The myth of the ‘gun show loophole’

Frank CagleFrank Talk

The Tennessee Valley Fair owns nine acres of property on the north end of Chilhowee Park. It’s where the livestock exhibits are located during the annual event. The property is near Zoo Knoxville. When a story surfaced that the Clayton Foundation was looking at alternative sites to build a $100 million science museum, it was one location being considered.


Frank Cagle

Ah, what might have been. The science museum and the zoo side by side would have been a mutually beneficial attraction and a tremendous educational experience. It is also at an interstate exit. By Chilhowee Park. With parking. And it would have cost very little to knock down some wooden barns.

But it appears that the science museum will instead be built behind the Civic Coliseum, once the city safety building is torn down. It’s nowhere near the interstate, but it does justify moving police headquarters into the old St. Mary’s hospital site.

The St. Mary’s site needs to be redeveloped and the city needs to take the lead on it. The neighborhood doesn’t need a building of that size as a vacant eyesore. But the site does lend itself to a medical campus with a nursing school, a dental school and related medical support facilities; things more appropriate than a police station.

Experience helps: Eddie Mannis has solid credentials to be the next mayor of Knoxville. Successful in business, experience as the city chief operating officer. But when it comes to political campaigning, two of his opponents have one advantage.

Indya Kincannon has been on the ballot three times and won three times. Marshall Stair has been on the ballot twice and won twice. Running in a school board district or for city council is different than running for mayor. But having run for office and facing the voters before is a plus.

Question is why? The legislature passed a bill that makes it illegal to use your cell phone when driving unless you are using a hands-free device. Given the number of good bills that die in committee there are things puzzling about this over-reaching government intrusion passed by conservative Republicans.

There was no groundswell of voter demand for the legislature to stick its nose into the issue. Legislators have been catching hell from constituents for passing it.

Driving down the interstate talking on the phone is a time-honored practice of legislators and lobbyists. It’s a long boring drive to Nashville and is thus the perfect time to return calls from colleagues and constituents and media types. I can’t count the number of times I have interviewed legislators or lobbyists while they were on the way to the capital or on their way home.

Perhaps some legislator wants to be a hero and introduce a bill next session to repeal the law.

Not a loophole: When I hear people propose “closing the gun show loophole” I never know if they are being disingenuous or just misinformed. There is no such thing as legislation that only affects gun sales in gun show parking lots. Such a bill would prohibit one citizen from selling a gun to another citizen without a background check, regardless of the location.

But that’s just one of the various talking points after every mass shooting.

The “gun show loophole” sale can occur in a Walmart parking lot, at a flea market or just between two people contacting each other on the internet and meeting for a transaction. Closing the gun show loophole should more properly be labeled “no gun sales without a third party, federally-licensed dealer being involved.”

If you are for prohibiting private citizens selling a gun to another private citizens that’s fine. But don’t understate and mislabel what such a bill involves.

Now that I’ve hacked off gun control advocates let me hack off Second Amendment purists.

People rarely get upset about regulation of other amendments to the constitution. We have freedom of the press and freedom of speech. That doesn’t prevent libel and slander laws. The first amendment gives citizens the right to seek redress from the government. But that doesn’t prevent making lobbyists register and list clients. Freedom of religion is guaranteed. But that doesn’t mean snake handlers can’t be charged for endangering children or the government can’t forbid Mormons from having more than one wife.

The Supreme Court ruled that the government can’t forbid you to have a gun. It didn’t rule that no restrictions are possible. I have a cabinet full of guns and I won’t register them and it isn’t the government’s business to know what kinds I have. But I don’t carry them around in public.

Some gun lobbyists want to do away with gun permits and instruction requirements. But it is not unreasonable to say that if you intend to carry a gun around in public that you demonstrate some proficiency with a firearm. You also need to be checked to make sure you aren’t a violent felon, a spouse abuser or mentally ill.

A common sense bill would be strengthening the law and punishing people who fail to enter felons or the mentally ill in the national data base. When you have someone who is a violent felon or mentally ill, and they are sold an assault rifle anyway, then someone ought to be held responsible. Whether it’s a judge, a sheriff or a police chief. The Parkland shooting was by a person local, state and federal law enforcement knew about and yet nothing was done to prevent a mass shooting. Someone needs to be prosecuted for dereliction of duty.

No, it won’t stop mass shootings. But it’s a start.

Frank Cagle is a retired newspaperman and the former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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