Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Targeting Gun Shows

Thursday, January 27, 2000

Targeting gun shows is the first step toward abolishing all privacy regarding firearms and implementing universal gun registration.

"Close the gun show loophole" demands Handgun Control, Inc. The major obstacle to Congress complying with HCI`s wishes appeared to be the desire of many Democrats to preserve gun shows as a campaign issue in the 2000 election. But if the voters learn the facts about gun shows, they will discover that there is no gun show loophole, no gun show crime problem, and no reason to adopt federal legislation whose main impact would be to infringe First and Second Amendment rights.

Despite what some media commentators have claimed, existing gun laws apply just as much to gun shows as they do to any other place where guns are sold. Ever since 1938, persons engaged in the business of selling firearms have been required to obtain a federal firearms license. If a dealer sells a gun from a storefront, from a room in his home, or from a table at a gun show, the rules are exactly the same: he must call the FBI and get authorization for the sale, after the FBI runs its "instant" background check (which often takes days to complete). As a result, firearms are the most severely regulated consumer product in the U.S.--the only product for which FBI permission is required for every single sale.

Conversely, people who are not engaged in the business, but who sell firearms from time to time (like a man who sells a spare hunting rifle to his brother-in-law), are not required to obtain the federal license for gun dealers, or to call the FBI before completing the sale.

Similarly, if a gun collector dies and his widow wants to sell the guns, she does not need a federal firearms license because she is just selling off inherited property and is not "engaged in the business." And if the widow doesn`t want to sell her deceased husband`s guns by taking out a classified ad in the newspaper, it is lawful for her to rent a table a gun show, and sell the entire collection in a weekend or two.

If you walk the aisles at any gun show, you will find that the overwhelming majority of guns offered for sale are from licensed federal dealers. Guns sold by private individuals (such as gun collectors getting rid of a gun or two over the course of the weekend) are the distinct minority.

Yet HCI claims that "25-50 percent of the vendors at most gun shows are unlicensed dealers." This statistic is true only if one counts vendors who aren`t selling guns (e.g., vendors who are selling books, clothing, or accessories) as "unlicensed dealers."


At the gun show, the licensed dealer is subject to exactly the same legal requirements as when he is conducting business out of his storefront.

Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette says that 70% of crime guns come from gun shows. The true figure is rather different, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the U.S. Department ofJustice. According to an NIJ study released in December 1997 ("Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities," a report which covers much more than homicide), only 2% of criminal guns came from gun shows.

This result is consistent with a mid-1980s study for the NIJ, investigating the gun purchase and use habits of convicted felons in 12 state prisons. The study (later published as the book Armed and Considered Dangerous) found that gun shows were such a minor part of criminal gun acquisition that they were not even worth reporting as a separate figure.


According to anti-gunners, gun shows are a major source of criminal guns, a place where people deal firearms without a license, and a place where people buy illegal "assault weapons." Everyone of these charges is false.

At the most recent meeting of the American Society of Criminology, a study of youthful offenders in Michigan found that only 3% had acquired their last handgun via a gun show. (Of course some criminal gun acquisition at gun shows is perpetrated by "straw purchasers" who are legal gun buyers acting as surrogates for the criminal who wants the gun. Straw purchases have been federal felonies since 1968.)

And according to a report by the educational arm of HCI, the group`s own survey of major-city police chiefs found only 2 out of 48 who said that guns from gun shows (both "legal and illegal sales" according to the questionnaire) were an important problem in their city.

Although the horrible murders at Columbine High School have energized anti-gun activists, no proposed federal law would have made any difference.

The adults who supplied the Columbine murder weapons (Robin Anderson and Mark Manes) were legal purchasers.

Since gun shows take place entirely within the boundaries of a single state, Congress has no legitimate constitutional basis, under its "interstate commerce" power, to attempt to control gun shows.

Nevertheless, both houses of Congress have passed gun show legislation. The House bill does only what the gun control advocates claim to want: imposing federal background checks on personal sales at gun shows.

The Senate version-passed 51-50--thanks to then-Vice President Gore--goes much further, and sets the stage for gun shows to be destroyed. The Senate bill gives the Secretary of the Treasury nearly unlimited power to regulate gun show sales.


The gun prohibitionists and anti-gun politicians are outraged that a law-abiding citizen can buy a firearm at a gun show without going through the federal background check--if the firearm is purchased from the minority of tables that do not have an FFL. But non-FFL gun collectors are not currently required to perform federal background checks regardless of whether a gun is sold at a show or from a collector`s home.

In the past, Treasury has abused its administrative authority over firearms to ban certain guns, so similar treatment for gun shows can be expected. For example, the Treasury banned the import of various rifles which were popular with competitive target shooters. Although a federal statute specifically orders Treasury to allow the import of "sporting" firearms, Treasury claimed that only firearms which were recommended by hunting guides were "sporting."

The Senate version also imposes a tax on gun show promoters, and allows the Secretary of the Treasury unlimited power in setting the tax level. One can bet that in this case, the power to tax really will be the power to destroy.

Gun shows are huge gathering points for people who are interested in Second Amendment issues. Gun rights groups frequently set up booths at gun shows to distribute literature and to recruit members. Gun shows are places where Americans properly exercise their First and Second Amendment rights, and neither gun show patrons nor vendors deserve the mean-spirited campaign of abuse to which they have been subjected.

Dave Kopel is Research Director at the Independence Institute, a civil liberties think tank in Golden, CO http://i2i.org

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

Please send comments to Editorial Coordinator, Independence Institute, 14142 Denver West Pkwy., Suite 185, Golden, CO 80401 Phone 303-279-6535 (fax) 303 279-4176 (email) webmngr@i2i.org

TRENDING NOW
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Ignores Heller: No Protection for Guns It Deems “Dangerous”

News  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Ignores Heller: No Protection for Guns It Deems “Dangerous”

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions in Heller and McDonald, many of the lower U.S. courts have been making up their own rules when it comes to the Second Amendment. Tuesday’s outrageous opinion by ...

Hawaii: Anti-Gun Legislation Passes Committee

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hawaii: Anti-Gun Legislation Passes Committee

SB 898, sponsored by state Senator Ronald Kouchi (D-8), would permanently strip an individual of their Second Amendment rights, not based on a criminal conviction or mental adjudication, but based on a quasi-criminal proceeding.  The ...

Kentucky: Senate Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation Amended

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kentucky: Senate Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation Amended

Today, Senator Robin Webb (D-18) offered a strike and insert amendment to constitutional/permitless carry legislation, Senate Bill 7.

New Hampshire Governor Signs Constitutional Carry Into Law

News  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Hampshire Governor Signs Constitutional Carry Into Law

Measure Effective Immediately. Today was a great victory for gun owners in New Hampshire when Gov. Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 12 into law, allowing law-abiding New Hampshirites to carry their firearms in the manner that ...

West Virginia: Pro-Carry Legislation Introduced

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

West Virginia: Pro-Carry Legislation Introduced

Multiple pro-gun bills were introduced this week in the West Virginia Legislature that seek to provide protections to West Virginians who choose to carry a firearm for self-defense. 

South Dakota: Bill Attempting to Silence NRA Passed by House Committee

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

South Dakota: Bill Attempting to Silence NRA Passed by House Committee

Today, the House Judiciary Committee heard and passed House Bill 1200 by a 9-3 vote. 

Washington: Anti-Gun Legislation Could be Heard on the Floor Next Week

Friday, February 24, 2017

Washington: Anti-Gun Legislation Could be Heard on the Floor Next Week

As early as next week, the Washington House of Representatives could hear and vote on House Bill 1122 and House Bill 1483.

Iowa: Pro-Gun Bill Passes Subcommittee

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Iowa: Pro-Gun Bill Passes Subcommittee

Today, House Study Bill 133, the omnibus bill which would make many pro-gun reforms for Iowa gun owners, passed its subcommittee hearing.  HSB 133 will now go to the full House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.  ...

Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Petition for Supreme Court Review in Peruta Right-to-Carry Case

Friday, February 24, 2017

Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Petition for Supreme Court Review in Peruta Right-to-Carry Case

In January, California Rifle & Pistol Association attorneys filed a petitionwith the United States Supreme Court asking the Court to review the NRA-supported case of Peruta v. California, which seeks to confirm that the Second ...

A Fourth Circuit Trifecta: New Rulings Confirm Need for Judges who Respect Second Amendment

News  

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Fourth Circuit Trifecta: New Rulings Confirm Need for Judges who Respect Second Amendment

Anyone still unconvinced about the importance of the courts and the need for justices who support Second Amendment rights had plenty of food for thought this month, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.