June 5, 2002

KRISTOF UPDATE: Nick Kristof’s dumb, biased, and inaccurate column on gun shows came in for a pasting in the Blogosphere yesterday. Even leftie blogger Ted Barlow found that Kristof’s stereotypes didn’t match his own gun-show experience.

Here, by the way, is a clear and detailed explanation by Dave Kopel (who has a book on gun regulation just out from NYU Press) of why the “gun-show loophole” is a myth — and one propagated with malice aforethought. Kristof should either be embarrassed to have fallen for this disinformation campaign, or ashamed to be complicit in it. Kopel also debunks Kristof’s claim, parroted (like the rest of his column) from VPC and Brady press releases, that denials under the Instant-Check system mean that an equivalent number of criminals have been stopped from buying guns:

The 700,000 figure is simply the number of initial denials under the National Instant Check System and its predecessor, the Brady waiting period. The figure includes people who were initially denied a gun because they had the same name as a criminal, but who appealed and were later authorized to purchase. It also includes people denied for improper reasons, such as unpaid traffic tickets.

But in even citing it, the anti-gun folks are being dishonest: “Indeed, the figure of 700,000 gun purchasers who were turned down includes people who were turned down when attempting to buy at gun shows from federally licensed firearms dealers.”

Because, you see, there is no “gun show loophole.” Federal gun laws require licensed dealers to do background checks wherever they sell guns. They don’t require casual sellers to do background checks, wherever they sell guns. Kristof is either too lazy to find out the truth, or too dishonest to tell it. Your call.

NOTE: Kristof says 690,000. The McCain / Lieberman anti-gun commercial that Kopel quotes says 700,000. I assume that some copywriter, ahem, rounded up.

UPDATE: Reader Byron Matthews makes this valuable point:

It isn’t simply that non-FFLs don’t have to comply with those laws —

non-FFLs do not have access to the NICS background check system. You

have to be a licensed dealer to use the system. As a private seller,

even if you wanted to do a background check to avoid any possible

liability should your buyer misuse the gun you sell him, you can’t do

it.

I understand this has to do with privacy concerns, where access to the

system might be misused by neighbors checking up on each other, etc. My

guess is that if the check system were open to private sellers in some

way, many would use it.

I don’t mean to pick on Kristof (I like some of his work) but his gun pieces have been sloppy and misleading — and frequent.

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