Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gun scruples

The article on gun-show regulations in Virginia contains a serious mistake (“Panel kills gun-show checks for private sales,” Metropolitan, Thursday). The article cites state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis as claiming that “the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported that gun shows are the second-leading source of guns used in crimes, behind only unscrupulous licensed dealers.” Unfortunately, the study she cites simply was not designed to reach the conclusion that Mrs. Davis claims, because the ATF report looked at 198 non-randomly chosen investigations. The ATF doesn’t make the claim that its investigations are representative of the distribution of sources of illegal guns.

By contrast, the Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a survey of 18,000 state prison inmates in 1997, the largest survey of inmates ever conducted. Less than 1 percent of inmates (0.7 percent) who had a gun indicated they had obtained it at a gun show. When combined with guns obtained from flea markets, the total rises to 1.7 percent. These are tiny fractions compared to the estimated 40 percent of the criminals’ guns that are obtained from friends or family and the 39 percent that are obtained on the street or from illegal sources. The numbers also had changed little from a similar 1991 survey that indicated that 0.6 percent of inmates had gotten their guns from guns shows and 1.3 percent from flea markets.


Dean’s Visiting Professor

Department of Economics

State University of New York at


Binghamton, N.Y.


The claim by Virginia Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis that “the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported that gun shows are the second-leading source of guns used in crimes, behind only unscrupulous licensed dealers,” is patently false and maligns law-abiding firearms dealers. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the government entity charged with researching and reporting on such issues, approximately 40 percent of criminals obtain their firearms from friends or family and another 40 percent obtain their firearms from illegal sources on the street or stealing. In fact, contrary to Mrs. Davis’ erroneous statement, just 8 percent of criminals obtain their firearms by lying to licensed firearms dealers and less than 1 percent (0.7) obtain their firearms at gun shows.

It’s hard to believe an elected official would propagate misinformation that is disproved so easily. According to the ATF, which the senator cites as her source, more than 99 percent of licensed firearms dealers are law-abiding, with less than 1 percent having to face criminal prosecution (ATF National Firearms Law Review Seminar). One has to wonder what else Mrs. Davis is misrepresenting.


Firearms industry spokesman

Director of Public Affairs

National Shooting Sports Foundation

Newtown, Conn.


The article “Panel kills gun-show checks for private sales” leaves the impression that most guns used in crimes are acquired from “unscrupulous licensed dealers,” followed closely by gun-show sales by unlicensed “dealers.”

In reality, according to the Justice Department, fewer than 2 percent of guns used in crime have been acquired at gun shows or flea markets.

The fact is, there is no gun-show loophole. Private sellers are not dealers, and if their activity begins to approach that of a dealer, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would quickly detect it and stop it.

Private sales at gun shows are private sales at a public gathering of people interested in firearms. The “loophole” that state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and friends really want to close is all private transfers of firearms, and they hope to accomplish that by administering “a thousand cuts.”


Falls Church

Smoking hypocrisy

As lawmakers fall all over themselves to ban smoking in privately owned restaurants, they are still free to light up in their own Richmond offices (“Poll sees smoking ban support,” Web, Jan. 17). I find this to be the height of hypocrisy, an egregious example of “Do as I say, not as I do” nanny-state elitism. If what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, which legislator will lead the way in banning smoking in legislative offices?


Virginia Beach

Borat’s anti-Semitism, and ours

Thank you for Suzanne Fields’ Monday Op-Ed column “But is it good for the Jews?” lauding Sacha Baron Cohen’s film “Borat” for reminding us to be on guard against anti-Semitism even here in America.

To be sure, no one would compare the bigotry that Mr. Cohen’s “Borat” character famously uncovered at a country-Western bar in Arizona with the extremely virulent strain of anti-Semitism that was common in Europe for centuries and that pervades much of the Islamic world today. PBS recently aired a documentary titled “Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence,” hosted by Judy Woodruff. The program exposed the state-controlled Arab media’s deliberate use of harrowingly gruesome portrayals of Jews as evil, Satanic figures in “family” programs aired throughout the Arab world during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This is but one example of a systematic indoctrination campaign by the government and extremist religious leaders to inculcate the population with extreme hate for Jews and Israel.

Thus, when former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad claims that “the Jews rule this world by proxy,” or when a 3-old Egyptian girl named Basmallah tells the host of a “progressive” Saudi women’s television magazine show that Jews are “apes and pigs” — scenes also featured in the documentary — it takes little imagination to figure out where such hateful and dehumanizing views of Jews originate.

Nor should it be shocking to see such hatred translated into acts of inhuman barbarity directed at Jews, including children whom the terrorists had to face in order to kill. The Hamas terrorists who kidnapped and murdered Koby Mandell and Yosef Ish-Ran, ages 13 and 14, had to be taught not only to hate, but also to dehumanize in order to murder defenseless children. The same is true of the Palestinian terrorist from the “moderate” Fatah faction who invaded the home of an Israeli teacher, Revital Ohayon, stormed the bedroom where she had been reading a bedtime story to her two young sons, Noam and Matan, ages 4 and 5, shot and killed her and then murdered the children cradled in their mother’s arms.

It is tempting to sigh with relief that Americans, at least today, are different, and perhaps even immune to such hate. However, Mr. Cohen has exposed a susceptibility even here in the United States to indulge and perhaps share the prejudices of those who have gained our trust. This is a warning we must take seriously.


Walnut Creek, Calif.

Warner: The wheels are off in Iraq

Given that Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican, has joined forces with other Republican senators, it’s clear that the wheels have come off President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq (“Warner bill hits Bush’s troop surge,” Page 1, Tuesday). Though he didn’t say it in so many words, it seems to me that Mr. Warner’s opposition sends a clear message to the White House: The war in Iraq is lost. It’s time to bring the troops home.


Laguna Beach, Calif.

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