If there's any doubt that there is a run on guns in Mississippi and across the nation, an extensive line queuing from the entrance of the Trademart in January vividly displayed the interest in guns in our state.
Residents from Jackson and beyond stood in line waiting to get into a gun show where almost anything firearm and weapon related is for sale or trade. Some folks were stocking up on high capacity magazines. It's all legal. Typically, there is even a representative of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, agency present.
"Most of all dealers are legitimate businessmen and they're doing it for livelihood or profit, and they want to do it the right way, so we're there to help them with that process and get them all the information that they need," explains ATF Area Supervisor Caleb Cannon.
WLBT went inside January's gun show with a hidden camera to see just how easy it would be for our employee to hypothetically leave with a gun.
"If I want to purchase one today, what kind of paperwork do it need?" asked the WLBT undercover employee.
"You have to fill out the paperwork and they call it in right then; it takes a few minutes," explains an unidentified gun seller at the show. "You have to have a driver's license."
"That's all I need?" asks the employee.
"Absolutely. That's all you got," agrees the salesman.
The ATF supervisor explains exactly what paperwork would be involved in purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.
"People purchasing from a licensed dealer are required to fill out ATF form 4473 and pass a background check to ensure that they're not a prohibited person," clarifies Cannon.
But what if you're trying to purchase a firearm from someone who is not a licensed dealer?
"Long as you're not a felon, you're okay. Long as you don't have a felony on your record, you're okay," states a private gun collector at the gun show. "I'm a private seller. I'm a private collector, private individual. I don't have to pay taxes."
And that too, is legal. You can just walk out with your gun. Cannon says it is not the ATF's job to create the laws, only to enforce them.
"We enforce the laws that are on the books and the legislative branch decides what those laws are. Right now there are no prohibitions for an individual to sell a firearm to another individual within the state of Mississippi," reports Cannon.
As for that long line of people waiting to get their hands on a new firearm at the local gun show, Brian Smith, a licensed gun dealer, advises others to simply use good judgement.
"I would tell people to be careful who you buy from at gun shows," he warns.
Smith says the paperwork you fill out through a licensed dealer could protect you in case that gun falls into the wrong hands.
"I don't think you should ban gun shows. I think you have to have the same responsibility at a gun show that you have here in the [gun] store. Just because you pass a background check and fill out your paperwork right does not mean that you walk out of here with a gun," says Smith.
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson is one of three Mississippi mayors who are members of a national coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He says there needs to be a great focus on curbing violence in general, not on targeting all gun owners.
"We have violence everyday in our city. We have people shooting each other," says Johnson.
The mayor adds we need to get a handle on violence occurring in this city and throughout the country and make sure guns stay out of the hands of people using them to harm others. As for gun shows, Mayor Johnson was reluctant to state his opinion, but did mention happenings on the national level.
"There are a number of directives that President Obama has issued that speak to a number of things that could impact gun shows," states Johnson.
As the debate rages on, gun and firearm related sales continue at near record-breaking pace.
Monday, September 15 2014 5:39 PM EDT2014-09-15 21:39:25 GMT
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