The NRA says it’s against illegal guns and dealers. Yet it has pushed through laws that are the straw buyer and crooked gun dealer’s best friend. In fact, the NRA plays both sides of the legal guns/illegal guns street so well—it is like the friend who steals your wallet and helps you look for it. Who me?
One crooked gun dealer floods the streets with hundreds of crime guns. During an inspection last year, a single dealer had 997 guns that were unaccounted for and 93 that were not logged in, reports the Center for American Progress. 1,300 illegal Chicago guns were traced to Chuck’s Gun Shop since 2008. And Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Washington lost 238 guns in three years—one of which was used during the 2002 sniper murder spree that left 10 dead across Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
Nor is the problem of unaccounted inventory getting better with the threats of rising gun violence. In 2005, there were 12,274 missing firearms and in 2011, 18,500.
Why does the government let dealers lose and “not know” where their lethal weapons are? Because the Tiahrt Amendments, named after former Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) and bullied through by the gun lobby, expressly prohibit the ATF from requiring dealers to conduct annual inventories! Rep. Tiahrt even admits he wrote the laws to help his cronies. I wanted to “make sure I was fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers,” he said.
Another provision of the Tiahrt Amendments mandates that the FBI may only retain records of gun buyers who pass the National Instant Criminal Background Check for 24 hours. Having the record for only 24 hours is reminiscent of how reporters were allowed to view but not retain Sen. John McCain’s medical records when there were questions about his health when he was running for president. Such “now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t” disclosure occludes the big picture, especially with gun traffickers. Straw buyers can purchase firearms from many dealers, if they aren’t big quantities, and the records won’t give the authorities the big picture because they have been destroyed. Thank you Sen. Tiahrt. Thank you NRA.
Convicted felon William Spengler who killed his own grandmother and went on to kill fire fighters on Christmas Eve, 2012 allegedly used the services of a straw buyer for his rampage. Authorities charged Dawn Nguyen with accompanying Spengler to a Gander Mountain in Henrietta, New York where he handpicked the murder weapon with which he would kill public servants. Clerks at Gander Mountain asked Nguyen if she would be the sole owner, according to news reports, and she said yes.
This week a straw buyer was arrested by Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents for allegedly supplying the firearm that was used to kill Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements. “Investigators believe Stevie Marie Vigil, 22, of Commerce City, legally bought the firearm from a licensed dealer in the Denver suburb of Englewood and transferred it to Evan Ebel, who was a felon who couldn’t legally possess a firearm,” reported CBS News. Ebel was paroled after serving four years in prison for violence against a prison guard. He also pled guilty to holding a pistol to an acquaintance’s head and stealing his wallet.
You’d think law makers would want to stop the preventable murder of fire fighters and prison administrators by convicted felons armed by straw buyers and would repeal the Tiahrt Amendments. But then you would also think they’d want to prevent Congresswomen from being shot at Meet and Greets and first graders being slain in elementary school by standing up for background checks and assault weapon bans.
Straw purchasers account for almost 50 percent of gun trafficking investigations and a 2010 study by the University of California-Davis disclosed that 20 percent of gun dealers surveyed agreed to sell a woman a handgun when she said it was for her boyfriend, reported the Star Tribune Yet, unlike bars or bartenders who can be held responsible for fatal drunken driving incidents, nothing happens to dealers linked to shootings and even mass shootings. Who knew? There is no reason to think dealers would be held responsible when the entire firearm manufacturing industry was granted complete immunity from lawsuits in 2005 under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act? How did that happen?
With straw buyer-friendly and crooked dealer-friendly laws on the books (often tacked on to appropriations bills which are considered “must pass” legislation) discussion of new gun laws is like locking the barn door after the horse is gone. In fact, even as news reports covered the assault weapon ban failure earlier this month, a rider was being attached to a House appropriations bill that prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers on the Southwest border to notify them when selling two or more long guns—semiautomatic rifles, higher than .22 caliber with detachable magazines—to the same buyer within five days.
There are only one million gun extremists in this country—less than a quarter of the NRA membership—but nothing will pry lawmakers out of their trigger happy hands. It is time for the 100 million who want sane gun laws to stop asking and start telling. It is time for them to use mass buying power to veto gun-friendly corporations, services, lawmakers and even states to show who is really in the majority.