes, only 1, person who was renting a table to sell guns that was not a licensed dealer. 1.
For those of you that are not aware, you must be licensed to sell guns if it is your business (no matter how many you sell a year), or if you sell 25 or more in a year. You do not need to be licensed if you are just selling off part of your collection (less than 25 guns), or any other lawful reason. No one may knowingly sell a gun to someone that is not eligible to buy a gun, e.g., a felon. One relevant aspect of this is that only licensed dealers are required to actually do criminal background checks, and they are set up to do that through the state police at the show.
So, back to the gun show in Fairfax in February. it occurred to me that with so much debate about gun shows, and with so few actual facts being relied upon by the gun control folks, it would be quite helpful to do a ‘walk around’ at the gun show in Fairfax. Annette and Steve Elliott agreed that I could not only walk the whole show with Annette – every row and aisle – but that we could videotape it too. So, we agreed to meet again on Sunday to walk the show and videotape it.
The C&E Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center (in my district) is the largest show East of Louisville, Kentucky. It is one of the 5 biggest shows in the entire country. It’s BIG. It took us well over an hour to walk through the whole show, and we were hurrying.
Annette and I walked up and down every single aisle and filmed every single table. There are more than 1,000 tables at the Dulles show. That’s 1000+! Zoiks. We talked to the vendors throughout the show, and we learned several relevant facts.
At the entire show, one of the 5 largest in the country, there were only 6 vendors selling any guns where the vendor was not a licensed dealer.
Of those 6 vendors, only 1 vendor was selling any handguns whatsoever. Of that vendor’s handguns, only 1 was a semi-automatic (Sig Sauer for $550). All of the others were things like nickel plated revolvers and the like. Not a weapon that is typically used in a crime. That’s what the whole fuss is about?
There’s more. Annette randomly asked 3 of the 6 unlicensed vendors what they were doing. I.e., why are you selling these guns here? All 3 gave the same answer, namely, that they were just liquidating a part of their collection. Apparently, you can get higher prices for guns sold at a gun show than by selling other ways, such as putting a sign up on your gun club bulletin board, etc. Presumably that’s part of the value of a gun show, is that it brings a lot of people together in one place that are all interested in guns. They have facilitated the function of the market, lowering transactions costs of participants. okay, I’ll leave the economics for another day.
I will also tell you that when we looked at them, prior to asking whether they were licensed dealers, none of the unlicensed vendors’ displays looked any different than any of the small licensed dealers displays. In other words, if you were a bad guy and you came to a gun show to buy a gun illegally, there’s no way to tell who is a licensed dealer (requiring a background check) and who is not (no background check required).
I would further add to that that when we would ask vendors questions, they became instantly paranoid. Now, keep in mind that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you! These are folks that have been beat on in the media and treated like they are the bad guys just because they are law abiding gun owners. The only reason that I could get my questions answered was because I was with Annette, whom they all knew. If virtually anyone else was asking the questions that we were asking, many of the vendors simply would not have answered them. So, if someone were to come in and start asking vendors if they were licensed or not, they would instantly draw unfavorable attention to themselves. It would be very hard to do.
I related all of this information on the floor of the Senate in a speech, and I noted that we had gone out and gathered actual facts that were related to the debate. Liberals don’t like facts – they get in the way of feelings. But, as John Adams famously said in his argument in defense of the soldiers in the Boston massacre trials in December of 1770, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Needless to say, after I related our extensive gathering of those pesky, stubborn facts on the floor of the Senate, there were many sour looks on the faces of the gun-grabbing liberals. And what were they going to do? Argue emotions (again), of course.
I got some great feedback from our last Compass on the D.C. gun ban case. One of the comments from one of the emails made me laugh, though it wasn’t intended. One of our readers said: “I want to see a day when no politician can decide where and when I can carry my protection.”
What made me laugh is that an avid reader of The Cuccinelli Compass thinks “my protection” means his gun, which he wants to carry for self-defense. what do you think one of Janet Oleszek’s supporters would think “my protection” means? Probably something a little bit different.
We’ll be on a new topic next week, so stay tuned! And please don’t forget to donate online to our campaign as we try to restock for the next battle!
Senator Ken Cuccinelli
Virginia 37th District