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The gun-ban lobby has long contended that its legislative quick-fixes would take guns out of the hands of criminals. But now, a new U.S. Justice Department study of state and federal prison inmates shows that, despite all the anti-gun lobby's promises, gun use among criminals is up.

From 1991 to 1997, the proportion of inmates who reported using a firearm during the crime for which they were sentenced rose from 16 percent to 18 percent for state prison inmates, and from 12 percent to 16 percent for federal prison inmates. That might not sound like a dramatic spike in percentages. But prison populations have skyrocketed from 199l to 1997, and if you look at raw numbers you'll see that the number of felons using firearms has risen by 70 percent.

If the Brady law, the Clinton gun ban and countless state-and local-level anti-gun laws are working, you certainly couldn't prove it by talking to criminals.

Where are they getting their firearms? The gun-ban crowd would have you believe gun shows, which they call "Tupperrware parties for criminals," are the source. But according to the Justice Department, less than 2 percent of the state prison inmates who used firearms obtained them from a gun show. That's the same figure the National Institute of Justice came up with four years ago, and it's consistent with what they found in the 1980's. Yet the Brady Campaign, Americans for Gun Safety and the rest of the anti-freedom lobby continue to foist this fraud upon the American people. I say it's a disgrace, and it's a good thing the truth is finally getting out.

Charlton Heston, Guns & Ammo magazine.