Apr 222010

This week was the 11 year mark since the horrific tragedy at Columbine High School. I have a distinct memory of the attack; I was watching the BBC’s feed of the live local news coverage from a tent in Kuwait during a deployment.

One of my older brother’s best friends was one of the first emergency medical technicians on scene and entered the school under cover of a SWAT member while the shooters were in the library.

One of my Air Force friends is married to a Columbine survivor.

I identify these facts because I do not want anyone thinking I failed to consider the gravity of this week’s topic.

The Denver Post published an advertisement from the father of a Columbine victim in Tuesday’s paper urging Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, to sign Senate Bill 843.

The ad said, “On the 11th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, I urge you to stand with Senator Bennet and the vast majority of Coloradans by working to close the Gun Show Loophole.”

A “Gun Show Loophole,” does not exist, period. What gun control advocates want to change, they wrongly-identify and sensationalize as a loophole.

In reality, what they seek is to require all transfers of firearms between private individuals under government control; those are the only transactions at gun shows not already subject to current firearm control laws.

Federal law requires all Federal Firearms Licensees, FFL holders, to track the sale of every firearm sold and to run a background check in accordance with federal regulations.

Gun control advocates portray gun shows as some form of legally exempted mega-sale in which criminals can make purchases without a background check from anyone selling a firearm within the show. FFL holders at gun shows are still required to run the background check and track each sale.

The only sales not required to run a background check are private sales between private citizens.

In Colorado, background checks are now required at gun shows for firearm purchases.

Problem is, criminals do not submit to background checks. They find what they want from a private seller –– at either a gun show or in advertisements –– and meet elsewhere to complete the sale.

Senate Bill 843 would extend the background check requirement to private sellers for every firearm sold in America.

Some quick math: An estimated 60 million Americans own nearly 200 million firearms. Technology has certainly improved since the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993 mandated background checks by FFL holders, but there isn’t a method of enforcing this legislation. I offer Prohibition as proof this legislation will fail to do anything positive.

Those with strong emotional ties to this argument will invoke the tragedies that befell their loved ones as proof we need tighter controls to prevent firearm related deaths.

This does not change the fact that firearms are involved in 0.5 percent of all deaths. Compare that to motor vehicles (37 percent), poisoning (22 percent), falls (17 percent), suffocation (5 percent), drowning (2.9 percent), fires (2.5 percent), medical mistakes (1.7 percent), environmental factors (1.3 percent) and pedal cycles (0.7 percent); all represent ways in which a loved one is more likely to die, according to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Web site.

Tragedies happen, it’s a sad and undeniable truth of the world in which we live. Nevertheless, passing bad legislation because of the emotional anguish a few citizens have to suffer through at the hands of murderers is not the answer.

Sen. Udall, Senate Bill 843 is not a solution. If states want to prevent criminals from possessing firearms –– which in many cases they already do –– then each state legislature should address their citizens’ concerns.

I have no objection to the Colorado legislature making it a mandatory 25-year sentence for any convicted criminal who would fail to pass a background check found in possession of a firearm.

Nevertheless, an emotional response to an emotional event is not going to prevent these tragedies in the future. Criminals always find a way.

Seth Stern is a senior journalism and sociology major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Seth Stern is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners association against the CSU System Board of Governors and CSU President Tony Frank. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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