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Gun show arrests in Virginia on record pace
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
RICHMOND (AP) — The number of arrests arising from attempts to illegally buy firearms at Virginia gun shows is on track to far surpass last year’s total, according to data released by the state police.
The Richmond Times Dispatch reported that 39 arrests were made at gun shows over the first six months of this year. The total for all of last year was 47.
The number of people charged this year represents only 0.15 percent of the 24,870 firearms transactions at 36 gun shows through June 30.
Background checks conducted by the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center of people seeking to purchase guns through federally licensed firearm dealers at gun shows resulted in 145 people being denied permission to buy a firearm through the first six months of this year, state police say.
Of those, 39 were charged with being a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm — typically a felon or someone with a mental disability or ruled by a court to be mentally incompetent. A breakdown of the specific charges was not immediately available.
A total of 380 people were blocked from buying a gun in 2012, when 51,448 transactions were recorded.
State police declined to speculate on why the arrest rate was climbing but said the department has not changed its enforcement efforts. They noted that the number of gun shows has increased slightly this year, from 33 during the first six months in 2011 and 34 during that period in 2012.
State police began tracking gun show transactions in 2011. The denial rate has declined slightly since then, from 1 percent in 2011, to 0.7 percent in 2012, to 0.5 percent so far this year.
The arrest rate has fluctuated from 0.11 percent in 2011, to 0.09 percent in 2012, to 0.15 percent through June 30 of this year, according to state police.
“We are talking tiny numbers here,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group. “But it appears that less people are being denied, but more of those are being arrested.”
Van Cleave wondered whether police are arresting more prospective buyers who are unaware that a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction disqualifies them from owning a gun.
“My first impression is that the numbers continue to indicate that people who are not legally allowed to purchase or possess firearms are still trying to buy them from licensed dealers at Virginia gun shows,” said gun control advocate Andrew Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety. He said this “has been going on for years despite denials from the show promoters” and others.
Goddard said “we can only guess” the number of prohibited gun buyers who are aware of their status and buy from unlicensed sellers at gun shows. Virginia law requires only federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks for gun purchases at shows. State legislators defeated several proposals earlier this year that would have required expanded background checks.