Legislators make undercover gun sale video

January 16, 2013

Two Virginia legislators pushing for stricter gun laws made an undercover video of themselves buying a gun without undergoing criminal background checks.

“You don’t look like you’re ready to go do a bank heist or something,” a gun show vendor remarks to state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Del. Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) before they buy a handgun and a high-capacity magazine.

The sales were perfectly legal under Virginia law, which does not require background checks on gun sales between private individuals, or on any ammunition sales.

But Ebbin and Hope say the law should be changed to close the so-called gun show loophole. They said the video demonstrates that it’s too easy to buy weapons in Virginia.

“We easily purchased a handgun at a Virginia gun show, without undergoing a background check,” they said in a joint statement. “Sadly, nearly 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check. In the interest of community safety, it’s not too much to ask for responsible gun purchasers to undergo a background check to screen for criminal history or history of serious mental illness.”

Ebbin and Hope, accompanied by a videographer, made three separate snippets of video at a recent gun show in Chantilly.

“You know, I’m a good guy and everything,” Ebbin can be heard telling the seller in the first bit of video.

The seller, whose face is obscured, says: “You local? Live in the state of Virginia? And you have ID? You’re not a felon?”

The dealer adds with a laugh, “You’re not a felon this week — next week ...”

The dealer goes on to say that he only needs to be confident that buyers have a driver’s license, are legally old enough to buy a gun and are “generally pretty good guys.”

Hope is shown in a second bit of video buying a revolver for $175 . In the third, Ebbin purchases a high-capacity magazine for $20.

“Today, a felon with a violent past can walk into a gun show or go on the Internet and buy any gun with no questions asked,” Hope said. “A law we could pass today, requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, would have an almost immediate impact on gun safety. No responsible gun owner is afraid of a background check.”

Philip Van Cleave, who heads the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said the video shows nothing shocking.

“It makes me think I should make a video of myself buying bubble gum,” he said. “I would say this is the way America is supposed to be. The Second Amendment guarantees our right to bear arms. And the fact that it’s easy to purchase ammunition and arms is good.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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