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State, Local Leaders Propose Change In Gun Laws

State and local leaders want closed what they say is a loophole in Ohio gun laws. The proposed legislation targets gun shows. WOSU reports the two sides of the issue. They're an easy outlet for criminals to get guns...that's what Democratic State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman say about gun shows like the one scheduled at Westland Mall this coming weekend. Coleman and Heard allege gun shows are magnets for street-gang members; but now they say it's gotten worse: terrorists. Coleman and Heard site a video from an alleged Al-Qaeda spokesperson who encourages buying firearms at American gun shows. "You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully-automatic assault rifle without a background check and mostly likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" the video stated. In Ohio, private sales of most guns can proceed without background checks. Heard said this is why state law needs to change. "It requires that they would go to a dealer to make sure that there is a background check. It doesn't eliminate the opportunity for dealers and collectors to trade, but it just makes sure there's a background check for any sales that are done in Ohio," Heard said. But Ken Hanson, Buckeye Firearms Association legislative chair, said the terrorist approach is a red herring. He said federal law prohibits the sale of automatic weapons, like AK-47's, without background checks first. Hanson said the proposed legislation seeks to shut down gun shows. "The headline will say close the gun show loophole. But when you read the text of the bill it never comes down to requiring a background check at the gun show. It comes down to we're trying to eliminate all private sales of firearms in the state or it comes down to we want to put gun shows out of business," Hanson said. But Coleman, who said he would prefer Columbus be able to make its own gun laws rather than follow state legislation, said he does not want to shut down gun shows. "No, it's not that the gun shows not do business. I just want background checks. I want background checks, they can do business," Coleman said. Annette Elliott is president of Showmasters, the company putting on this weekend's Columbus gun show. She said the majority of dealers at the show are federal firearm licensed dealers and required by federal law to conduct a background check at the time of the gun purchase. Elliott said there are fewer than a handful of private dealers who rent tables to sell large sets of guns, most of which she said are hunting rifles - not hand guns. "They're bringing in a lot of rifles and that's why this thing with an individual coming in to dispose of his private collection, his firearms, has never been a large source of crime guns," Elliott said. It would be a misdemeanor to fail to conduct a background check under Heard's proposed legislation.