Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air just put a nice piece together about the so-called gun show loophole, which is not a gun show loophole, but rather a private sale loophole. The issue here is the federal government and the ATF publish no regulations as to when one must become a federal firearms “dealer.”
Some information…. (Remember, state laws are different. As an example, Connecticut residents can do a straight person to person sale of a pistol, but the buyer must have a permit or eligibility certificate, and the seller contacts the State Police to get an authorization number for the sale.)
- When you go to a gun show and buy a firearm, in most cases you are buying from a dealer, and a federal background check is required.
- There are sellers at gun shows who are not dealers, but rather owners of private firearms who are buying, selling or trading guns they may own. That’s the so-called “gun show loophole” but as I will note below, the same thing can happen in your driveway so it has nothing to do with gun shows.
- The “40 percent of firearm purchases don’t go through background check” reports you have heard are made up. The Brady Campaign has came up with that figure out of thin air. It’s a swinging wild-eyed guess. If you live in Connecticut and sell your shotgun to a friend at the club, there is no background check required and those private sales happen every day, thousands of times a day around the US. How the hell is the Brady Campaign supposed to know how many private sales there are?
So if the person at the gun show has a small booth or is walking around offering his personal Glock 17 and SIG Sauer P229R for sale, he may sell them to a dealer at the show, or he may sell them to a private individual visiting the show. He might sell it in the parking lot. In many states, there are no background checks for private sales and there is no mechanism in place for the private seller to complete a background check on a buyer. As an example, someone may sell their pistol or rifle to a cousin, uncle, father, daughter, grandfather, best friend or co-worker outside of a show and it would be a private sale without the background check requirement. As Shaw said, it’s a private sale loophole, not a gun show loophole.
Most people would think it absurd for someone who sells one or two guns to have a federal firearms dealer license, simply because they are not a dealer of firearms. What if you were a gun enthusiast with a large private collection and bought, sold and traded 100 guns a year. Do you think that person is a dealer? So on to our question.
At what point does the federal government consider you to be a dealer who must be licensed? Answer: Nobody knows.
That’s right, the federal government has not defined the point at which you must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Go ahead, check the ATF website. Nothing there. Their process is “we’ll know it when we see it.” They will tell you how to apply and how much it costs, but there is nothing in the regulations that defines the point where you “cross the bridge” from private seller to dealer. They do make it clear gunsmiths who work on firearms and hold them for more than one business day must have an FFL, but nothing else.
Is this really a problem? I’m not sure. Is there some sort of underground sales network of private sellers that move guns all around the country to make it difficult or impossible to trace their lineage? I have not heard of one, but that does not mean it does not exist. One thing is clear to me, if you want to sell something that is your personal property, do you really want the government getting involved? Could you imagine the government getting involved with and regulating the private sale of automobiles, boats or RVs for the “good of the public?” (Think climate change…)
I think it would be appropriate to discuss if it is possible to clearly define the point where private gun owners who buy, sell and trade personal firearms become “dealers” who require an FFL. That said, new regulations specific to this topic would not have stopped any of the mass shootings during the last 30 years, so let’s keep that in mind. What do you think?