Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bad Actors, Lax Gun Laws and Loopholes

We are unfortunately well aware of the lobbying efforts of groups like the National Rifle Association. They have a clear history of lobbying for some of the most extreme policies related to guns. Part of their legislative agenda includes a free pass repeatedly given to even the most problematic gun dealers. There probably isn’t a better local example of this than Badger Guns located in Milwaukee County.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the current owner of Badger Guns is planning on surrendering his license. The owner has said that he is only giving up the license because he lost a yearlong fight with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to renew it. This most recent fight with authorities is no surprise because Badger Guns and its predecessor Badger Outdoors have been the top sellers of crime guns for the past decade. In 2005 Badger Outdoors was actually listed as being the top seller of crime guns in the nation.

The highest profile crimes committed with guns purchased from Badger involved six Milwaukee police officers being wounded in less than a two year span. Badger Guns currently faces a civil lawsuit from 4 of the police officers that were severely wounded by guns sold at their store.

The current violations that have encumbered Badger Guns’ license are only the most recent in what seems to be an endless cycle. That cycle is clearly perpetuated by lax gun laws. For example, in 2006 when then-Badger Outdoors ran in to similar problems, the previous owner sold the business to his son who changed the name to Badger Guns. Even though the father and former owner of the business still worked at the store, the store was given an entirely clean slate. Use of that loophole essentially erased all of the previous violations. There is speculation that a similar maneuver could be in the works again.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has done an excellent job of highlighting these kinds of loopholes and other unnecessary problems faced by law enforcement. All-too-often law enforcement agencies like the ATF are largely powerless because their ability to actually regulate problematic gun dealers has been greatly crippled by Congress.

The current owner of Badger Guns can take any remaining guns, transfer them to his “personal collection” and sell them at gun shows without even doing a background check. He is already saying that although he is giving up his license that he will still continue to work at the store. He says that he will run the shooting range at the store which has been used in the past by felons. He will also sell ammunition and accessories which don’t require a federal license.

No wonder Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn commented on the owner’s getting out of the gun-selling business by saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He knows more than anyone about the long history of violations and the selling of crime guns from that store, including those that were used against his officers. Unfortunately the lax gun laws and various loopholes created by the gun industry and their rubber stamp legislators serve only to perpetuate such problems.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

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