While President Obama and other gun-control activists repeatedly take aim at the so-called gun-show “loophole” as a dangerous gap in the effort to prevent criminals from obtaining deadly weapons, a decorated war veteran now serving in Congress says that narrative is almost entirely baseless.
The narrative against gun shows suggests that dealers and other sellers can much more easily transfer weapons without the proper background checks being performed. Pro-Second Amendment voices often point out that none of the mass shootings in recent years featured weapons purchased at a gun show.
But it goes even further than that, according to U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla.
Russell is best known for leading the U.S. Army unit that discovered Saddam Hussein hiding in a spider hole near Tikrit in late 2003. After retiring, he entered politics. Russell was elected to Congress in 2014. He said the idea of gun shows being some oasis that ignores gun laws is complete fiction.
“Here’s the law: If you are a business with a license and you are vending at a gun show and you sell a firearm, it must be done on a 4473 form with complete information by the buyer and a background check. If you sell a firearm under your license without doing that process, you have committed a felony,” Russell explained.
He continued, “This notion that people think that vendors and licensees that go to gun shows are somehow circumventing the law by not doing any background checks because they’re simply set up at a gun show rather than a brick and mortar [location] is just false.”
Russell said the Constitution does allow for gun owners to sell individual firearms.
“That is your right as an American citizen to sell a firearm,” he said. “If you know [the buyer] is a convicted felon and you sell that to him, then you’ve broken the law. You don’t have to be a licensee to dispose of your personal property. That’s a Fourth Amendment protection,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla.:
Laws vary from state to state regarding whether someone needs to be a licensed dealer to sell a gun at a gun show, but Russell said the vast majority of transactions involving non-licensed sellers still use background checks.
“In a show, they say if you’re going to conduct a sale under this roof, then we have people that will call in checks, and they will do that for free under their license, and then you can make those purchases,” Russell said. “If you suspect that you want to sell something but you’re not sure, you can walk into any gun dealer and the two individuals can do that under their license, and they will do that next check for you.”
Russell said Obama’s executive actions would involve the feds intruding into harmless transactions.
“They would prohibit you, as an American citizen, from disposing personal property when you’ve broken no law,” he said. “If you want to sell something to a neighbor or you want to pass something down to one of your kids that’s of legal age, they would prohibit that. And that’s against our constitutional rights.”
While Russell sees Obama’s actions as unconstitutional both in terms of content and in his unilateral action, he believes the president could find common ground with Republicans on gun laws if he’s really interested in addressing the problem. Specifically, he said they could tackle illegal ownership of firearms.
“If (FBI) Director Comey comes to Congress or the president and says, ‘We really need help with the national instant check system or workers authorized or we need more funds so we can do this,’ we can have those discussions,” Russell said. “Let’s do that. Let’s target the crime.”
He said the recent terrorist attack in California is a prime example of where cooperation should be possible.
“If you sell to a felon and you know that and you’ve done that like this guy we saw in the San Bernardino shooting; he did what they call shill buys. He knew he was breaking the law. He provided firearms to somebody that should not have had them,” Russell said.
“Let’s target the lawbreakers. Let’s not take away our constitutional rights.”
As for addressing Obama’s executive orders, Russell sees two avenues for congressional Republicans.
“One, we can prohibit any funding to implement these measures through the ATF. We can do that in legislation that prohibits, by line item, any funds. We did that with DACA on the immigration issue,” said Russell, who believes funding is the quickest way to cut off Obama’s alleged overreach.
“The other thing we can do is we can challenge it in the courts,” he said. “It takes longer, but in each case we’ve seen with courts, the Heller and McDonald cases in D.C. and Chicago, American citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. Period.”