by Greg Camp ; Opinion
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USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center, also happens to be a federal firearms license holder, according to documents released after a Freedom of Information Act request [ by http://lonelymachines.org ] and according to the website, FFLDealerLocator.com, that provides a listing with a license number that agrees with the previous source.
The charges of hypocrisy have filled the discussions of gun rights on social media, but as much as I dislike defending Sugarmann, I have to say that his reasoning given in the application shouldn’t subject him to that accusation. He explains his wish to hold an FFL as follows:
“Firearms expert in design and manufacture for the purposes of examination and publication of written material concerning various firearm products. Also necessary for activities conducted by license holder on behalf of Violence Policy Center of which licensee is executive director. Such activities include ability to ship and receive firearms and firearm parts for examination and research in conjunction with expert witness testimony and other research and writing. No firearms or ammunition will be sold. Activities conducted under the license do not differ significantly from activities conducted by others in the firearms violence issue who possess a license, including the National Rifle Association of America.”
There’s a lot in that one paragraph. For one thing, Sugarmann’s application states that he is seeking a license to be a dealer in firearms other than destructive devices, and the language of the Gun Control Act of 1968 declares a dealer to be “any person engaged in the business of selling firearms or ammunition at wholesale or retail.” There is a contradiction here.
Now his claim that the NRA is also a licensed dealer is supported by the same website that listed his own license, and despite the claims of gun control advocates that the NRA is funded by gun sales, I’m not aware of any store that they run that offers firearms or ammunition to buy.
This raises the interesting possibility that the ATF has decided that testing and evaluation, review, criticism, and the like qualify as the business of firearms. The name of the inspector who approved Sugarmann’s application after it had originally been rejected has been redacted, so we can’t give that person a call to confirm this.
If I may speculate, I have to wonder what political pressure has been employed to secure these licenses. I can’t imagine being issued a dealer license for the purpose of writing about guns, for example—at least not without having made significant donations to the campaigns of whoever sits on the committees that oversee the BATFE’s funding. It may be that Sugarmann felt the need to get licensed as a way of circumventing the District of Columbia’s oppressive firearms laws, though if he wanted to have access to interesting guns, he could have hired a resident of Virginia to be the VPC’s legal owner and driven into the state when he needed to check out the latest purchases.
All of this would be so much noise if it didn’t illustrate the way in which gun control laws are a dog’s breakfast of regulations that curtail the rights of some, while being much more permissive regarding the rights of others based on where a person resides. It suggests that the rules are meant for ordinary Americans, but if you know the right people, accommodations can be made.
As the saying goes, the ATF should be a convenience store, not a government agency. The best message to take away from all of this is that the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act of 1934 must be repealed. Then Josh Sugarmann can get all the guns mailed to him that he’d like to buy, and you and I can, too.
Note: I have reached out the the Violence Policy Center for comment and will report on any reply that I receive.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.