A Brief History
On October 21, 2017 (and October 22), Heritage Gun Shows, LLC will be hosting a gun show at the Richland County fairgrounds in Mansfield, Ohio. The subject of gun shows has become a topic of heated debate politically within the past couple years, and a common phrase thrown around in this debate is “the gun show loophole.” Today, we aim (pun alert!) to set you all straight, with some straight shootin’ information!
Gun shows are held all over the United States, to the tune of about 5000 shows per year. At the typical gun show, collectors, customers, gawkers, private sellers, and Federal Firearms License holding dealers combine in an exhibition hall, fairgrounds, gymnasium, or other sizeable space. Depending on state and local laws, you may or may not find private parties selling, buying or trading firearms and related gear in the parking lot as well as inside the show.
Typical gun shows feature tables with items for sale, such as guns (new and used), ammunition, gun related paraphernalia (holsters, cleaning gear, gun cases, targets, and the like), military and historical items, police and security related items (Mace, pepper spray, batons, covert weapons, handcuffs, etc.), usually knives and other edged tools and weapons, gun and hunting related books and manuals, replica firearms and toys, posters and bumper stickers, and often items that have little if anything to do with guns or shooting.
People that sell 4 or fewer guns per year are considered private sellers and are not required to do background checks or fill out federal paper work for gun sales or gifts. Regular firearms dealers that have an FFL are required to fill out and maintain volumes of paperwork and records, and must have each and every gun purchaser cleared through the approved background check system.
The so called “gun show loophole” comes into play when a sale or trade is between private parties, neither of which has an FFL. This is not something found only in gun shows, but also by family members and friends giving a gun to a loved one as a gift, or people out in the general public buying and selling and swapping from each other. At gun shows, like everywhere else, a licensed dealer has to run you through a background check to sell you a gun. Period. For that matter, any citizen is prohibited from selling or providing a gun to anyone that the provider knows is a prohibited person, or a person intent on committing a crime. (Of course, the government would have to prove the provider knew of the receiver’s ‘disability,’ which is how prohibited people are referred to in law.)
When you hear about “closing the gun show loophole” or “expanded background checks,” what people mean by that is that every single firearm in the United States must be registered with the government and kept track of. Otherwise, how would the government know you are complying with the law? Registration is the unspoken glitch that the NRA and other 2nd Amendment adherents cannot tolerate.
So what is the problem with gun registration? The main reason the Founding Fathers created the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution was to allow the public to protect itself against a tyrannical government. Although the wording of the 2nd Amendment (“…well ordered militia…”) confuses many people into believing the intent only covered the militia, the writings of Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton clearly indicate the intent was for the common man to be armed with military type weapons, NOT hunting and recreational arms. This meant cannons, too. When frustrated anti-gun people complain about “assault weapons” (wrongly calling semi-automatic arms assault weapons when real assault weapons have a full automatic capability) and they exasperatedly say, “Should people be allowed to have bazookas and machine guns?” they are speaking from ignorance of the real intent and actual words of the Founding Fathers which, although of course they did not know of machine guns and bazookas, intended the people to have military muskets and cannons, the military state of the art of the day, implying that they would have though people today should indeed have their own machine guns and bazookas! (Or maybe not, who knows?)
Some gun shows require firearms to be checked at the door, and no loaded weapons are allowed into the show. Other shows may not check. Either way, have you EVER heard of anyone being robbed or murdered at a gun show? Out of the tens of thousands of gun shows over the past few decades, you may find one or two accidental discharges that may have wounded someone, out of the millions of people that have attended the shows where thousands of guns are in the immediate vicinity of large crowds of people at a time. The safety record is incredibly good, better than virtually anywhere else you can be! The fallacy that the presence of guns automatically means people get shot is revealed as untrue by this blatant fact. Another such example is the country of Switzerland, where almost all healthy men are in the military reserves and keep their equipment and weapons and ammunition at HOME all the time, and yet, people are NOT getting shot there! And we are talking about real, fully automatic, assault rifles.
What about putting people on the “no fly list” also known as the “terrorist watch list” onto another list prohibiting those people from buying or possessing a firearm? At first, this suggestion seems like common sense, but unfortunately, the reality is that this idea does not work. There have been too many cases already of citizens, even MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, that have accidentally wound up on the “no fly list” and they do not find out until they are refused to fly. Then, there is no reasonable and expedient way for such people to get off the list. This idea would work if and only if there was an appeals process that could quickly and efficiently clear up such government blunders. (Yeah, we’re joking! There is no chance whatsoever that our government would ever be quick and efficient about anything.) Horror stories about people improperly put on terror lists or having their guns illegally seized are rampant. World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss was notoriously kept off a flight (held up for 45 minutes) in 2002 because he had in his possession a MEDAL OF HONOR! The 86 year old former General, former Governor of South Dakota and Commissioner of the American Football League also had a dummy bullet key chain and a Medal of Honor commemorative nail file with him. Did we mention he was on his way to WEST POINT to deliver a speech? If our government is this stupid, what do you think they would do with 100% gun registration and using secret lists to prohibit people from possessing guns, with no explanation and no recourse?
Every single country that we know of that has ever required universal registration of firearms has then turned around and confiscated all or certain classes of those firearms. Priceless family heirlooms were seized in Britain and Australia, and historically important guns melted down. In this country, where the NSA monitors every single cell phone (and other?) call and all sorts of other communications, and the government and private agencies get hacked left and right, it is no wonder gun owners are somewhat leery of universal registration?
The pro-gun, anti-gun debate has many, many points of contention, from as fundamental as whether or not US citizens should have any guns at all, to whether or not teachers and professors should be allowed to carry a gun in class. Question for students (and subscribers): Feel free to join the debate here on our site, regardless of which side you are on. Or, for that matter, ask whatever questions you may have. Please let us know in the comments section below this article. We believe in dialogue and respect all sides.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Burbick, Joan. Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture And American Democracy. The New Press, 2006.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Augustas Didžgalvis of a SIG Prosemi-automatic pistol (SP 2022 variant), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.