New report hits gun shows, attendees
by Dave Workman
A critical new report on gun shows raises concerns about their “demographic homogeneity” and “disturbing political activity” while suggesting that two-thirds of the so-called “crime guns” obtained at such shows are sold by licensed retailers, not through private transactions that have been labeled the “gun show loophole” by firearms prohibitionists.
Authored by Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH with the UC Davis School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine and Violence Prevention Research Program, the report is called Inside Gun Shows: What Goes On When Everybody Thinks Nobody’s Watching. Funding support was provided by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation.
Released in early September, the report contends that “There is solid evidence, primarily from investigations of illegal gun trafficking, that gun shows are an important source of crime guns.”
However, the report also immediately adds that “But less than 2% of felons incarcerated for crimes involving guns acquired those guns themselves at gun shows.”
The report argues that many of the alleged “crime guns” obtained at such shows are purchased by surrogates, the “straw man” buyers who have clean records and are buying guns for criminals who cannot legally buy them.
Wintemute’s report is already drawing fire from gun rights activists, who consider him a leading anti-gunner and proponent of the “guns-as-a-health-risk” philosophy.
There is conflicting information in the Executive Summary. According to Wintemute, “Much of the concern about gun shows and crime guns focuses on private party gun sales. Licensed retailers are implicated, too. Results of trafficking investigations suggest that two-thirds of crime guns obtained at gun shows are sold by licensed retailers. Among gun dealers, those who sell at gun shows are more likely to have crime guns traced to them than those who do not.”
The summary noted that “data were gathered at 78 gun shows in 19 states, most of them occurring between 2005 and 2008.” The report added that in just 2007 there were an estimated 2,773 gun shows in the United States, so the report is based on visits to far less than 1% of the total number of gun shows held during the study period.
In a story about the report carried on KTXL in Sacramento, the local Fox News affiliate, Wintemute acknowledgedin reaction to criticism from another UC Davis researcher identified as Jesse Bengsonthat “the data isn’t there.”
“It’s just as a matter of logic that private party sales are more likely to result in criminal use of firearms, but it’s an inference at this point,” Wintemute told a reporter.
Wintemute’s report also blasts alleged unsavory political activity at gun shows.
“Perhaps the most disturbing political activity at gun shows,” the report says, “because of its content and high prevalence, concerns identity politics. Support for the Confederacy extends to calls for a continued war of secession and to overt racism. Neo-Confederacy groups rent table space and recruit new members. Ku Klux Klan merchandise was observed several times. New Nazi materials (as distinct from memorabilia) are very common; one regular seller at gun shows in Arizona is a nationally-recognized promoter of neo-Nazism. The Turner Diaries is everywhere, and Mein Kampf can be found next to More Guns, Less Crime.”
The Wintemute report also expresses concerns about the “demographic homogeneity” at some gun shows, especially in the Midwest.
“Well under 10 percent of those present are other than white males,” the report states, “and most of these men appear to be well over 50 years of age. In other parts of the country the overall population is much more diverse, but older white men account for a large majority of gun sellers nearly everywhere.
“Three aspects of the social environment at gun shows seem to have significant potential to contribute to firearm violence,” Wintemute’s executive summary adds. “These concern 1) promoting objectification and violence in relationships between men and women, 2) facilitating children’s access to firearms, and 3) endorsing violence as a tool for problem-solving.”
Wintemute suggests that a solution to the so-called gun show loophole may not be found in simply requiring background checks on all gun sales at these shows, long a primary objective of many anti-gun organizations and politicians.
Instead, he advocates regulating private gun sales anywhere, as is already done in California, where no private transaction may be conducted without a background check. His recommendation is in complete harmony with the latest proposals of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
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