THE GUN SHOW BILL CAN'T REALLY BE THAT BAD, CAN IT?
If you missed the original story click here:
GUN SHOW BILL IS NOT WHAT THEY SAY
by Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
The attorney I worked with on "Gun Laws of America" (the unabridged
guide to federal law), Michael P. Anthony, made the following astounding
conclusion after studying the McCain-Lieberman gun show bill. I
rechecked the bill and found he's correct (as usual). Good going, Mike.
1. CAN THIS BILL SHUT DOWN GUN SHOWS ALTOGETHER?
Here's the real hidden Catch 22. If a gun show operator allows even a
single unlicensed gun vendor to attend the show, the feds can lock up
the operator. They have a ton of extra money in this bill for
enforcement of such things.
If any person attending the show offers (not even sells, but offers) a
gun to anyone else at the show -- even a gun they don't have with them
-- they become, by definition, an unlicensed vendor, and everyone is
subject to arrest and imprisonment -- the seller, the buyer, AND the gun
show operator. You don't even need to have a prohibited possessor (a
criminal) involved. No operator is going to run a gun show exposed to
that kind of legal risk.
To protect against this, the only way a gun show operator can safely run
a show, is to pre-register everyone in attendance AS A VENDOR, not just
as an attendee. That means personal ID and centralized registration at
pretty much the level an FFL (licensed gun dealer) must endure.
The McCain-Lieberman gun show bill, advertised as a way to prevent a
criminal from avoiding a background check, is instead a sneak attack on
the very existence of gun shows as we know them.
[The citations: SEC. 102, 18 USC 921(a)(39) -- Anyone who is not an FFL
(a federally licensed gun dealer) and who "exhibits, sells, offers for
sale, transfers or exchanges 1 or more firearms" at a gun show is a
"special firearms event vendor"; A gun show operator is subject to two
years imprisonment (SEC. 103 (b)(7)(a)(1)(I)), unless the operator
"verifies the identity of each special firearms event vendor
participating in the special firearms event by examining a valid
identification document (as defined in section 1028(d)(2)) of the vendor
containing a photograph of the vendor" (Sec. 931(a)(1)(D)), and that
person must sign "a ledger with identifying information" (a)(2)(E)(i).
The ledger must go to the Secretary of the Treasury (see (a)(2)(G))
within five days of the close of the gun show.]
I took lots of calls and emails after my original article
on the McCain-Lieberman gun show bill, like this one --
"You must have it wrong Alan.
I read the bill myself on thomas.loc.gov;
It's a pretty bad bill all right, but
I don't see half the things you're claiming."
I rechecked everything, and ran it by more experts.
It all stands, and here is clarification for everyone concerned.
2. ARE ALL VENDORS -- NOT JUST GUN VENDORS -- TO BE REGISTERED?
The gun show operator must give 30-day notice directly to the Secretary
of the Treasury, of "the vendors planning to participate" (SEC. 103,
Sec. 931(a)(2)(B)). This is not limited, as in the next paragraph,
(a)(2)(C), where 72-hour notice applies only to "special firearms event
vendors planning to participate". (Gun dealers are called "special
firearms event vendors" under the bill.)
Subtle and deceptive distinctions like this are quite common in law, and
frequently serve to slip in controversial conditions. When found, bill
sponsors sometimes claim clerical error. When undetected, they pass
into law and are enforced as they read. Unless changed, this would
require a book seller like me to pre-register or be in violation and
subject to arrest (and jeopardize the operator too).
3. IS REGISTRATION OF ANYONE WHO ATTENDS PART OF THE BILL?
McCain's and Lieberman's offices are denying it over the phone,
according to numerous people who have corresponded with me.
If a gun show operator cannot prove that "each person who attends" the
gun show has been notified of every requirement (see Sec. 931 (a)(2)(F))
in this 3,900-word bill, in accordance with regulations that are not
even know at this time, the operator can be arrested and imprisoned (for
5 years) and fined and have the license to operate suspended or revoked.
For operators to meet such a requirement (and run the show without those
legal exposures) they would need proof that each attendee was in fact
notified, which will basically amount to your signature in a book or on
a not-yet-designed form. This must be saved by the operator and the
federal authorities have unrestricted access.
A sign at a doorway, as some people have mistakenly interpreted this,
does not provide legal "constructive notice" and would provide an
inadequate defense. Because we've discovered and exposed this
"loophole," McCain and Lieberman may be forced to deny and eliminate
this particular goal.
This issue has confused many people. Certain red flags are left out of
bills to help them pass, and afterwards the public, law enforcement, and
even Congress finds out what they actually enacted. That's quite
common, especially at the federal level. The statute does not
explicitly say that information must be collected on attendees -- that
would be way too inflammatory and make passage difficult or impossible.
Instead, it says operators must notify each person who attends of every
requirement in this lengthy bill (see (a)(2)(F)), subject to fines and
long-term imprisonment of the operator for failure to do so, and that
the operator "submits to the Secretary a copy" of the notice (see
(a)(2)(G)) within five days. If the notice to all attendees is just
some special sign that the government says must be posted, submitting it
in five days would serve no purpose.
The legal challenges this forces on gun show operators are obvious.
Imagine this. The feds say you failed to notify Joe (a plant) who went
to your show, they have photos of Joe inside, and they seek to close
your show and arrest you, the operator (using the millions of new tax
dollars conveniently allocated for additional enforcement). Go ahead.
How do you prove they are wrong and that you notified Joe without his
signature and some proof that it's actually him? But I could be
mistaken. Maybe they'll just take your word for it, and no
documentation of any kind will be needed.
4. CAN THE FEDS CHANGE THE GUN SHOW RULES AFTER PASSAGE?
Repeatedly throughout the bill are references to "in accordance with
regulations the Secretary shall prescribe" or similar. These regs are
not known and will not be known until after the passage of the law.
They will be drafted in secret and are not controllable by the public or
even by Congress, if the past is any gauge. For an appearance of
fairness, a "routine" bureaucratic review process will be conducted
Such unlimited grants of power to the Treasury Dept. are downright scary
-- you'd think McCain and Lieberman would know better -- since we have
seen huge abuses of this in the past. For example, federal authorities
record and keep NICS background check data under Brady "regulations," in
direct violation of the McClure-Volkmer Act and the Brady law itself,
and Congress has been unable or unwilling to stop them. My use of
adjectives in the original article may seem strong to some readers, but
personally, in the interests of remaining a voice of reason, I believe I
held back on what could be much stronger implications.
Because "any other information" is required under the unwritten
regulations, your guess is as good as mine as to what that might
include. Again, I tried to voice my concerns on this conservatively; if
you're one of those slope-headed paranoid kooks the media writes about
all the time, who thinks the federal government might get sneaky or
extreme, then gun serial numbers, social security numbers, gun types and
the name of your first born might be possibilities (I don't think so).
If the phrase "any other information" (or similar) was used one time it
would be a red flag. It is used in Sec. 931 (a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(C),
(a)(2)(E)(i), (a)(3)(B), (d)(1)(E), (d)(3), (d)(4) and elsewhere.
5. ARE THE GUN SHOW REGISTRATION RECORDS CENTRALIZED?
All of the new licenses and reports must be filed with the Treasury
Dept. (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Some of the record
keeping starts out with the show operators ("notifies each person who
attends"), but the feds are granted unqualified access and it will be
centrally recorded afterwards ("submits to the Secretary a copy of the
ledger" or "notifies the Secretary of the date, time, duration, and
location of the special firearms event, the vendors planning to
participate" and similar requirements.
I suppose it might be more accurate to say that some of the registration
"handling" is distributed, though they all end up centralized (even the
attendee notice must be submitted to the federal government within five
days of the end of the show, at (a)(2)(G)). Show organizers keep their
own copies of some of it, under guidelines that are not yet known.
Depending on the regulations that have not been written, authorities
could easily require filing all papers that are not explicitly
centralized under the statute, or create new paperwork. Certainly,
nothing in this bill stops them or even pretends to protect the rights
of the innocent. And here we thought it was all about keeping guns out
of the hands of criminals.
6. IS THE GOVERNMENT PURSUING "BIOMETRIC" NATIONAL ID?
The term "biometric" does not appear in the McCain-Lieberman Gun Show
Bill. You must read the cross-referenced statute for this term and
related requirements. That citation, 18 USC 1028, is made in (a)(2)(D),
for mandatory inclusion of the federal government national ID
requirements (only for the gun vendors at this time). While I agree
there may be value in making identification documents secure for some
purposes, the potential for abuse is gigantic.
In at least two previous and deliberately secretive attempts, federal
agents have tried to slip a national ID card requirement into law, were
discovered in the eleventh hour, and were stopped (and got their hands
slapped lightly). Perhaps you recall the first attempt, in a
transportation bill, by trying to force states to make their driver
licenses conform or withholding highway funds, and the second time,
under the guise of health insurance, with a medical ID card for every
American. There may be more, I wouldn't be surprised.
Congressman Henry Waxman's (D., Calif.) recently publicized national
"sting" that proved you could bypass gun laws by using phony ID at gun
shows really had nothing to do with guns or gun shows, in my opinion,
though that was the media spin. It's part of a concerted effort to
require airtight security ID for any citizen.
The fears of national ID mandates are relaxed by many Americans when
it's "only" gun owners they're after. The same way the Brady gun scare
got the quarter billion dollars in funding the FBI wanted for its
centralized national citizen checking computer (NICS, in Clarksburg,
WV), gun owners are, well, handy when pushing for a national ID card.
Eventually, it might seem, you won't be able to get an elevator to come
if your fingerprint on the button doesn't match the national file. Why
would an honest person be against that? The AAFIS national fingerprint
database is running full bore and includes, along with the criminals,
bus drivers, child care providers and so many others. Even DNA is being
federally databased, but there's no need to worry, since they're only
doing it to protect us and help fight crime and terrorism.
7. MY LIBERAL FRIENDS CAN'T BELIEVE ALL THIS, BUT IS THERE MORE?
A -- There's one more point that no one raised, but it sure worries me.
The federal government introduces a batch of new terms here, and boy, is
that dangerous. Once they hand down a new legal definition, all sorts
of stuff starts coming down the pike because of it. If McCain-Lieberman
passes, how soon, and what do you think will be the next law dealing
with "special firearms event frequent operators," or "special firearms
event licensees" now that there are such things? Look what happened
after they shoehorned in the term assault rifle.
B -- Our representatives in Washington are debating McCain-Lieberman as
if it were a gun show loophole bill, though it's real effect is to
federalize gun shows, outlaw them without prior federal approval, create
a massive new bureaucracy, generate millions of new federal records
annually, license and register everyone in sight, and it makes crimes
out of all sorts of activity that creates no victims, hurts no one, and
is currently legal (private property sales from one innocent person to
another). Amazingly, direct criminal activity is unaffected by this
bill's proposals -- only legal gun sales and other legal actions would
be regulated and outlawed.
C -- I've also noticed that the mass media hasn't noticed. And that
every report they've made so far is grossly inaccurate, and they have
done nothing to make corrections. I've notified them of the errors of
course, but they've been unresponsive. I encourage you to notify them
too, any way you can, and be persistent.
D -- It also occurred to me that it makes zero sense to regulate private
gun sales at gun shows, if private gun sales everywhere else are
perfectly legal. But you know the drill on that. That's the next
"loophole" leftists will be gunning for. The mass media has kept eerily
quiet on this, but it's hard to imagine they don't recognize it. Why
upset the apple cart.
E -- You may also have concerns that the First Amendment right to
assemble, which gun shows represent for many people with similar
interests, would be severely hurt if McCain-Lieberman passed and gun
shows closed or were severely limited.
F -- The great and feared fire-breathing dragon, the much demonized and
powerful national gun lobby (often but misleadingly referred to solely
as the NRA), has been inexplicably mild on this subject, focusing
largely on minor matters, like the creation of differing definitions for
frequent and infrequent gun show operators, and a three-year-away
impossible-to-comply-with 24-hour checking standard. Someone ought to
let them know there are other fish frying.
There's probably more, but I need a rest.
Permission is granted to post this material to any place where your
friends and other readers can get the full story.
Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
Bloomfield Press, 4848 E. Cactus, #505-440 Scottsdale, AZ 85254 602-996-4020 email@example.com http://www.gunlaws.com "We publish the gun laws."
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