During the past year, there have been a number of groundbreaking investigations that have exposed the dangers of the Gun Show Loophole. The loophole allows unlicensed individuals to sell firearms from their personal collections at gun shows without conducting background checks or maintaining records of sale. The latest hotspot for gun show controversy is central Texas, where an effort by law enforcement to regulate criminal activity has run into resistance.
Federal agents from Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are partnering in an investigation that has uncovered dozens of cases of criminal activity occurring at gun shows throughout Texas. The Austin Police Department (APD) has assisted in this effort by arresting prohibited persons (primarily convicted felons and illegal immigrants) that obtained firearms illegally at a local gun show. Virtually all of these sales to prohibited purchasers were made by private citizens who are unlicensed sellers, both inside the shows and in the parking lots outside. Federal convictions have been obtained in a majority of cases.
Because of the recurring criminal activity at Texas Gun Shows events in North Lamar, the APD Nuisance Abatement Unit conducted a meeting with the property lessee for the shows (HEB Grocery), the building sub-lessee (Andrew Perkel, Austin Event Center) and the event promoter (Darwin Boedeker, Texas Gun Shows). At the meeting, ADP and ATF officials offered several recommendations to reduce illegal gun sales, including: 1) Allowing only licensed gun dealers at the shows; 2) Providing on-site security to prevent illegal sales in the parking lot, and; 3) Defining a process for non-licensed firearm sellers to participate to ensure that background checks are conducted. HEB Grocery agreed with these recommendations and instructed Perkel and Boedeker to implement them.
Boedeker complied with HEB s request and put up a sign outlining the first two recommendations at the two-day gun show held on January 16-17. When police reported that a private gun sale to an illegal immigrant had nonetheless occurred that weekend, HEB Grocery announced that gun shows would not be hosted on their property until the issue was resolved.
Boedeker, outraged at the decision, began organizing a petition to the Texas Attorney General and stated, All they are doing is keeping the honest man from being able to do what is afforded to him by the Constitution. But he seemed to contradict himself in explaining what happened at the meeting. While on one hand Boedeker admitted, [Law enforcement] made it a point to keep repeating themselves [to say] these are just recommendations, on the other, he quoted them as saying, You do what we say or we shut you down.
Conspiracy theorist/radio host Alex Jones then interviewed Boedeker and helped him articulate his outrage further. Jones didn t hesitate to take the opportunity to attack the Obama Administration, saying, He s got these armed thugs doing this. This is tyranny. This is the end of America. His comments about ATF agents were even more offensive and recalled the National Rifle Association s jack-booted thugs smear. They are an absolutely wicked bunch of un-American trash, said Jones.
The controversy over Texas Gun Shows recalls a 2004-2005 investigation of gun shows in Richmond, Virginia, that was conducted by the ATF. During that investigation, 56 arrests were made for the following violations of state and federal law: Making False Statements on ATF Form 4473, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Straw Purchase of a Firearm, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Cocaine, Felony Fugitive Apprehension, Misdemeanor Fugitive Apprehension, Carrying a Concealed Weapon and Grand Larceny-Theft of Firearm.
The promoter of the Richmond shows, Steve and Annette Elliot of C&E Gun Shows, nonetheless described the investigation as follows: It’s just a persecution thing. It’s not really an attempt to solve crimes or stop them. It’s their way of trying to get rid of gun shows. ATF was then hauled in front of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security for a show trial. Chairman Howard Coble admonished, it does appear that maybe the ATF activity may have risen to the threshold of being heavy-handed. No action was taken against C&E Gun Shows. They continue to profit and have done nothing to modify their business practices to curb the criminal activity catalogued by ATF.
Were the actions of the APD and ATF in central Texas heavy-handed ? Not by any reasonable American s standard. For starters, Texas is the leading source state of guns being illegally trafficked to drug cartels into Mexico, and that is probably why so many illegal immigrants were arrested buying firearms at Texas Gun Shows events. Second, a 2009 survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz showed that 69% of National Rifle Association (NRA) members and 85% of non-NRA gun owners support background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows. Finally, even the NRA was forced to admit that the voluntary agreement concerning the transfer of firearms at the Austin gun show ¦was a self-imposed regulation, not a rule from the BATFE [popularly known as the ATF] or an ordinance of the City of Austin.
It doesn t take a law enforcement professional to realize there is a problem when criminals and illegal aliens (whom the NRA describe as criminal aliens ) are openly buying firearms without undergoing background checks at gun shows. Hopefully, Texas officials will dispense with Alex Jones conspiracy theories and continue to act in the interest of public safety.