ANNAPOLIS – A recently convicted Michigan man took advantage of his state’s loose gun show laws, exporting arms and ammunition bought at state gun shows to a terrorist group in Lebanon.
While a federal law passed November of 1998 closed the loophole that allowed the man to orchestrate a firearms run overseas, others still exist.
But police and gun show promoters say it’s unlikely a similar case could happen in Maryland.
“I would doubt it,” said Sgt. T. O. Rouse, Maryland State Police public affairs officer, who noted Maryland’s process for buying firearms has been scrutinized and reworked many times.
One gun show promoter called Maryland’s laws “adequate.”
“Their laws seem to work to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” said Frank Krasner, Silverado Promotions owner, who will hold a gun show in Gaithersburg this weekend.
Krasner recently won a court battle to allow his Gaithersburg gun shows to proceed after the Montgomery County Council tried to shut them down.
The council cited a law taking effect Dec. 1, which would withhold funds from any public place allowing shows on its premises. But a U.S. District Court judge ruled the county couldn’t enforce its law in municipalities such as Gaithersburg.
Krasner says his shows assure all transactions follow applicable laws.
If buyers aren’t following the rules, the show’s promoter can issue them a trespassing letter barring them from ever coming back, said Krasner.
“We know who we don’t want,” he added.
Until November 1998, no background checks were required of anyone buying a long gun, including rifles and shotguns.
This made it possible for Ali Boumelhem, who had a felony record, to accumulate a stockpile of firearms in Michigan. He then shipped the firearms to a terrorist group connected with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah.
But one official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said a repeat case is unlikely under the new law.
“It can’t happen there (Maryland) and it couldn’t happen here (Michigan), either,” said Vera Fedorak, a public information officer for the ATF Detroit Field Division.
One loophole that still exists involves individuals selling guns to other individuals, said Fedorak.
Under federal law, anyone who wants to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer must undergo a background check. But the law doesn’t mandate a background check for someone purchasing a gun from another private citizen.
Maryland, however, has a tougher law.
In Maryland, when a transaction occurs between two private citizens, the buyer, seller and weapon must undergo background checks. The deal must be sealed in person at a police station, even if the sale was initiated at a show.
Maryland also tracks gun permit applications through one system, making it easy to detect if one person is applying for several permits in different locations, said Rouse.
While Michigan requires anyone purchasing a pistol from another private citizen to undergo a background check, long guns can be transferred from one private citizen to another without the state ever knowing, said Dave Turner, Michigan State Police support service manager.
Although federal law has changed since the Michigan case and Maryland’s gun show laws are stricter than Michigan’s, not everyone agrees a similar case couldn’t crop up in Maryland.
It’s possible for someone to purchase a gun at a show and then turn around and send it overseas, said Blair Ewing, president Montgomery County Council.
“Gun shows increase access to guns,” said Ewing. Once guns end up in the wrong hands, he said, there’s no way of knowing what they’ll do with them.
– 30 – CNS 10-19-01