??? Uh, where do they get this no background check rule for gun shows? Dealers still have to check. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070218/LOCAL190110/702180421 Gun-show proposal triggers debate Tighter background checks, purchase limits are sought By Bill Ruthhart [email protected] When Daniel Hedger opens the doors of the National Guard Armory on the Southwestside this morning for the last day of his gun show, anyone who walks in will be able to buy a firearm without undergoing a background check. icensed gun dealers are required to run such checks before signing off on a purchase, but other private sellers at the show are under no obligation to do so before selling their weapons. State Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, says that's a loophole that needs to be closed. He has introduced House Bill 1090, which would require background checks for all gun show purchases to screen out convicted felons while also limiting buyers to one handgun every 30 days. The reception from fellow legislators has been frosty at best. Even though Democrats control the House, Orentlicher's bill likely won't get a hearing. Not surprisingly, that's fine by Hedger, who argues that gun shows like his don't play much of a role in supplying criminals with guns. "It's not like there's gang-bangers walking around at these gun shows," said Hedger, a promoter for Central Indiana Gun Shows. "If someone at one of my shows even looks like they're thinking about doing something wrong, I shut 'em down." Nationwide, 11 states require background checks on all firearms sold at gun shows while another six require them in handgun sales. Only three states have limited buyers to one handgun per 30 days. Regardless of the bill's odds, supporters say, Orentlicher's effort is a significant first step. "I'm happy he's introduced this because it's a discussion that needs to happen in Indiana," said Paul Helmke, a former mayor of Fort Wayne who serves as president of the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign against Gun Violence. "Nationwide, 40 percent of guns are sold without background checks, and it's because of this loophole that allows sellers at gun shows to sell without conducting a background check." Helmke, a Republican, said research conducted by the Brady Campaign shows that 40 percent to 50 percent of sellers at gun shows don't have to conduct background checks because they are not federally licensed. The National Rifle Association disputes those numbers because federal law requires those who regularly sell firearms to obtain a federal firearms license and conduct background checks. "That 40 to 50 percent figure simply is not true," said Andrew Aruluanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA. "When you go to a gun show, the vast majority of people selling guns at the shows are licensed dealers who have to conduct the background checks." Aruluanandam said almost all sellers at gun shows conduct background checks because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requires them to get a license if they sell more than a certain volume. Most sellers who don't conduct the background checks, he said, are those dealing with estate sales. Indiana State Police Sgt. Dave Bursten said the state does not require firearms to be registered, so it's difficult to track which guns used in crimes originated from gun shows. "What I can tell you anecdotally is that most criminals don't get their guns at gun shows," Bursten said. "They're stealing guns from someone's residence, or they're buying them on the street." Orentlicher disagrees, saying his two proposals could have a significant impact on illegal gun-running in Indiana. "Someone who wants to use a gun for a criminal purpose could fail a background check at a store, but go to a gun show and without a background check buy a dozen or two-dozen guns for themselves or sell them to their friends," he said. "This is a major conduit for getting guns to people who shouldn't be using them." The NRA and Hedger say that's not the case. Hedger said he invites local police officers to attend all his shows. ATF officials also often patrol the shows, and he said many gun dealers and purchasers are active or retired police officers. "The joke among folks who go to gun shows," Aruluanandam said, "is that if you're trying to find an undercover law enforcement officer, a gun show is the place to be." Hedger, who owns a gun shop in Centerville, said that he has seen criminals try to purchase guns illegally but that it doesn't happen often at gun shows. He said convicted felons have offered him cash under the table to buy guns from his shop without the background check. Hedger said he always calls police immediately. "If you're a felon and you try to buy a gun from me," he said, "I'll put you in jail." Hedger acknowledges, however, that some gun dealers aren't as thorough, adding that some gun shows have more unlicensed sellers than others. At his show at the armory at 2002 S. Holt Road, Hedger said, most of the 30 or so dealers operating the 170 gun tables will be conducting background checks. "The real problem is people have this misconception about gun shows," Hedger said. "It's not like we're selling machine guns out of our trunks." Hedger and the NRA also oppose Orentlicher's plan to limit gun buyers to one handgun each 30 days. Hedger said that could reduce Hoosier gun dealers' profits by up to 40 percent. "You can pass all the gun laws you want to pass, but criminals who want guns aren't going to follow the laws and are still going to get them," he said. "If you limit the number of guns, you're only restricting people who are doing things legally." Orentlicher said law-abiding gun owners should have no reason to buy more than one handgun per month. "If a person is a legitimate gun collector or hunter, they can do their purchasing and collecting with background checks at gun shows and one handgun per month," he said. "These are not serious limitations on the ability to purchase and collect guns for legitimate purposes." Rep. Michael Murphy, R-Indianapolis, said such limits won't crack down on gun crimes. "If somebody is desperate to get a lot of guns to commit a crime, being limited to one gun per month is not going to stop them from breaking into a house or gun shop and stealing as many guns as they need," Murphy said. "It may be well-intended, but it's illogical." Orentlicher insists the majority of Hoosiers support tougher gun laws but said they're drowned out by the NRA's well-organized grass-roots effort. Helmke agrees. "The lobby for the NRA and their supporters is strong, and so politicians are afraid," he said. "I've been a politician almost my whole life, so I understand it. These gun pushers are rabid about this issue." Call Star reporter Bill Ruthhart at (317) 444-2771.