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Police Seeing Increase in Va. Gun Show Arrests

Sept. 2, 2013

The number of arrests of people trying to buy guns illegally at gun shows in Virginia is on the rise.

State police are reporting that there have been 39 arrests at gun shows for the first half of this year.

There were only 47 arrests for all of last year.

The number of people charged this year represents only 0.15 percent of the 24,870 firearms transactions at 36 gun shows through June 30.

Background checks conducted by the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center of people seeking to purchase guns through federally licensed firearm dealers at gun shows resulted in 145 people being denied so far this year.

Of those, 39 were charged with being a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm — typically a felon or someone with a mental disability or ruled by a court to be mentally incompetent. A breakdown of the specific charges was not immediately available.

A total of 380 people were blocked from buying a gun in 2012, when 51,448 transactions were recorded.

State police say they have not changed how they enforce the laws this year, and don't know why more people are being arrested.

"We are talking tiny numbers here," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group. "But it appears that less people are being denied, but more of those are being arrested."

Van Cleave wondered whether police are arresting more prospective buyers who are unaware that a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction disqualifies them from owning a gun.

State police began tracking gun show transactions in 2011. The denial rate has declined slightly since then, from 1 percent in 2011, to 0.7 percent in 2012, to 0.5 percent so far this year.

The arrest rate has fluctuated from 0.11 percent in 2011, to 0.09 percent in 2012, to 0.15 percent through June 30 of this year, according to state police.

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