- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

Flip-flopitis — it’s contagious

During his 2000 campaign against incumbent Sen. Charles Robb, as part of an attempt to portray himself as a moderate, George Allen looked me and millions of other Virginians squarely in the eye and pledged unequivocally to support an extension of the federal ban on assault weapons. He repeated that pledge last month.

This week, Sen. Allen voted against the assault weapons ban (“Senate rejects gun-maker legislation,” Page 1, Wednesday). How curious that The Washington Times, which is pathologically engaged in attempts to publicize supposed “flip-flops” on the part of Sen. John Kerry, does not find this event newsworthy. I believe Mr. Allen lied to me.

SCOTT KENYON

Vienna

There’s no there there

In their Monday Op-Ed column, “Database piracy plague,” C. Boyden Gray and Jamie Gorelick start with the assertion, “You don’t hear much about database piracy in the news.”

As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 3 million members would confirm, the reason you don’t read much about database piracy is that there isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed — our members are some of the most prolific database producers in the world, yet they believe current law protects databases from piracy while providing incentives to continue to produce them.

However, if the database bill the Op-Ed’s authors support becomes law, there would be much to read about. Specifically, this legislation would deny access to factual information, creating havoc among businesses, the scientific and research communities, schools and libraries. We’re working hard to maintain the balance that exists under current law, making sure that unnecessary and overbroad legislation doesn’t hurt American society.

THOMAS DONOHUE

President and chief executive

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington

Gun shows in the crosshairs

You made a factual error in Wednesday’s front-page article “Senate rejects gun-maker legislation.” This same error was the basis of a Commentary column Monday by Dan Thomasson (“Talking sense on gun laws”), whose entire argument erroneously relied on this factual error.

I speak of the so-called “gun show loophole.” Mr. Thomasson falsely described it thusly: ” … dealers in used weapons are exempt from the statute that requires licensed dealers selling new weapons at these shows to put their customers through a record search.” This is false. Firearms dealers are required to perform background checks on all firearms purchases, whether at gun shows or not. They must do this by law.

There is no “gun show loophole.” Anti-gun forces have disingenuously created this misleading term to point the finger at gun shows, one of their many targets in a multifaceted disarmament campaign.

The so-called “gun show loophole” actually refers to the fact that individual owners of firearms — not firearms dealers — may, in some circumstances, sell certain kinds of privately owned guns to others without first obtaining a background check on the buyer.

I say “some circumstances” because in many states, even this activity is regulated. More than 20 states require that gun owners obtain permits before attempting to sell their privately owned firearms or otherwise regulate private firearms transfers. Finally, the National Firearms Act strictly prohibits unreported transfers of any firearms regulated by this law in any state.

The only advantage of a gun show — in those states where private sales are not regulated — is that it may afford a private party a large pool of potential purchasers conveniently located in one place. Therefore, a few people occasionally bring their privately owned guns to such events for that purpose. Such people cannot set up booths or hawk their merchandise like firearms merchants.

Mr. Thomasson makes another false claim when he states: “… [gun shows] have become a major marketplace for the trafficking in illegal weapons by criminals who can easily avoid the deterrent of a background check through a loophole in the federal law.” In addition to making the erroneous statement regarding the nonexistent “loophole in the federal law,” Mr. Thomasson is mistaken in characterizing gun shows as a “major marketplace for the trafficking in illegal weapons.”

Sales by private owners have never been a significant part of gun-show activity. An exhaustive survey of prison inmates conducted by former President Bill Clinton’s very biased Justice Department found that less than 2 percent obtained illegal firearms at a gun show or flea market.

Mr. Thomasson could see this for himself if he ever went to a show. In the many I have attended as both visitor and vendor, one sees the occasional person walking around with an old shotgun or vintage rifle, the “For Sale” sign conspicuously sticking from the barrel. These shows are heavily policed, and with the growing hostility of law enforcement and uncertainty of firearms laws, most people are very wary of selling their privately owned guns this way, so private sales at gun shows, never significant, have, if anything, decreased in recent years.

Mr. Thomasson’s article and your surprising front-page report demonstrate the widespread ignorance of gun laws that pervades our society. This ignorance is fostered and encouraged by a very dishonest, malevolent minority intent on stripping us of our constitutional right to self-protection. I’m sure this was an innocent error, but please don’t assist these anti-gun forces, innocently or otherwise.

JIM SIMPSON

Clifton

Do you hear us now?

Your editorial on Thursday in favor of a referendum in Virginia on the tax and budget issue is touching, if a bit inconsistent (“A hopeful sign for Virginians”). After all, you basically called the voters of Alexandria idiots last year after the most stringently anti-tax candidates lost in their bids for the City Council. You are in favor of hearing the voice of the voters, and you cringe when you hear the voice of the voters. To paraphrase President Bush, that’s just one newspaper in Washington.

GREG PRINCIPATO

Alexandria

Supply-side cigarettes

I was amused by your front-page article on cigarette smuggling (“Smoking out smugglers,” Sunday). In just a few years, Maryland’s regressive cigarette tax has produced a new category of criminals. Now the revenue collected by the increased tax has to be used to fund a task force to catch the people trying to avoid the tax.

I have a possible solution to this problem. Why not lower the cigarette tax to a rate lower than any in the surrounding area? Why not create a cigarette tax attractive enough to make people in the surrounding states buy cigarettes in Maryland rather than in anyplace but Maryland? Supermarkets and retail stores would make out like fat rats, which, in turn, would enrich the state sales-tax coffers. Catching smugglers would be the other guy’s problem. It may take an intervention session with the lawmakers, but once they can admit that the cigarette tax is simply a money grab and not a health issue, they might see that the high tax rate is counterproductive. They claim they’re saving “the children.” But I imagine “the children” don’t go on to other drugs by buying a pack of smokes at the 7-Eleven. However, if they hook up with a smuggler, that smuggler just may have a couple of other goodies to sell.

BARBARA DRISCOLL

Aspen Hill, Md.

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