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Gun-control proposals are aiming at the wrong target

As the gun show manager for the New Mexico Gun Collectors Association, I recently attended legislative committee hearings at the Roundhouse on Senate Bill 48 and House Bill 50, the controversial gun control proposals making their way through the Legislature. The branding of these bills by the media, the legislative sponsors and New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s national organization Everytown for Gun Safety has been misleading and downright deceptive.

They are falsely touting these measures as efforts to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” In reality, SB 48 and HB 50 are far more expansive. As introduced, these bills would criminalize the private sale of personal firearms to many relatives, friends, neighbors, business associates or members of your club without a trip to a licensed gun dealer. Every transaction would require federal paperwork, a background check and payment of an undetermined fee. But that’s not all: the legislation would also mandate the same procedures for most temporary transfers of firearms between individuals, both when loaning your gun out and when it is returned.

People don’t loan their firearms out to strangers. These bills require government permission for exchanges between people who know one another, such as a deployed military service member who wants to leave personal firearms with a trusted friend. A gun owner who loans his niece a pistol for protection after a rash of burglaries in her neighborhood would also be subject to this law. Even someone borrowing their co-worker’s rifle for a weekend hunting trip, or to shoot at the local range or on BLM land would face criminal charges if they didn’t comply with these government mandates. Concerned gun owners testified to lawmakers about the intrusiveness of these provisions and their concerns went ignored as the measures advanced without any changes.

Even if the authors eventually bring the bills’ language in line with what they claim they are focusing on, they still fail to provide compelling evidence of a problem at New Mexico gun shows. Gun control advocates have had four years to build their case since they picked this fight in 2013 and they continue to fail to do so.

If they or the lawmakers who support SB 48 and HB 50 bothered to attend any of our shows in Albuquerque, they would notice a strong law enforcement presence at our events, both providing security and as consumers. They would see that 80 percent of our vendors are licensed dealers who already must conduct background checks on every firearm sale at a gun show under federal law, and that many of the remaining vendors offer non-firearm-related merchandise, such as knives, accessories and items of historical or cultural interest. They would witness a vastly different scene from the seedy underworld of criminal activity, which they almost maniacally portray gun shows to be.

These events are simply not a source of crime guns. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics studies show that less than one percent of criminals obtained firearms at a gun show. Targeting them for regulations above and beyond federal law will not reduce crime; it will only lead to calls for more far-reaching restrictions on law-abiding citizens – like those we see in SB 48 and HB 50 in their current form. Law enforcement recognizes that these are ineffective crime control measures and that is why the New Mexico Sheriffs Association has taken an aggressive stance against the bills.

As New Mexicans learn more about this gun control scheme, opposition to it grows. Voters in Maine rejected nearly identical language on the ballot in that state last November. Nevadans approved a background-check measure at the polls in 2016 by less than one percent of the vote, despite Bloomberg spending nearly $20 million promoting it. Legislators should take note that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has refused to process these new Nevada records checks, asserting that a state cannot dictate how a federal agency allocates its resources. The Nevada Attorney General has declared the law unenforceable.

Before approving any version of SB 48 and HB 50, legislators should arm themselves with the facts and ignore the gun control rhetoric.