FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Last weekend Memorial Coliseum was host to a gun and knife show that brought out sportsmen, collectors, and weapons enthusiasts. What about criminals?
Current state and federal laws make it challenging to track sales at gun shows, especially in states like Indiana with a long history of gun right advocacy. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonpartisan organization, selling or buying firearms does not require documentation in Indiana.
Federally registered gun dealers are required to obtain a state license and run background checks on firearm purchases, but many of the retailers at gun shows and elsewhere are private dealers.
Under Indiana law, private gun dealers are not required to run background checks. Buyers also don't have to wait to get a gun. Since Indiana has no waiting period, anyone could walk into a gun show and walk right out the front door with as many weapons as he or she would like.
Gun rights advocates argue that most criminals are going to get their guns illegally, whether background checks are in place or not. Requiring universal checks, they say, would only create further hassles for responsible gun owners. It is also our constitutional right to own firearms.
Paul Helmke, former Mayor of Fort Wayne and recent President of the Brady Campaign, says about 40% of guns today are bought without running a background check. He says many of those weapons could also be high powered assault weapons since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004.
In addition, Helmke says mental health is not a factor in most background checks that are performed, because that type of information is rarely entered into a database.
Helmke says, "We can easily set up a system that says legitimate people with no criminal record, with no record of being mentally dangerous, can get their guns, but let's make it harder for those people who we know are dangerous to get them. Maybe they'll find a way around the system, but why should we make it so easy for them?"
The 2010 Brady State Gun Law Scorecard, released by the Brady Campaign, lists Indiana as tied for 38th when it comes to laws preventing gun violence.
California, meanwhile, was ranked as 1st for it's universal background check system, dealer regulations, and assault clip ban. Arizona, Alaska, and Utah had the fewest number of laws to decrease gun violence.
To see the report in its entirety, go to http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/scorecard/
The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 would require a national list of banned buyers and universal background checks. A hearing took place in mid November, but the bill currently remains in a Senate subcommittee.
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