Sheriff supports right of private citizens to buy guns

Column by John McCroskey,
Sheriff of Lewis County, WA
as forwarded from Jackie Juntti


A few days ago, my Undersheriff received a call from a television station…they wanted me to comment on some video taken at a gun show recently held here. Apparently, while under cover, they video taped the sale of a rifle by a private person, to the undercover reporter. It sounded like they wanted me to watch the video, and then wring my hands that something like this could happen. Hmm. It sounded interesting,

At the appointed time, they arrived, all the way from Seattle. I guess it isn’t news that one of the largest gun shows in the state is held in King County. As they set the equipment up, the reporter began by looking at me with a wrinkled, almost pained look, and said “sheriff, (that’s me) we came down and secretly video taped a gun purchase between our reporter and a private person at the gun show in Centralia…are you concerned about that?”

“Let me be sure I understand what we have here I replied. You have a video, of a lawful transaction, by law abiding citizens, and wonder if that concerns me?” Nope.

“But Sheriff, he bought the rifle in five minutes! He didn’t have to fill out any paperwork! Surely that is a concern.

Once again, looking very thoughtful, I said, it was not. The lawful acts by citizens should not be an issue with the police. We don’t make the laws, we deal with crime.

By now the tape is rolling, and he has re-asked the question, and I have generally restated the answer. I used an analogy for him. If a car is speeding along a road, at 50 mph and the posted speed is 50 mph, it may be troubling, and yes, an accident could occur, but it wasn’t a crime I could do anything about.

He went on. “Sheriff, there is pending legislation which would close the gun show loophole. Would you support this kind of legislation?”

I told him I have not seen the legislation, but doubt it would be of any real value. The facts is, there are many laws, state and federal on the books but they haven’t been enforced for years. In fact, they are looking for ways to reduce sentences which will increase crime

But I don’t believe restricting law abiding citizens ownership of firearms does anything but make them easier victims. If it was as easy as passing laws, then there would be no crime. But it isn’t. Law abiding people are law abiding because they follow the law. Law breakers don’t care what the law is, and will find a way to get guns and gun shows are only a tiny piece of all this. If tomorrow there were no more gun shows, the reduction in crime would be so insignificant it wouldn’t register. But put crooks who use guns in jail for a long time, and see what happens. It works and works every time it is tried.

It was pretty clear I wasn’t behaving the way he wanted. We talked about crime statistics and how they can be used to make a point on either side of the argument. ( I forgot to ask about the gun shop in Tacoma that was found wanting over a year ago…and nothing was done)

In the end, he asked me if there was anything else I’d like to add or was concerned about?

“Yes” I said “there was this one thing I was deeply troubled by…something so concerning to me it made me shake.”

He leaned forward and asked “what was that?”

I said “now, there is a liberal reporter with a gun.

John McCroskey <>


Related Story Follows:

Loophole Lets Gun Buyers Skirt Background Check

Monday, November 18, 2002

Friday at 5:00: It's a dangerous mix of alcohol and aviation. KIRO 7 catches commercial pilots who like to party -- revealing outrageous behavior that may put passengers at risk.

Chris Halsne

It took just 15 minutes for KIRO Team 7 Investigators to buy a sniper's rifle.

We show you how easy it is to skirt the law and walk away with a loaded gun.

KIRO Team 7 Investigators expose a gaping hole in the Brady Bill, that's putting you in danger.

Federal law states clearly that you have to pass a criminal background check and wait a few days before acquiring most guns.

But KIRO 7 Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne shows us how big a joke that is at gun shows here in Western Washington.

This is an AR-15 assault rifle, nearly identical to the one the Washington, D.C. snipers used to create so much terror over the past few months.

We bought it for cash at a local gun show recently, in less time than it takes to fill the banana clip.

No background check, no paperwork. We own an un-traceable weapon.

Bodies and blood filled morgues from Washington, D.C. to Tacoma, Washington. More than a dozen victims used as human target practice.

More than a dozen families left to mourn.

Federal agents can't find any records as to exactly how suspected snipers John Muhammed and Lee Malvo acquired their military-style killing machine.

The reality is: it doesn't really matter.

KIRO Team 7 Investigators discovered anyone can legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic. Felons, guys angry at their wives, mental patients -- All are welcome here at the Chehalis gun show.

We went undercover last weekend to the Western Sport Arms Collectors Show with "Justin".

"I said 'What do I have to do to take this home today?'" he says.

Justin asked the nearest dealer where to buy an assault rifle without the hassles of government records. A few minutes later, one man offered us a "private sale."

He took our $750 cash, stuffed it in his pocket, and the AR-15 was ours to take home immediately.

"There are enough private sellers that don't do any of that -- no paperwork, no background checks -- that it's really a piece of cake, an open market," says Justin.

Justin says he was asked to fill out a red ID card.

But watch: the seller didn't keep it, immediately handing it back. He didn't even ask to see Justin's drivers license.

"There's basically no record that I actually purchased that weapon."

Cease Fire Washington says the transaction we videotaped alarms them.

They think it's time state legislators in Olympia to close our gun show loopholes.

"California, Oregon, 18 other states have done it and we need to do this so that criminals don't get their hands on weapons so easily," says Laura Lockard of Ceasefire.

Not everyone agrees.

"The fact of the matter is 99.9 percent of what goes on at those gun shows is perfectly legal," says Lewis County Sheriff John McCroskey.

McCroskey says gun shows in his jurisdiction don't bother him a bit. He also thinks politicians should stay out of 2nd Amendment debates.

"I'm not confident those people know what to do, nor am I confident what they do will be effective. In my book, if you can't be effective, you shouldn't be doing it," McCroskey says.

The alternative is to keep what's now a duel system of firearms checks. If we had walked into a licensed gun store, we would still be waiting to pick up this AR-15.

At the gun show, anybody can own it -- right now.

"I love guns. I love shooting sport. I loved being able to go in a buy anything I wanted and taking it home. But, then again. I know I'm not a criminal. I know I'm stable and won't be blowing people away tomorrow," says Justin.

I want to reiterate: our sale was legal in the state of Washington. That may soon change. In the next few months, we're told Congress will be taking up the gun show issue.

There is considerable political pressure, following the D.C. snipers case to make sure everyone gets a proper background check before buying a firearm.


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