The “Gun Show Loophole” Myth and its Origin

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Gun Show

The so-called “Gun Show Loophole” is a fiction created by the anti-gun Left, and maintained by a compliant, or at best merely ignorant, media.  And, it should be pointed out that it is so incredibly easy to discover the truth of the matter, that any media person who discusses the topic, while still remaining ignorant of the facts, is either a willing political tool of the Left, or else an utterly incompetent journalist.

Here are the simple facts:  Gun Shows enjoy no special exemption from any state or federal gun laws.  It is just as illegal for a gun dealer at a gun show to sell a gun without doing a background check, as it is for a “brick and mortar” gun store dealer to do so, and it always has been.  If you go to a gun show to buy a gun, you can generally expect to be handed an ATF form on which you will have to list a lot of personal identifying information, swear under penalty of perjury that you are not a convicted felon, under a protective order, etc. etc. in exactly the same manner as you would if you went to a gun store or the local Walmart to buy a gun.  You will have to go through the same background check in the NICS system, and, although this usually takes only a couple of minutes for most of us, if you have a name similar to some nefarious individual, or if there is a NICS database error, or if you are in the KST database (“Known or Suspected Terrorist” – the so-called “Terrorist Watch List”), you may have to wait, for up to three working days, for the FBI to either clear you or deny the purchase.  That has been the routine for years now.  There are some states, I live in Texas which is one of them, that will allow you to skip the NICS background check if you have a concealed carry license.  The state concealed carry law specifically allows that.  The reason is simply that those of us with such licenses are already cleared in those databases, and will immediately lose our licenses if we suddenly do something that places us into a “prohibited person” category.

All gun dealers (who must have FFLs -Federal Firearms Licenses) are heavily regulated, and have been for several decades now.   The alleged “Gun Show Loophole” the anti-gunners are talking about, occurs when a private citizen at a gun show wants to sell a personally owned gun to another private individual, which probably accounts for one or two percent of the total sales at gun shows.  THAT kind of transaction does not, and cannot, go through the NICS system for a background check.  There is no way a private seller can access the state or federal databases, nor was there ever intended to be.  If this seems strange to you, try going down to the local FBI office and asking them to let you borrow a computer station to look up your next door neighbor to see if he’s in the KST database – they’ll throw you out on your ear, but probably not until they have added YOU to the database!

So what’s the big deal with Gun Shows anyway?  Well, if I wanted to sell my old rifle, how might I best go about finding a buyer?  I could put a want ad in the paper, or on “Craig’s List,” but that might be expensive and would attract all kinds of buyers I know nothing about.  And I would want to know something about my buyer.  For example, I would want to have good reason to believe that he resides in the same state I do, that he is neither a criminal nor an addict, nor a stalker, etc.  Not only would I WANT to know those things, being a responsible gun owner myself, but the law requires that I make some show of good faith effort to determine it.  In such private sales, I (the seller) must not know, nor have any reason to believe, that my buyer is a “prohibited person” or resides in another state.  Otherwise, selling my gun to him is a felony.   So how could I go about finding “good” buyers?  Well, one way is to go to a gun show with the rifle slung over my shoulder with a big “4 Sale” sign on it.  I am likely to be encountering other shooters there, some will be folks I know personally, many of them will have CCW licenses (which means they are not a “prohibited person”), it maximizes my chances of finding a buyer (after all, many of the attendees came there to buy a gun), etc.  So if I, as a private citizen who does not sell guns as a business (ie, I’m not a dealer), encounter you, a potential buyer, at a gun show, we would not need to go through a NICS background check, although I would still be expected to make some effort to ascertain that you live in my state and are probably not a “prohibited person,” or it would still be a felony.  THAT is the so-called “gun show loophole.”  The same “loophole” exists not only at gun shows, but wherever we private citizens might happen to meet: across the back fence, at a coffee shop, at the range, through a want ad, or wherever; gun shows are simply a convenient place to meet other, like-minded people who may be looking to buy a gun.  The reason the Left picks on gun shows particularly, seems to be simply that they tend to be social gathering places for shooters and conservatives generally, and they don’t like us socializing too much…kind of the way conservatives often feel about liberal coffee houses…

Now it is also instructive to note that this not a “loophole” in the sense that the laws requiring background checks to buy a gun, somehow missed it.  Far from it.  In fact, until that provision allowing the sales of privately owned guns (a straightforward private property rights issue) was added to the background check law, the Congress was unable to get enough votes to pass the law at all.   So ultimately, the “gun show loophole” is actually the “protection of private property sales provision;” not a loophole.  And it isn’t some kind of oversight, but a critical element of the law requiring background checks in the first place.  Kind of like the “Bill of Rights” doesn’t create any “loopholes” in our Constitution, but rather was a necessary protection of certain specific rights, without which, most of the states would not have voted to ratify the Constitution in the first place.  The analogy is an exact one, and one that ought to be remembered whenever ignorant or anti-gun people start to talk about the “loophole.”  The protection of free speech and religious worship added to the Constitution by the First Amendment is not a “loophole” either, nor is the right to “keep and bear arms” protected by the Second Amendment – the Constitution was voted down as unacceptable until they were added (along with the rest of the Bill of Rights), just as the Brady law requiring background checks was voted down as unacceptable until the protection of private property sales provision was included in it.  So in fact, “closing the gun show loophole” by passing a Universal Background Check law, actually means repealing one of the rights, and a critical one at that, specifically protected by the law requiring background checks in the first place.  Kind of puts the whole thing in a different light doesn’t it?

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oldshooter

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