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A new Colorado law that requires background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows has taken effect, though critics say the law will do little to stop gun-related violence.
The law, which took the form of a state constitutional amendment, passed overwhelmingly last November, the Denver Rocky Mountain News said yesterday. Passage of the law was boosted after news reports said Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris used weapons that were purchased by others at a gun show.
Under federal laws, all gun dealers — who are licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — have long been required to perform background checks on potential buyers. The information is sent to an FBI facility in West Virginia built especially for the purposes of complying with the federal requirements.
The paper said the new Colorado law extends the requirement to collectors, hobbyists, sportsmen and other “unlicensed dealers” who, in the past, could sell their guns to others without subjecting them to a check.
The paper added that some antique and collectible firearms are still exempt from the new law.
Critics of the law say they remain concerned about the federal government’s role in enforcing the nation’s gun laws, especially through the use of databases that catalogue all gun buyers. The FBI says its West Virginia facility does not keep databases of gun buyers on file for long after sales are approved; the BATF has said it has never kept gun owner databases, but some gun owners believe the agency does maintain such lists.
Others complain the law will do nothing to curb gun-related violence and is little more than an extra hassle for legitimate gun buyers.
“It won’t make any difference,” Charles Springer, an antique gun collector, told the Denver paper. “If people want a gun, they can use somebody else’s name to go through a background check, and if they don’t want to do that, they can steal one.”
Indeed, some federal agencies have admitted that convicted criminals, as well as people who simply do not want Washington to know they’ve bought a gun, have used phony driver licenses or other falsified identification methods to bypass background checks.
The FBI, however, maintains the checks have prevented “thousands” of criminals from purchasing guns.
“It disturbs me, the government compiling lists of gun owners,” Jim Wempe, a Colorado Springs sportsman, told the paper. “That’s the first step towards confiscation.”
While federal and state officials adamantly deny such charges as being conspiratorial, gun-rights supporters point to California as an example of how state-compiled mandatory gun-ownership lists can be turned against lawful gun owners.
In 1989, lawmakers passed the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act, which gave the state attorney general the authority under the AWCA to “add-on additional weapons which are similar to those” already listed as, and defined in, state statutes as “assault weapons.”
Also, state lawmakers in California arbitrarily declared SKS “Sporter” rifles banned in July 1999.
The Roberti-Roos law effectively banned a type of SKS rifle with a detachable magazine, however, it didn’t ban it completely. Also, the law did exempt an SKS model with a fixed, non-removable magazine.
Although gun shops couldn’t sell the SKS with a detachable magazine anymore, owners of the gun could still keep them as long as they complied with a background check and had the gun registered, WND said.
Because of all the confusion surrounding the legality of owning any of the SKS rifles, California passed AB 48 to grant immunity to them. However, AB 48 also set up a state-run buyback program of SKS “Sporters” because then-Attorney General Dan Lungren in 1997 — under political pressure in a run for the governor’s office — reversed an earlier decision about SKS rifles with detachable magazines, effectively making them illegal after owners had registered them.
“Scumbags are gonna get guns, whether they buy it from guns shows or steal it from somebody’s home,” Wempe told the Rocky Mountain News.
Others said few criminals ever try to buy guns at gun shows.
“We’ve only had three people with felony arrests show up in our background checks in six years,” said Lee Wolford of Youth Outreach, sponsor of a Colorado Springs gun show held last weekend. “That’s six shows a year with 6,000 people a show.”
“We are preventing a felon from buying a gun, and that’s good,” he said. “But we’re attacking a symptom and not the problem. The problem is to keep people from killing each other with firearms or knives or anything else. That’s a social problem, a family problem, a home problem, a school problem,” he told the paper.