The State Fair Board will consider a proposal to fine-tune policies on vendors who can sell at gun shows held on the fairgrounds. Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence went to the board’s monthly meeting to say Iowa’s system of requiring all gun buyers get a permit isn’t enough.John Johnson with IPGV says he could go to a sheriff and get the required gun-buyer’s permit, then look for an ad in the Cedar Rapids Gazette or Des Moines Register or go to a gun show and buy a gun from an unlicensed seller and there’s no way the state or federal authorities can determine whether the sale was legal. Collector and gun-show promoter Leigh Wilcox told the board that gun sales by unlicensed dealers are not a problem at fairgrounds gun shows. Wilcox says the people who set up booths at gun shows are “a huge cross-section of the United States,” from people who’ve been in the business for years and have storefront businesses, to people selling items from an estate “where Grandpa died and they have a Browning .22 that they no longer want.” Wilcox says there’s a problem with making those unlicensed sellers of private collections do a background check on every buyer they sell to:He says that database isn’t available to them, and dealers think it would be restrictive and something they don’t want — as “an enthusiast and a collector,” Wilcox says he has the right not to check a buyer’s background and wants to retain that right. The group’s John Johnson today (Wednesday) told the board it’s too casual to let some dealers sell guns without checking for a criminal record. He calls it “an honor system” to ask the seller to verify whether a buyer has a permit to purchase, whereas licensed dealers undergo an annual audit by the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to verify dealers aren’t selling guns “under the table,” without a background check. Johnson says IPGV commissioned a poll of Iowans back in 2002 and 87-percent, including 8 out of ten gun owners, favored pending state legislation to require a background check on all gunshow sales. Johnson cites a federal report estimating that 25-to-50-percent of vendors at gun shows are unlicensed, and says he’s tried to determine how many at Iowa gun shows sell without a license — but he can’t because despite a federal law requiring vendors to display their license when selling at a gun show, “none of them do.” Wilcox, who organized a gun show and sale last weekend at the state fairgrounds, has a different view of it. Wilcox says the “vast majority” of people selling weapons at gun shows and sales are holders of federal firearms licenses, though he adds the organizers and sponsors don’t keep records of which individuals, or how many participants, are license-holders. The fair board to take the suggestion under consideration.
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