Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Famous Gun Show Loophole

On the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence site there's a very informative article about what is called the "gun show loophole." I've heard mention of it several times, in a disparaging way, from my friends who love guns and oppose gun laws, but in reading the article I had quite a rude awakening.

Unfortunately, current federal law requires criminal background checks only for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers, which account for just 60 percent of all gun sales in the U.S. A loophole in the law allows individuals not “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to sell guns without a license—and without processing any paperwork.

This means that in many States guns can be sold privately or at flea markets or at actual gun shows to anyone. Given the estimated 5,000 gun shows that take place annually, some of them huge gatherings, combined with flea markets and individual private transactions, we're talking big numbers.

This is how the gun culture is feeding the criminal world. This is how gun proponents who oppose common sense laws that would restrict their hobbies or rights under the 2nd Amendment are contributing to the problem, and in my opinion, responsible for it.

Background checks that are required in gun stores when purchasing from a licensed gun dealer should be universally applied. In two Western States, where individual rights are generally championed, changes have come. Too bad it took something like Columbine to open their eyes.

"If we can save up about $200 real quick...we can go to the next gun show and find a private dealer and buy ourselves some bad-ass AB-10 machine pistols."
- Columbine killer Eric Harris, who was 17 years old at the time

In two states, voters themselves closed the loophole when their legislatures refused to do so. On November 7, 2000, the citizens of Colorado overwhelmingly voted 70% – 30% in favor of Amendment 22, closing the gun show loophole in their state. The referendum followed the tragic shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. One of the guns used at the Columbine shooting was purchased at a Colorado gun show.

In Oregon, voters also voted overwhelmingly, 62% – 38%, in favor of Measure 5, effectively closing the gun show loophole in their state.

What's your opinion? Is this loophole as bad as it seems? Wouldn't honest law-abiding gun owners themselves what to put a stop to it? What do you think?


  1. "Gunshow Loophole" is a misnomer, as what is being discussed is neither a loophole, nor does it have anything to do with gunshows.

    What is being spoken of being banned is private sale which can happen at gun shows...or my livingroom, or a McDonald's parking lot.

    Its not a "Loophole" because the term loophole implies a gap in the law where something illegal becomes legal if done a certain way. (Medical Marijuana is a great example. You get a quack doctor to sign off on a prescription for what is essentially cigarettes and you can legally grow a plant that is otherwise illegal)

    Buying and selling guns privately holds all the penalties if it is done by a licensed dealer, or by a private citizen. Private sale cannot use ATF paperwork (even if you want it) and private citizens don't have access to the NICS system (I'd be all for making this an open system for firearms sale)

    A great story is what happenes when anti-gunners Joe Rosenthal and Steve Baily decided to "Expose" the "Gunshow Loophole"

    They went to New Hampshire from Mass. As I've said before, New Hampshire has some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation. They went to a Gun Show and tried to buy a gun. Everybody they talked to asked to see a driver's license, and when they saw they were from Mass, and such a sale would be illegal they refused. So they called for enforcement and got a prison guard to buy a handgun FOR them (This is called a "Straw Purchases" and is a felony) and they went home, and went on Radio shows and Steve wrote a Globe article on it. What happened next might surprise you, The ATF descended upon them with full intentions to give them each a lengthy prison sentence. Turns out the gun stayed with the Prison Guard who legally bought it, and he never made the illegal transfer.

    Do you see the problem with this law? It makes an illegal sale "More illegaler". People engaging in criminal activities nothing will change...people engaging in legal actives will now need to change and most often pay a fee for the transfer.

    I'll also note that Mass got rid of the "Gunshow Loophole" about a decade ago...our climbing murder rate shows that it is a VERY effective law! Oddly enough now that the "Loophole" is closed, gang members aren't turning their guns into gunshops because they can't legally transfer them for money!

    Also note that one of your quotes is incorrect, and a GREAT example of how NOT to enforce gun laws.

    The Columbine kids were prohibited persons (They had assault charges, and had recently got caught steeling a car...also they were underage) they HIRED a local girl to buy the guns for them at a gun show. She bought the guns legally at the show...then ILLEGALLY gave the guns to the shooters. Here's the clincher, the woman was NEVER CHARGED!!!!

    So the criminal walks free and the gun owners are punished. PERFECT!

    So again, not about gunshows, and not a loophole.

    Make sense to you, Mike?

  2. Can't say it any better or add anything to what Weer'd said.

  3. Yup...Mr. Beard covered most of the bases.

    I completely agree with him that I wish the NICS system was opened to individual use. Then, if I was selling a gun to someone unkown to me, I'd be able to run a check for peace of mind. Right now, I can't do it even if I want to.

    However, it should not be made mandatory. How do you enforce such a thing? There are hundreds of millions of firearms in private hands in this country. How would anyone know if I sold one of my guns to another private individual?

    Answer: they wouldn't. Which means the unscrupulous would go right ahead buying and selling them and the only people impacted by this new law would be the very people that you have no need to worry about.

    The only way that any such law could possibly be enforced would be to institute registration.

    That will never fly with the gun owning public. It would meet with massive non-compliance and simply be an expensive boondoggle...just like the one in Canada.

    And that is why the anti-gunners try to misrepresent the situation as a "loophole" to be closed and limit the scope to gun shows.

    If they tried to go for the whole enchilada at once, it would never pass. So they try to do it incrementally.

    Pass a "gun show loophole closing" bill that proves to be ineffective in stopping crime.

    Argue that it's because guns can still be transferred outside of gun shows.

    Pass a law precluding all private sales that still proves to be ineffective in stopping crime.

    Argue that the problem is that we don't know who's got the guns so bad guys just ignore the law. We need registration.

    Registration passes, which proves ineffective.

    Argue that the problem is that guns are present at all and they need to be banned...

    Don't think it can happen?

    Do a little research on how Britain's gun bans came about. That is EXACTLY what the gun banners have in mind.

    And it STILL doesn't stop violent crime.

    Because violent crime is not a hardware issue, it is a software issue. You can't stop violent people from being violent by taking away a tool. They either just get the tools illegally, or they move on to the next most convenient tool.

    Which is why many in Britain are now calling for knife bans.

    The entire premise of stopping violence by regulating tools is faulty. It simply cannot work.

    Sorry for droning on. I've been accused of a lot of things in my life, but brevity is not one of them.

  4. Gun rights activists object to gun registration--We believe it will eventually lead to confiscation.

    It would be relatively easy to set up a system where private sellers could do background checks without requiring records of specific purchases. All the proposals I have seen would require all sales to go through a dealer. This becomes de facto registration of all legal guns.

    If background checks are the real goal, why not concentrate on them? Especially since the FBI says that a very, very small percentage of "crime guns" come from gun shows.

  5. Sailorcurt and Sevesteen, welcome and thanks for adding your voices. Basically you're telling me what some of the other guys have been saying right along, but I admit it's refreshing to hear it from different voices in slightly different ways.

    Whatever we call it, isn't this unregulated transfer of firearms the very way the black market is being fed? And don't we all agree it's guns in the hands of bad guys that's the problem?

  6. "sn't this unregulated transfer of firearms the very way the black market is being fed?"

    No it isn't. The black market by nature is unregulated and unlawful transfer of goods. The legal private sale of firearms is a heavily regulated and very legal practice. And no, legal private sale does NOT fuel the black market. I could present the ATF trace data on crime guns that shows that only a small faction of guns used in crime (and you have been presented before the numbers that shows that the crime guns in America are only a fraction of one percent of the guns in America) are bought through private sales, or at gun shows. But maybe it will hold deeper meaning to you that you felt the need to lie in your own post to support your argument by talking about Columbine (Which was legal sales then illegally transferred to criminals...and the woman who did the actual crime was NOT PUNISHED)

    Again see my post here, Mike.

    You are obviously protecting your incorrect viewpoint at all costs. I don't know why you are doing it, but you are. You are intentionally perpetuating lies and ignorance for the sake of protecting a backwards ideology.

    I'm still here because I don't see you as a backward ideologue. I'll ask you to prove me wrong, but I honestly don't have much faith in your ability to be rational or logical.

    Still my challenge stands.

  7. My point was that it would be possible to require private sellers run a background check in a way that did NOT effectively become de facto registration.

    I am deeply suspicious of the continual attempts at back-door registration.

    "We need to do microstamping to help the police solve crime. (Oh, by the way, this unproven technology will require registration)

    "We need a ballistics database so we can match crime scene evidence with a particular gun. 2 states have tried it for 7 or 8 years, at a cost of millions of dollars, with a total of one dubious conviction, but it is still worthwhile. (Oh, and to be completely effective it will require registration)

    "We need safe storage laws, to ensure gun owners take proper care by prosecuting them if their guns are stolen. (Oh, by the way, this requires registration, so we know who to prosecute)"

    "We need to register all guns so we know which law-abiding people have them... So we can.... um.... Well, trust us, it isn't so we can take them away later"

    Why is it necessary for the government to know what guns the law abiding own?

  8. What Sevesteen said.

    Options for allowing background checks for private sales while keeping them private have been around for awhile. The gun banners will hear none of it...because their proposals for background checks are a means to an end, not the end itself. It is "a good first step" to total civilian disarmament.

    Any policy or law that would accomplish it's stated goal without impacting liberty is unacceptable to them...because the stated goal of any single proposal is not the objective. They actually prefer ineffective "solutions" because their very ineffectiveness is used as evidence that the NEXT ineffective "solution" is needed.

    At any rate. Mr. Beard is also right on the money with his assessment of private sales.

    Lawful private sales of firearms are simply not a significant contributor to the "black market" in guns. The vast majority of the guns that end up in criminal hands are either stolen, or are introduced into the criminal market through straw purchases or unscrupulous licensed dealers.

    "Closing the gun show loophole" is a solution in search of a problem.

    Primarily because of what I mentioned before. It is not intended by its supporters to address a problem. It is intended as the next in a never-ending series of "good first steps" toward the ultimate goal of total citizen disarmament.

  9. Sailorcurt said, "Lawful private sales of firearms are simply not a significant contributor to the "black market" in guns. The vast majority of the guns that end up in criminal hands are either stolen, or are introduced into the criminal market through straw purchases or unscrupulous licensed dealers."
    1.Private firearm sales, you say, do not result in more guns in the black market. Well, how would you know that since the transactions are private?
    2. Guns that are stolen are stolen from you law-abiding gun owners. I count that as part of the problem that you're responsible for.
    3. Straw purchases make up some percentage of the private firearm sales, category no. 1. They must be hard to quantify also, but again they result in guns flowing from the good guys to the bad guys.
    4. Unscrupulous licensed dealers, what would they do? Sell guns to criminals and destroy the paperwork? Whatever they do, the results are the same. I think I'll start calling it the great gun migration.

  10. 1. Crime guns are recovered from arrests or crime scenes and traced by the FBI and ATF. This happens to all guns recovered. Even when serial numbers have been filed off there is technology to recover the number from the surface of the gun, and most modern firearms have S#s in multiple places often at least one is difficult to find (I just found another one on one of my guns that was the first gun I've ever bought, and used more than any other firearm!)

    2. Correct, but again, there is FBI and ATF trace data availble for these guns, and we are talking about fractions of 1%. Remember guns are so scarce on the streets that criminals are forced to share them. I'm all for regulations that would take these small number of guns off the streets, but only if it doesn't punish all gun owners for less than 1% (Personally I think such a thing doesn't exist, and the problem can only be solved by law enforcement tracking down stolen guns, and confirming that the guns that are "Stolen" are just that.)

    3. Again , FBI and ATF Trace Data

    4. I'm not exactly sure of how an unscrupulous dealer plies his trade, but however he does it, the fact that he isn't in jail is 100% the Fault of the ATF. This is fairly obvious when you read about the harrassment over clarical errors (The most famous is people writing "y" or "n" instead of "Yes" and "No", or people writing their state abriviation instead of the full word on a space far too small to write out "California" or "Massachusetts" or "Mississippi")
    The Amount of paperwork and rules that must be followed by Gun Dealers is quite heavy (and in my opinion not unreasonable) there really isn't any way I can see handing a gun off to a felon without some sort of paper trail that would be easily followed by law enforcement.

    Most of this data is available in Annual FBI and ATF reports for you to view, Mike.

  11. It is intellectually dishonest of you to misstate my position and then argue against your misstatement rather than what I actually said.

    If those are the tactics to which you are willing to stoop, then reasonable discussion is impossible.

    1. he replied to your statements directly. What was dishonest?

  12. Sailorcurt, It's funny you say that because Weer'd is usually my first and biggest critic. If he didn't find my answer to be intellectually dishonest, I don't think you should either.

    I, myself can assure you it was not.

    In an attempt to be honest, I supplied a quote from your post and tried to speak to each part of it.