At first it doesn't seem like all that much of a problem. But the more you think about it the more it does.
Gun stores must check the criminal background of anyone buying a gun. But no check is required if someone rents a gun to use on the store's shooting range. In fact, a background check is not even allowed for rentals.
Prosecutors say a felon or other person legally barred from having a gun is breaking the law by handling one and could be charged. But they need proof.
"They can go and play with a gun, handle it, fire it, even take pictures with it to intimidate other people and nobody is going to know about it," said Joseph J. Vince Jr., a retired supervisor from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Badger Guns owner Adam Allan said the store recently stopped renting guns after two men - including one who was barred from having a gun - committed suicide on the store's shooting range on April 27 and May 1.It seems there's a bit of ambiguity about what constitutes possession of the gun.
Without a background requirement for rentals, it would be nearly impossible to charge a clerk or store owner with supplying a gun to a felon, prosecutors said.
"It seems to provide cover for the gun shop owner," said Daniel Bach, a Madison attorney and former federal prosector.
And finally, the question of gun-range suicide is covered.
A background check in that case is not needed because the gun store has "constructive possession" of the gun, according to Robert Schmidt, spokesman for the ATF, which regulates gun stores.
"As long as it doesn't leave the facility, they don't have to do a check," Schmidt said. "That is how the law reads. It is pretty clear. They don't have to do it. Those are the laws we are working with."
Legal experts said the ATF's legal logic appears to contradict federal law on what constitutes possession.
"The underlying concept is bizarre," said Frank Tuerkheimer, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin and former U.S. attorney for western Wisconsin.
What's your opinion? Wouldn't requiring background checks on folks who want to rent guns at the range screen out some of these problems? Why does it often seem the gun owners and gun dealers have things slanted in their favor? Why does public safety and common sense always lose to gun rights?
Like Badger Guns, a Florida gun store, Shoot Straight, was the scene of two suicides in a short time.
Like Badger, the owner of the store said he would stop renting guns because the State of Florida would not allow him to run background checks on renters. The store later resumed rentals anyway at its three central Florida locations. The store's owner declined to comment.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said he was alarmed to hear that stores can rents guns without doing background checks.
"It is just stunning to me we can't take an elementary precaution to make sure we are not allowing dangerous criminals to become more firearms proficient, wrapped in the protections of federal law," he said. "Nothing wrong with target practice, but target practice for violent felons, not such a good idea."
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.