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Arrest rate at Virginia gun shows increases

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The percentage of people arrested after being denied permission to buy firearms at Virginia gun shows has increased over the last two years.

Virginia State Police began tracking gun show transactions in 2011. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Monday that 10.6 percent of the people who were denied permission to buy guns that year were charged with an offense related to being someone legally prohibited from possessing a firearm. That increased to 12.4 percent in 2012 and to 27 percent last year.

Thomas R. Baker, a Virginia Commonwealth University criminologist who analyzed the data for the newspaper, said the numbers are a positive sign for both gun control advocates and gun rights supporters.

"This clearly shows an upward trend in enforcement," Baker said. He said that is good news for gun rights supporters who have been calling for stricter enforcement of existing laws instead of passage of new ones.

On the other hand, gun control advocates who favor universal background checks "can point to the effectiveness of background checks for keeping guns out of the wrong hands," he said.

But Baker noted that while the upward trend in arrests for denials is a positive sign, "it's important to note that those who weren't arrested after their failed background check could simply go to a private seller at a gun show and purchase a gun.''

Existing law requires only federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks for gun purchasers.

The total number of gun show transactions through federally licensed firearm dealers increased sharply in 2012, from 34,501 transactions at 70 shows in 2011 to 51,448 at 67 shows in 2012. But the numbers fell last year to 43,497 transactions at 65 shows.

The number of denials rose slightly from 359 in 2011 to 380 in 2012, but fell sharply to 263 last year.

Baker believes the repeal of Virginia's one-handgun-per-month law, which became effective July 1, 2012, "almost certainly" accounts for the large drop-off in denials between 2012 and 2013.

He noted that between 2000 and 2012, attempting to buy more than one handgun per month among all commercial venues -- including gun stores and gun shows -- was the most common source of denial.

Despite last year's drop in denials, the number of arrests at gun shows continued to climb steadily, from 38 in 2011, to 47 in 2012 to 71 last year.

The number of denials and arrests represent a tiny fraction of those involved in total gun show transactions for all three years. Last year, for example, the 263 people who were denied and the 71 people arrested represented 0.6 percent and 0.16 percent, respectively, of the 43,497 total transactions.


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