Magazine article Insight on the News

The Thinning Ranks of America's Gun Dealers

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Thinning Ranks of America's Gun Dealers

Article excerpt

Gun opponents are urging still more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Owners note that 100,000 dealers have been driven out of business and claim the antigun goal may be gun confiscation.

The shooting of seven tourists on the Empire State Building's observation deck again rallied gun opponents to call for further controls on gun sales. Advocates of civilian gun rights fear newly proposed controls will push America in the direction of Great Britain and Australia, where most types of firearms in public hands are being confiscated under new laws.

"The biggest danger we see, and this would probably come as a surprise to many people, is HR102, the National Instant-Check [Bill]," says Erich Pratt, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America. The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, would speed implementation of a computerized system for background checks. But it would require filing a considerable amount of information about both the purchaser and the firearm, and opponents fear it would result in permanent records that later could be used for gun confiscation.

"Republicans are willing to compromise by accepting a waiting period. But that ends up registering people which can lead to the sort of confiscation we're seeing in England and Australia," Pratt tells Insight.

Several of the recently introduced bills add further restrictions and complications to the sale of firearms, such as the Empire State Building Handgun Act of 1997, offered by Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and joined by Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. That bill is a direct response to the ease with which Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian immigrant on a tourist visa was able to purchase a gun by claiming a Florida motel as his residence. Kamal went on a shooting spree atop the Empire State Building before turning the gun on himself. The Kennedy-Durbin bill would prohibit the sale of guns to foreigners, with very few exceptions, such as for embassy personnel.

Another recent proposal, HR 788, the Firearms Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 1997, also addresses the point of sale. It enhances the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms', or BATF's, control over many facets of the trade and adds penalties, paperwork and restrictions for dealers. Primary sponsors include liberal Democratic Reps. Major Owens and Charles Schumer of New York and Alcee Hastings of Florida. …

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