The Second Amendment is a strong political point in the United States and there are passionate people on both sides of the debate. How do you balance the right to protect yourself with a firearm with the need to have a safe society where people aren’t forced to flee with their family at a shopping mall because someone is firing indiscriminately?
Let’s be real: 40% of gun sales that occur at gun shows without background checks just doesn’t happen.
Gun Show Loophole
It was a statistic that was thrown out a couple years ago in the political wrangling of Washington and spread like wildfire for a long time, but there isn’t any research behind that claim. There are statistics that prove there is a gun show loophole going on, so it isn’t a myth, but it’s definitely not as bad as some of the claims that have been made.
- Up to 75% of vendors at all gun shows in the United States are licensed dealers and are required to run background checks on all purchases.
- Only 25% of tables at any given gun show are reserved to actually sell firearms.
- 17 states require every gun transaction to have some form of background check completed with the exception of a family transfer.
- Only 2% of criminal guns come from gun shows.
Although one side will say that there isn’t a loophole and the other side will say there is one, the truth seems to be somewhere in the middle. It is possible for an individual to buy a table at a gun show and sell guns as a private individual to someone who comes to the show without a background check. This is a currently legal process and someone defined as a dealer is a person who devotes, labor, attention, and time to the dealing of firearms as their regular basis of business to earn a livelihood. It does happen, but 4 out of every 10 gun sales aren’t actually undocumented.
Do Criminals Get Their Guns at Gun Shows?
- Just 0.7% of criminals who have been convicted of a gun crime said that they got their gun from a gun show.
- 40% of guns that are used in the commission of a crime are obtained by illegal means, such as theft.
- 46% of those who do sell firearms without a background check are doing so without a business license, which is also a violation of the law.
- Over the last 14 years, background checks have prevented 1.5 million people from purchasing a firearm that they were not qualified to own.
- Out of the 40% number of guns obtained without background checks, 29% of them were from family transfers that do not require background checks in almost every community in the US.
- In a recent survey, only 4% of people stated that they made their purchase of a firearm at a gun show.
- 90% of people support having background checks for all gun sales.
The reality is that criminals who want a gun are going to find a way to get a gun. It doesn’t have to be at a gun show. It can be at a pawn shop. It can be by thrown a brick through the window of a store that sells firearms. It can happen by shoplifting at Walmart. The most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t own them is to either take all the guns away – which isn’t an option – or to make sure that appropriate records are submitted to background check systems so that felony convictions and mental health issues are appropriately documented.
What Do the Long Term Studies Have to Say?
- According to one ATF study, 10,000 guns used in the commission of a crime were connected to the sale of a weapon at a gun show. That amounts to about 2% of total gun sales in the US.
- 62% of vendors at gun shows according to a 2009 NYC study would be willing to sell a firearm to someone who was known to be legally prohibited from owning one.
- 69% of NRA members support closing the background check loophole for good.
- A 2008 bipartisan poll showed that 87% of Americans favored a requirement for background checks at gun shows.
- In September 2013, there were about 67k firearms listed for sale online.
- 29% of advertising by private sellers on a website for firearms sales were listed by high volume sellers with more than 5 ads in an 8 week period.
- In 2010, more than 117k gun transfers were denied because of the Federal background check system.
There is no doubt that there are problems with the current gun show system. This is expanded by the regular use of the internet to purchase a firearm in a way that doesn’t require a background check. Even if 4% of gun sales are undocumented, however, and there are 10,000 guns used in the commission of crime every year from gun shows, that’s way too many. With a few controls in place, often described as a universal background check, this loophole can be closed rather rapidly. This seems like a pretty simple solution to a problem and it’s a solution that is backed by a majority of people.
What Must Unlicensed Dealers Do Under Law?
- Licensed dealers must perform background checks. Unlicensed dealers do not.
- Licensed dealers must report the theft of a gun. Unlicensed dealers do not.
- Licensed dealers must make records available for law enforcement inspection. Unlicensed dealers do not.
It seems as if the playing field were leveled, the results may come closer to 0 in regards to gun sales at shows where background checks may not take place. It could also just be as simple as having gun show organizers require background checks in order to have a table to sell guns. Whatever the statistic happens to be, it makes sense to take some actions today to prevent future crime from occurring.