Posted with permission of the author to the MoFed Web Site on 11-23-2002

Column by John McCroskey, Sheriff of Lewis County, WA

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