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Reader's view: Letter omitted loopholes in gun sale background checks

The April 9 letter, “Extending background checks won’t cut crime,” cited federal and Minnesota statutes to suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.

The letter correctly stated that anyone “engaged in the business” of buying and selling firearms must be a federally licensed dealer and must conduct background checks. But the writer omitted the definition of “engaged in the business,” which exempts an individual “who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms … or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms” (18 U.S. Code §921-21). This exemption is known as the “gun show/Internet loophole,” through which private sellers can sell firearms to complete strangers with no background checks.

The letter also pointed out it is illegal “for anyone to transfer a firearm to a non-dealer who lives in another state.” True, but in-state private sales, including Internet sales, are legal and require no background check. Minnesota statutes 624.713, 7141 forbid the transfer of certain firearms only if the seller “knows” that the buyer is prohibited from owning them. But without a background check, how could the private seller possibly know?

Will expanding background checks reduce crime? It certainly would eliminate one avenue through which criminals obtain guns. In the 2012 Milwaukee spa shooting, a federally prohibited buyer, Radcliffe Haughton, was able to purchase a gun through an Internet website with no background check. He used the gun to murder three and injure another four. Would Haughton have found a gun some other way if a background check was required for his purchase? Possibly. But the question should be whether we want to make it easier or harder for criminals to get guns.

If the answer is “harder” then isn’t it reasonable to ask law-abiding citizens to undergo the minor inconvenience of background checks for all gun purchases?

Chris Handsone