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AGS Continues To Lie To Promote Attacks On Gun Shows

Saturday, January 26, 2002

The anti-gun lobbying group called "Americans for Gun Safety" (AGS) unveiled its latest attack on gun shows and the truth this week in an ad it ran in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. The ad claimed "As Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge signed legislation requiring background checks for handgun and assault weapons sales at gun shows." In fact, no part of this claim is even remotely true. The truth is that in praising Gov Ridge’s signing of "The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995" (also known as Act 17), AGS ironically praises legislation that—unlike the bills it promotes—protected both gun shows and the rights of those who conduct them and attend them.

The requirements for transferring handguns between individuals in Pennsylvania were set in 1934, and Act 17 made no changes in the requirements under which someone may lawfully transfer a handgun at a gun show. Act 17 did specify that after the Pennsylvania instant check system became operational, all persons purchasing any firearm from a licensed dealer would be subject to a records check wherever the purchase was made, but the law also continued the exemption of rifle and shotgun transfers between law-abiding individuals who are not licensed dealers from any requirement for a records check. And since the term "assault weapon" does not occur in Pennsylvania state law, we are at a loss to even guess why AGS makes this fraudulent claim.

Furthermore, while Gov. Ridge did not change gun show rules in Pennsylvania in the manner described by AGS, what Act 17 actually did, ironically, is protect these events. This is in stark contrast to the gun shows bill AGS is currently promoting—S. 890, introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)—which, like Sen Jack Reed’s (D-R.I.) S. 767, would end traditional American gun shows. Act 17 did:

(1) define gun shows in a manner that specifically recognized and respected their unique and temporary nature,

(2) recognize the superiority and effectiveness of an instant record check system and eliminate the state’s 60-year-old waiting period on handgun purchases, and

(3) eliminate the need for a firearms dealer to obtain a separate license in each county where he might wish to conduct business at a gun show

But the lies don’t stop there. AGS continues to refer to a mythical gun show "loophole," and claims "convicted felons have known about this loophole for years." The truth, however, is found in federal government studies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Firearms Use by Offenders"—based on interviews with 18,000 prison inmates—found less than 1% of U.S. "crime guns" come from gun shows. This study, the largest such study ever conducted by the federal government, is entirely consistent with previous federal studies.

AGS also continues to stoop to injecting "terrorism" into the firearms policy debate, but its attempts to link the case of an "IRA terrorist" and gun shows is built on serial lies. The criminal in question may be in prison, but the jury that convicted him acquitted him of the charge that he was an IRA terrorist. This, as AGS knows, is public record. More importantly, however, the guns in question were bought at gun shows by "straw" purchasers (individuals with "clean" records who are willing to illegally purchase firearms on behalf of criminals prohibited from doing so)—and absolutely nothing in the legislation AGS deceitfully promotes would have prevented those illegal acts. However, such "straw" purchases are already prohibited under federal law.

The ad continues a pattern of deception seen as recently as last week. As reported in last week’s FAX Alert, the AGS Foundation released a report, "Broken Records," claiming to document the need to mandate an indefinite waiting period for gun sales. State authorities have blasted the report as inaccurate.

AGSF "should be given a failing grade for its shoddy research," said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Paul J. Evank. "The fact is that the group did not contact State Police for information, which we would have been happy to supply. With accurate information, I think AGSF would have drawn a different conclusion."

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and a local BATF agent say that just because some background checks are not completed within a three-day period does not mean illegal gun sales are the result. "We check all those out," said the BATF official in Kansas City, noting that "in many cases, it turns out the person shouldn’t have been blocked anyway." If alerted that an illegal buyer obtained a gun, the agency goes after him, the official said.

For the record, AGS is an organization whose sole founder, a former Board member of Handgun Control, Inc., has a highly focused and barely hidden agenda—licensing law-abiding American gun owners and registering every firearm they own. As we reported last week, a Capitol Hill staffer, as part of a AGS-sponsored field trip, recently attended a Richmond, Va., gun show, and came away convinced that AGS’s agenda is nothing less than the "national registration and licensing and eventual outlawing of firearms." In the end, AGS is simply an anti-gun lobbying group with no members, no gun safety programs, and now, no credibility.

This deceptive campaign by AGS will likely lead to increased pressure from anti-gun lawmakers to try to move either S. 767 or S. 890, so be sure to contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose both bills. You can reach your U.S. Senators by calling (202) 224-3121. For additional contact information, use our "Write Your Reps" tool.

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