The Gun Show Loophole Myth

Many misinformed people have made much noise about a “Gun Show Loophole” that does not exist. Registered dealers must abide by the law no matter where they sell. This is just as true at a gun show as it is at a retail store. If you go to a gun show, you will witness hundreds of background checks occurring each day.

Current law classifies sellers of firearms into two categories: registered dealers conducting business in firearms and private individuals not conducting business. Registered dealers must apply to the ATF for a firearms license before engaging in business, keep proper records, and conduct background searches before transferring a firearm. 

Private individuals are not required to conduct a background check before selling or giving a firearm to another person. This apparent inconsistency in the law recognizes that Congress may regulate commerce, but not private, non-commercial activity. Further, the exception respects an individual’s right to buy and sell for his collection without government oversight, and to give or transfer firearms to friends or families without asking government permission.

Many misinformed people have made much noise about a “Gun Show Loophole” that does not exist. Registered dealers must abide by the law no matter where they sell. This is just as true at a gun show as it is at a retail store. If you go to a gun show, you will witness hundreds of background checks occurring each day.

You will also witness the occasional private transfer of firearms that are legally conducted without a background check. These may be collectors trading guns, a hunter selling a rifle he no longer needs, or a longtime collector liquidating a significant part of his collection. 

The “Gun Show Loophole” demagoguery demonizes these individual collectors and portrays them as the source of all of our troubles. What the gun control lobby wants to confuse the public into supporting is the enactment of laws that require background checks on private sales, transfers or loans of firearms.

Certainly, some individuals do come to gun shows to barter, trade, sell or buy firearms – but they are not dealers any more than those who meet at a gun range and choose to trade.  If they were dealers, the ATF would force them to register as federal firearms licensees under existing law. And yes, ATF agents come to every gun show, and even flea markets and other such venues, looking for violations of these laws.

So what is the real purpose of the push to close the “gun show loophole”?  Since there is no loophole, the purpose is to convince the public to agree to a law that subject ALL private sales, transfers, or loans of firearms to the background check requirement.  

If such a law were in place, you could not loan a firearm to a friend for a weekend hunt, trade guns at the range or give your son a deer rifle without going to a federal firearm licensed dealer to conduct a background check. This extension of government into the private lives of gun owners is meant to cause inconvenience and thereby discourage the ownership of firearms. It will especially discourage the gifting and loaning of firearms so often used to encourage someone to join the shooting community.

What this will not do is slow down the acquisition of firearms by criminals. It is already illegal for even a private individual to transfer a firearm to a felon or other prohibited person.

Many people are unaware that studies show virtually all criminals obtain their firearms through black market transactions on the street.  Just as gang members deal in drugs and other contraband, they trade and sell firearms, many of which have been stolen in the first place.  These dealers in contraband care nothing about laws and will never conduct background checks.  Thus these laws only burden the law abiding citizens with the proposed incursions on their Second Amendment rights.

Mass shootings and the Charleston tragedy are no exception.  In a public statement the FBI Director admitted that it was a bureaucratic error that permitted the Charleston shooter to obtain a firearm.  Improving the existing system under current law may have helped – but no new intrusions on State and Federal Constitutional rights are necessary. As for other mass shootings occurring across our country, the perpetrators commonly pass background checks when they buy firearms through licensed dealers, and we find many more instances where theft, rather than a private sale, is the source of firearms.

For these reasons, including private individuals under regulations designed for businesses will not reduce criminals access to firearms nor make us safer. It will inconvenience law abiding citizens, and once the policy fails, lead to calls for more gun control. Thus we say no change in existing law is warranted.  The best way to reduce criminal acquisition of firearms lies in improvements to the existing system.  Gun control supporters have not advanced facts that show any violent crimes would be prevented by their proposed solutions.

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  • commented 2016-08-09 07:54:00 -0400
    Excellent! Another myth is the “Charleston Loophole”, a term created by people who don’t like the 3-day waiting period provided in the federal firearms act. A few left wing gun hating SC politicians use this term regularly in interviews and the media never ask them the simple question: how is a purposeful provision of a valid law considered a loophole. Instead, they report what they hear without question or challenge. Great journalism.

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