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Guns... or Not?

Gun control is pushed as anti-terror measure


By Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
November 9, 2001

Citing the threat of terrorism, a pair of gun-control organizations is asking Jane Hull and the governors of 36 other states to push legislation that would require background checks on firearms sold privately at gun shows.

Arizona has about 40 major gun shows each year at convention halls, swap meets and fairgrounds. Commercial vendors are licensed and required to conduct background checks on purchasers, but private citizens are allowed to sell their weapons at shows or anywhere else without those restrictions.

In a letter to Hull, presidents of Americans for Gun Safety and HALT Gun Violence list at least two instances in which terrorists used that "loophole" to buy guns at unregulated shows in other states.

In Michigan, the letter says, a member of Hezbollah purchased firearms one day before the Sept. 11 attacks. And, in Florida, several Irish Republican Army members were arrested in the smuggling of weapons bought at gun shows.

Francie Noyes, a spokeswoman for Hull, said the governor will review the letter after the upcoming special session of the Legislature.

Ernie Hancock, founder and director of Second Amendment Is for Everyone, said gun-control advocates are using the Sept. 11 attacks to push their agenda. He said that background checks don't keep guns from criminals, and he argued that armed citizens are more secure against terrorism.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms culminated a two-year investigation of Arizona gun shows in February, seizing hundreds of weapons and making numerous arrests. Investigators said criminals sold or purchased weapons at half of the shows they investigated. An ATF study nationwide identified gun shows as "a major trafficking channel" responsible for more than 26,000 illegal firearms sales during an 18-month study.

This year, state lawmakers shot down a bill that would have required background checks. A similar measure, co-written by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has not passed either house of Congress.


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