One of the planks in Hillary’s new gun control program calls for “closing the gun show loophole,” an issue that has been floating around for years since Dianne Feinstein who has sponsored legislation to regulate gun shows after she entered the Senate in 1992. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around on gun shows, particularly among people who don’t go to gun shows, and this is a good time to clear some misconceptions up. In particular, the question of whether there’s any real gun-show loophole at all.
When most people speak about gun show loopholes what they mean is that anyone can walk into a gun show and get their hands on a gun, legal requirements met or not. Although many FFL-licensed dealers display and sell their inventory at shows, very few states impose licensing requirements on gun show vendors, as long as individuals who rent tables and sell at shows meet existing local laws on private transfers of guns. And since most states impose very few regulations on private gun transfers, buying a gun without a background check at a gun show is no different from walking across the street and buying a gun from a neighbor or a friend.
What Hillary evidently wants to do is use some kind of executive authority to force all gun show vendors to be licensed dealers which would mean that every gun sold at a gun show would by a show vendor, would have to undergo a background check. I can’t tell you how many guns I have bought at shows just because I bumped into someone as I was walking around who was carrying a gun that I liked and a word here, a word there, some bills out of my pocket and I own the gun. And don’t think these kinds of transactions don’t happen in the parking lot outside the show either, because they happen all the time.
If Hillary really believes that she can end private sales at gun shows or anywhere else by using her executive power to define the word ‘dealer,’ one of her staff people should take a look at the Firearms Owners Protection Act that was passed in 1986. This law was passed to define or change sections of the GCA68 law which, because it represented the first time that the feds got into regulating gun commerce in a major way, contained passages and whole sections which nobody could really figure out. And one of the big issues that was revised was the definition of ‘dealers,’ since the ATF after 1968 had taken the position that anyone selling a gun to anyone else was engaged in gun commerce and therefore came under their control. Talk about a bureaucracy trying to extend its reach!
What FOPA did was to define a gun dealer as someone “whose time, attention and labor is occupied by dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of an inventory of firearms.” It also specifically excluded persons who made “occasional” sales or sold guns from “personal collections.” From my own experience based on wandering through hundreds of gun shows over the last forty years, I can honestly confirm that the FOPA definition fits probably 75% of all the guns I have seen for sale at all those shows. Most of the big-time vendors at gun shows aren’t selling firearms at all. They go from show to show, maybe do 40 shows a year, and they’re hawking t-shirts, memorabilia, all kinds of junk and crap but they’re not selling guns.
I’m thrilled that Hillary has injected the words ‘gun violence’ into the Presidential campaign. I hope she ramps up the message because, if nothing else, I’d like to see the ‘stuff happens’ nonsense shoved up where it belongs. But if anyone wants to really get rid of gun violence I’ll continue to say it again and again: It’s the guns, stupid. It’s the guns.