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November 23, 2009

What's Going On (at Gun Shows): Free Trade

Bullet Counter Points’ “What’s Going On (at Gun Shows)” series takes an inside look at what happens at the nation’s gun shows when no one’s looking. Our first blog highlighted a UC Davis researcher who photographed widespread illegal activity at gun shows in 19 different states. Next, we took a look at an undercover investigation by the city of New York that captured a host of illegal sales at gun shows on video.

Our latest entry involves two unconventional tales of free trade between the United States and Mexico.

On July 25, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents were conducting surveillance at a gun show at the Expo Center at Kansas City International Airport in Missouri. They spotted Myrna Guerra carrying a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle and taking a “circuitous route” to his car. After looking over his shoulder several times, Guerra placed the assault rifle in his trunk. He then re-entered the show and traded cash for another assault rifle with a second private seller. Guerra placed this weapon in his car and was stopped by Kansas City Police Department officers soon after he departed the show.

At this point, Guerra presented a fraudulent Missouri’s drivers license and social security number. After police confirmed this through a computer check, Guerra admitted that in fact he was not even an American citizen-but instead an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. He was immediately arrested, as his status as an undocumented person made it illegal for him to possess firearms under federal law. From his car, police confiscated the two AR-15 style rifles, two ammunition magazines, and gun show calendars from several states. After searching his home, authorities found an additional six ammunition magazines, nine handgun holders/cases, gun cleaning supplies, more gun show calendars, a western Union receipt for $4,000, and three Social Security Cards under a false identity.

In a recent plea agreement, Guerra admitted to buying and selling guns for the past six months at gun shows to earn extra money. He would purchase guns from private sellers at gun shows and sell them to an intermediary, who would then bring the guns into Mexico for resale to the country’s drug cartels. Private sellers were attractive to Guerra because they are not required by law to conduct background checks or maintain records of sale, a problem known as the Gun Show Loophole.

Guerra isn’t the only gun show visitor who saw the Mexican Drug War as a business opportunity, however.

On October 16, Alfred Dwight Watkins, a resident of Luling, Texas, was sentenced to ten months in federal prison for dealing firearms without a license. Watkins, formerly a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), had been selling guns at gun shows in Austin and San Antonio despite the fact that his license expired in 2003. He told authorities that he would tell customers that no paperwork was required to do business with him in order to “flip” more firearms. In March of this year, ATF agents searched Watkins’ residence and recovered 65 firearms-including a dozen assault rifles-and 59,000 rounds of ammunition.

Watkins admitted knowingly selling a firearm to a prohibited purchaser. He also admitted straw purchasing a firearm that was recovered three weeks later from Los Zetas, a prominent Mexican drug cartel.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in June which stated: “While it is impossible to know how many firearms are illegally smuggled into Mexico in a given year, about 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last 5 years originated in the United States, according to data from Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). According to U.S. and Mexican government officials, these firearms have been increasingly more powerful and lethal in recent years. Many of these firearms come from gun shops and gun shows in Southwest border states.”

Unfortunately, the total lack of paperwork involved in these sales makes them nearly impossible to trace. As ATF agent Steve Foreman recently pointed out: [An unscrupulous private seller will] sell to anybody and everybody, trade up or trade down, he doesn’t care ... It’s actually a great business, if you don’t get caught.”

Thankfully, the “entrepreneurs” described in this blog weren’t so lucky.

November 16, 2009

The Lessons of Fort Hood

On November 5, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a licensed Army psychiatrist, walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas. After yelling “Allahu akbar,” Hasan, 39, opened fired with a semiautomatic handgun, killing 13 people (12 of them Soldiers) and wounding 32 others before he was shot by military police. Hasan sustained multiple injuries and is currently hospitalized in stable condition at an Army hospital in San Antonio. He will face 13 charges of premeditated murder in a military court.

The Fort Hood shooting ranks as the nation's worst ever on a military installation. It also has raised new fears about terrorist attacks on the homeland, as Hasan had been in contact with a radical imam that has praised the killings.

The U.S. Congress is now preparing to investigate the shooting to determine what action they might take to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Later in the month, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, headed by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), will begin hearings on the subject. As these inquiries commence, we would urge legislators to take several important actions concerning America’s gun laws:

1) Close the “Terror Gap” in Gun Purchasing Laws and Allow Federal Agencies to Share Critical Information
A May 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that 865 individuals on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List were allowed to purchase firearms from federally licensed gun dealers between February 2004 and February 2009. Amazingly, while individuals on the FBI’s list are prohibited from boarding planes, they can purchase as many guns as they want as long as they can pass an instant computer background check.

While there has been no indication from federal officials that Hasan was on the Terrorist Watch List, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force had investigated Hasan after they discovered 10-20 email communications between him and Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki, a radical imam now living in Yemen, was known to have associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers. Hasan worshipped at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, led at the time by al-Alwaki, in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 along with the two hijackers.

When Hasan purchased his weapons in August 2009, the Joint Terrorism Task Force was not informed. An NRA-drafted provision in the “Tiahrt Amendments” attached to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) appropriations bill requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to destroy completed background check records within 24 hours. The NRA has also been able to enact restrictions that restrict federal agencies from sharing information about legal gun purchases.

"The piece of information about the gun could have been critical," said former FBI Special Agent Brad Garrett. "One of the problems is that the law sometimes restricts you in what you can do." "We need to be smarter about sharing information," added former 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste. "It's very disturbing to see…that the FBI is precluded from sharing information."

There is no rational reason to allow potential terrorists to purchase firearms. The U.S. Congress should act immediately to pass S. 1317—sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)—and H.R. 2159, sponsored by Representative Peter King (R-NY). This legislation would give DOJ the discretion—subject to judicial review— to block gun sales to individuals on the Terrorist Watch List. Congress should also remove current information-sharing restrictions on federal agencies so that they can better monitor gun purchases.

2) Oppose and Defeat the “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act”
In the U.S. Senate, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) has offered a legislative proposal, the “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act,” that would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to stop submitting the records of those found to “lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs” to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The immediate effect of this measure would be the removal of approximately 116,000 such records already in the system. These individuals would be free to purchase and own firearms even if the VA determined they are “mentally incapacitated,” “mentally incompetent,” or “experiencing an extended loss of consciousness.”

Senator Burr’s legislation would put veterans, their families, and the public in danger. Researchers are predicting that the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom could be as high as 35%. Furthermore, the Army suicide rate is at its highest level in three decades. The New York Times reported that “at least 128 soldiers killed themselves [in 2008], and the Army suicide rate surpassed that for civilians for the first time since the Vietnam War.” All told, 12,000 veterans under VA care attempt suicide each year. A 2007 study by researchers at Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts. The study also found that veterans are 58% more likely to use firearms to commit suicide than non-veterans.

The shooting at Fort Hood wasn’t the only recent tragedy to remind us of how lethal the combination of mental illness and guns can be. Just two days after Hasan’s attack, a 63 year-old veteran suffering from PTSD opened fire while being escorted out of a bar in Vail, Colorado, killing one and injuring three.

The “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act” is an affront to common sense and the well-being of America’s veterans and should be rejected by Congress.

3) Enact Licensing Laws for Handgun Purchasers
Currently, only 11 states in the entire country require the licensing of handgun purchasers. Of these, nine states conduct a thorough background investigation on licensees that goes far beyond a simple instant computer check through the FBI’s National Instant Computer Background Check System (NICS).

The problem with NICS checks (like the one which Hasan passed at Guns Galore) is that they lack critical information from state and local authorities. According to a Third Way report entitled “Missing Records,” “91% of those adjudicated mentally ill or involuntarily committed cannot be stopped by a gun buyer background check” because their disqualifying records are not in the system. In addition, one out of four felony conviction records are not in NICS. Third Way’s overall assessment of the database is that it is “deeply flawed.”

Would a background investigation (as opposed to a computer check) have stopped Nidal Malik Hasan from purchasing a handgun? Possibly.

There were several red flags in Hasan’s background that suggested he might have been a threat to himself or others. He had been working with service members suffering from PTSD for more than six years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and experienced problems that required counseling.. He had also begun openly opposing America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and espousing extremist Islamic views. While a senior-year psychiatric resident at Walter Reed, Hasan gave a PowerPoint presentation to mental health staff members which concluded, “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.” In the Spring of 2008 and again in the Spring of 2009, key officials from Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences met and expressed concern about Hasan's behavior, which fellow students and faculty had described as "disconnected, aloof, paranoid, belligerent and schizoid."

Finally, as described above, Hasan was being monitored by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force because of emails he had exchanged with the radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki. The FBI was also investigating whether he was behind violent anti-American comments left on a website under the screen name of "NidalHasan."

None of these warning signs were revealed by the NICS check that Hasan underwent at Guns Galore. But any or all of this information might have been uncovered by a background investigation if Hasan had had to obtain a license in order to purchase a handgun. Such investigations typically involve interviews with licensees’ family, friends, and co-workers/colleagues.

Because instant computer checks are imperfect, the U.S. Congress should adopt licensing standards for handgun purchasers similar to those enacted in New York and New Jersey. This would help ensure that dangerous individuals do not legally acquire handguns.

4) Regulate High-Powered Firearms on the Civilian Market
Hasan used a Belgian-made FN Herstal Five-seveN semi-automatic pistol during the shooting which he legally purchased at Guns Galore in Killeen. The weapon's name refers to its 5.7 mm bullet diameter. The Five-seveN is popular with U.S Secret Service agents and police SWAT teams because of its ability to penetrate body armor. It is also popular with the Mexican drug cartels, who call the Five-seveN the “Mata Policia” (“Cop Killer”).

The Legislative Director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Steve Lenkhart, has called the Five-seveN "an assault rifle that fits in your pocket."

FN Herstal maintains that armor-piercing ammunition for the Five-seveN is only available to law enforcement and military personnel. However, when first launched for civilian sales, FN officials advertised that “enemy personnel, even wearing body armor can be effectively engaged up to 200 meters.” Additionally, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence tested the Five-seveN in January 2005 with commercially-available SS192 ammunition and found that it penetrated both Level IIA and Level IIIA body armor.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence joined the Violence Policy Center, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Legal Community Against Violence, Freedom States Alliance, and States United to Prevent Gun Violence on a November 19 letter urging President Obama to use existing executive authority to prohibit the importation of the Five-seveN as well as 5.7X28mm ammunition with armor-piercing capabilities.

November 2, 2009

The Point of No Return

Two recent undercover investigations, by the City of New York and a researcher at UC Davis, drew national attention by exposing widespread illegal activity at America’s gun shows. But however shocking these studies might have been, they contained no new revelations.

It has now been ten years since “The Gun Show Loophole” became a household term following the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. It is well-known that the shooters at Columbine obtained firearms through Denver-area gun shows, but two new books—Dave Cullen’s Columbine and Jeff Kass’ Columbine: A True Crime Story—have shed light on how weak federal and state gun laws were purposefully exploited in the tragedy.

A Tragedy of Epic Proportions
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold drove to their high school in Columbine with an arsenal of bombs, guns and ammunition. Their subsequent rampage lasted approximately 45 minutes and left 13 dead (one teacher and 12 students) and 24 injured. Harris, armed with a Hi-Point 995 9mm carbine rifle (with thirteen 10-round magazines) and a Savage-Springfield 67H sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, would fire a total of 124 rounds during the shooting. Klebold, armed with an Intratec Tec-9 semiautomatic assault pistol (with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine) and a Stevens 311D double-barreled, sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, would fire 64 rounds. Their final rounds were used to take their own lives.

The plans for the mass shooting had begun to take shape in the fall of 1997. On November 3, 1997, it was mentioned for the first time when Klebold wrote in his diary, “[Name blocked] will get me a gun. I’ll go on my killing spree against anyone I want.” What Klebold had in mind was a “straw purchase,” where a prohibited purchaser recruits another individual to buy guns on his behalf—a federal felony offense for both parties.

Both Klebold and Harris were intimately familiar with existing gun laws. On November 12, 1998, Harris referred to Jim Brady and the 1994 “Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act” in his diary, writing, “Fuck you Brady! All I want is a couple of guns, and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any! Come on, I’ll have a clean record and I only want them for personal protection. It’s not like I’m some psycho who would go on a shooting spree….fuckers. I’ll probably end up nuking everything and fucking robbing some gun collector’s house. Fuck, that’ll be hard. Oh well, just as long as I kill a lot of fucking people. Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how fucking weak I am and shit, well I will get you all back, ultimate fucking revenge here ... Guns! I need guns! Give me some fucking firearms!

Harris was being playful and sarcastic. He knew that getting guns would not be difficult, despite the fact that at age 17, he and Klebold were barred under federal law from buying both long guns (minimum age 18) and handguns (21). Harris had previously written an essay about the Brady Act for school. “The FBI just shot themselves in the foot,” he declared. “There are a few loopholes in the new Brady bill. The biggest gaping hole is that the background checks are only required for licensed dealers…not private dealers.”

Too Easy
Just ten days after Harris cursed Jim Brady in his diary, he and Klebold would exploit that loophole. On November 22, 1998, they brought Robyn Anderson, an 18 year-old friend of Klebold’s, to the Tanner Gun show in Denver. There, Anderson purchased three of the guns used in the shootings (the Hi-Point 9mm rifle and two shotguns) for Klebold and Harris through three different private sellers. As these sellers were (supposedly) “not engaged in the business” of dealing firearms, Anderson never had to undergo a background or fill out any paperwork. Only one of the three sellers checked her driver’s license to see if she was of legal age to purchase long guns. Klebold and Harris were able to buy ammunition at the show themselves. The entire process took only about an hour.

In a statement she released after the shootings, Anderson said, "I think it was clear to the sellers that the guns were for Eric and Dylan. They were the only ones asking all the questions and handling the guns ... It was too easy. I wish it would have been more difficult. I wouldn't have helped them buy the guns if I had faced a criminal background check." Of the private seller that sold him his Stevens shotgun through Anderson, Klebold wrote, “He knew I was fucking buying it.”

That night, Harris was ecstatic as he wrote in his journal: “Well folks, today was a very important day in the history of Reb [Harris’ nickname] today, along with Vodka [Klebold’s nickname] and someone else who I won’t name, we went downtown and purchased the following: a double barrel 12 ga. Shotgun, a pump action 12 ga. Shotgun, a 9mm carbine, 250 9mm rounds, 15 12 ga slugs, 40 shotgun shells, 2 switch blade knives, and a total of 4 10-round clips for the carbine. We ...... have ...... GUNS! we fucking got them you sons of bitches! HA! HA HA HA! Neener! Booga Booga. Heh. It’s all over now. This capped it off, the point of no return. You know what’s weird, I don’t feel like punching through a door...probably cause I am fucking armed. I feel more confident, stronger, more God-like.”

The purchases made Harris hungry for more firearms. On December 3, 1998, he wrote in his diary, “I’m gonna still try and get my calico 9mm. Just think, 100 rounds without reloading.... hell yeah! We actually may have a chance to get some machine pistols thanks to the Brady bill. If we can save up about $200 real quick and find someone who is 21+ we can go to the next gun show and find a private dealer and buy ourselves some bad-ass AB-10 machine pistols. Clips for those things can get really fucking [big] too.”

On December 18, 1998, Harris, paid for nine magazines of 9mm ammunition at Green Mountain Guns in Lakewood, Colorado. The store ordered the ammo for the 17 year-old, and Harris was able to pick it up on December 29.

The duo then got the assault pistol they were looking for. On January 23, 1999, Harris and Klebold met Blackjack Pizza co-worker Philip Duran, 22, and his friend Mark Manes, 21, at the same Denver gun show they attended with Robyn Anderson. They shopped around for Tec-9s before Manes agrees to sell Klebold and Harris one he owned for $500. Klebold gave him a down payment of $300 that night and took possession of the gun.

From February through March 1999, Harris, Klebold, Duran and Manes would hone their marksmanship together in a forested area outside Denver known as Rampart Range. On the third and last trip to the shooting range on March 6, Duran filmed the outing with a camera that Harris and Klebold had taken from Columbine High. In the video, Klebold and Harris can be seen gleefully firing their newly acquired firearms. Nine days later, Harris and Klebold would record the first of their “Basement Tape” videos and thank Duran and Manes. Klebold observes, “We used them, like you use a horse to carry shit.” And they add one final round of thanks: “Thanks to the gun show, and to Robyn. Robyn is very cool.”

One final purchase was made the day before the shootings. On April 19, 1999, Manes went to Kmart and bought 100 rounds of 9mm ammo for Harris. Harris picked it up from Manes’ house that evening.

A History of Violence
In the wake of the shootings, commentators focused on Klebold and Harris’ age (17) when discussing their illegal gun purchases. But even if the two had been of legal age to purchase firearms, there were numerous red flags in their background that are eerily similar to ones we continue to see today in school shooters like Seung-Hui Cho and Stephen Kazmierczak. These warning signs included:

  • August 7, 1997—Teenager Aaron Brown reports Eric Harris’ website to the Jefferson County Police. The website contains information about homemade bombs and acts of neighborhood vandalism. Police meet with the Brown family and are given seven printed pages of Harris' website.

  • Fall 1997—Harris and Klebold bring a pipe bomb to work at Blackjack Pizza (they plan to blow up a watermelon after work, they say) and are admonished by their boss.

  • October 2, 1997—Harris and Klebold are suspended for hacking into Columbine High School’s computer system to get student locker combinations.

  • December 10, 1997—For a classroom assignment, Harris writes a paper titled “Guns in Schools,” which affirms, “It is just as easy to bring a loaded handgun to school as it is to bring a calculator.”

  • January 30, 1998—Harris and Klebold break into a parked van and steal equipment they find inside (total value: $1,719). They are arrested that evening and placed in a juvenile diversion program. Both are released from the program early for good behavior.

  • February 15, 1998—A passerby finds a homemade pipe bomb in a suburban park near Harris' house. The bomb is reported to the Jefferson County Police and they recover it.

  • February/March 1998—Klebold is suspended again for scratching something threatening into a student’s locker.

  • Spring 1998—In September 1998, Harris writes an essay in school about a time when he had to “give away all my weapons to my parents.” “I paid good money or spent a lot of time making them,” he says. Months later, in the “Basement Tape” videos, Harris and Klebold confirm that Harris’ parents found a tackle box in his room with pipe bombs in it. Nate Dykeman and Zack Heckler, friends of the pair, tell authorities after the massacre that Harris’ father detonated a bomb that had been confiscated from Eric’s room in the spring of 1998. Dykeman also claims that he saw Harris and Klebold blow up things with bombs on several occasions.

  • March 18, 1998—The Brown family calls Jefferson County Police again after Harris updates his website and writes, “God I can’t wait till I can kill you people. I’ll just go to some downtown area in some big ass city and blow up and shoot everything I can ... I will rig up explosives all over a town and detonate each one of them at will after I mow down a whole fucking area full of you snotty ass rich mother fucking high strung godlike attitude having worthless pieces of shit whores. i don’t care if I live or die in the shootout, all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you pricks as I can, especially a few people. Like brooks brown [a fellow student of Harris’ at Columbine High School].” Although one detective begins to prepare a warrant to search the Harris home for bomb-making materials (the warrant mentions that a pipe bomb matching a description by Harris was recovered in February 1998 near his home), no concrete action is ever taken in regards to the complaint.

  • November 1998—Harris designs a business project for his Government and Economics class. The proposal, “Hitmen for Hire,” is for a business “basically to kill people who anger our clients.” “Several weapons, such as a sawed-off pump-action riot shotgun, an AB-10 machine pistol, homemade rocket launchers, swords and daggers were gathered to help our business,” Harris adds. In a video produced for the assignment, Harris and Klebold take money from a student who complains of being bullied. The pair then shoot and kill a “jock” with fake guns in an alleyway.

  • December 1998—Green Mountain Guns calls the Harris house to report that the 9mm magazines which were ordered (for Eric Harris) are ready for pick-up. Harris’ father answers the phone, says he did not place any such order, and hangs up. In his journal, Eric writes, "jesus Christ that was fucking close, fucking shitheads at the gunshop almost dropped the whole project. Oh well, thank god I can BS so fucking well."

  • February 1999—Klebold tells Zack Heckler that he and Harris recently bought shotguns.

  • February 1999—Klebold writes an essay for his Creative Writing class. It tells the story of a man who kills “preps.” The man is Dylan’s height, wears a trench coat (like both Klebold and Harris), and uses bombs, a knife and two guns. The essay uses inappropriate words like “pussy” and “prick.” Klebold’s teacher talks to his parents and later calls the essay, “the most vicious story I have ever read.”

  • February/March 1999—Harris requests Zack Heckler's assistance in making napalm and asks another friend, Chris Morris, to store the finished batches at his house.

  • March 1999—Harris approaches Chris Morris and suggests they rig a "trip bomb" behind Blackjack Pizza to target kids crawling through a hole in the fence behind the restaurant.

All told, Klebold and Harris had 15 confirmed contacts with law enforcement before the Columbine massacre. This is information that would have been readily turned up in any type of background investigation prior to a firearm purchase (as opposed to an instant computer check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database maintained by the FBI). Only a handful of states in the U.S.(New Jersey being one example) license gun owners and conduct such investigations. Virtually every other industrialized democracy in the world has licensing and registration laws in place for gun owners and their weapons.

Criminal Neglect
What was done in the wake of the Columbine tragedy to eliminate the loopholes in America’s gun laws that Harris and Klebold so deftly exploited?

Not much.

To Colorado residents’ credit, they acted quickly to close the Gun Show Loophole at the state level. In 2000, 70% of Colorado voters approved Amendment 22, a referendum to require background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows. The “Robyn Anderson” bill was also passed to clarify state law and make it clear that no individual can legally transfer a long gun to a minor without the consent of that juvenile’s parent or guardian.

The U.S. Congress was a different story. On May 21, 1999, the U.S. Senate narrowly passed an amendment to close the Gun Show Loophole. Then-Vice President Al Gore had to use his constitutional power to break the 50-50 tie vote in favor of the amendment, which he dedicated “to all of the families that have suffered from gun violence.” Then the National Rifle Association (NRA) took over. They accused the White House of backing "a charade of lawmaking" and warned that they would "hold a mirror up to this dishonest process.” Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), an NRA board member who led the effort to defeat the amendment, was equally confident. "I haven't lost," he said with a smile, wagging his forefinger in the air. "It's not over yet." These were not idle threats. Within days, similar Gun Show Loophole legislation was defeated in the House of Representatives. The Senate bill eventually stalled in conference committee.

The NRA continues to oppose efforts to close the Gun Show Loophole to this day, portraying them as some secret scheme to confiscate all privately-held firearms in America. Their defiance is certainly not a reflection of the views of the American people. According to a recent national poll, 87% of Americans—including 83% of gun owners—support closing the Gun Show Loophole.

One decade after Columbine, only 17 states in the U.S. have taken some action to close the Gun Show Loophole. It remains wide open for future Klebolds and Harrises in the other 33. As for illegal straw purchases, the recent undercover investigations by New York City and UC Davis demonstrate that they are as commonplace at gun shows as ever.

The Cost of “Freedom”
When police searched Dylan Klebold’s 1982 Black BMW following his shooting rampage, they found a newsletter from the Firearms Coalition of Colorado. “Dear Firearms Activist,” it read. “The Firearms Coalition of Colorado is working for you!” And working they were, to: a) Prohibit local municipalities from enacting gun control ordinances; b) Prevent law enforcement from exercising discretion in issuing concealed handgun permits, and; c) Bar the state of Colorado from suing firearm manufacturers “like the tobacco companies have had to fight.”

Klebold and Harris would have been gratified to know that all three of these campaigns were ultimately successful. The pair was concerned about their legacy and hoped to kick-start a “revolution.” They even spoke directly to future students in the “Basement Tapes,” stating, “If you’re going to go fucking psycho and kill a bunch of people like us...do it right.” Those who have been inspired to kill by Klebold and Harris have had no problem in following their model—weak gun laws in this country continue to allow the obviously disturbed to acquire arsenals of firepower.

“Whoever said the cost of freedom was free?” asked the Firearms Coalition of Colorado newsletter found in Klebold’s car. Certainly not the victims of Columbine. They understand the price we continue to pay for gun “freedoms” better than anyone.