Fellow Travelers

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What you mean when you say "gun show loophole"

I've noticed that after the recent bill expanding background checks failed, there seems to be a lot of confusion over what sort of background checks we have for firearms purchases in the US, and indeed if we have them at all. We do have background checks in the US. Any time you buy a new or used gun from a store or dealer with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) you need to fill out a Form 4473 and have a NICS background check called in on you. Gun dealers, who do the overwhelming majority of sales at a gun show, are all and in all jurisdictions required to do a background check no matter where they're selling at. This is true whether they're in a brick and mortar store, or whether they're at a gun show. Additionally, if you want to buy a gun from a private non-licensed individual in another state, they have to go to their local FFL (in gunowner parlance, LGS or Local Gun Store, which parallels the nerd term LGS meaning Local Gaming Store, makes things confusing for gunowner/nerds), and ship the firearm to an FFL near you. Then you go there, and get the 4473 and the NICS check, before you can buy the gun. 

The thing that is not regulated now is private person to person intrastate sales by unlicensed individuals. So, if you buy a gun, and a year later you decide you don't like it, you can sell it to your buddy (or a random stranger) without doing a background check. The federal law requires that you don't believe or know that they have any reason to be prohibited from owning a gun, and you can only sell to someone in the same state as you. 

So a lot of people who have a gun they're looking to replace will go to a gun show and either sell to dealers there to get money to put towards another gun (which is exactly what I did when I bought my 22 target pistol), or sell to another private person if they can get a better deal then they would from a licensed dealer. But they don't have to be at a gun show to do this. What you want to regulate is not "the gun show loophole" because that doesn't exist, there is no gun show loophole. You want to regulate "unlicensed person to person intrastate sales, and require all private sales to go through an FFL". 

Now you know the correct terminology to use if you want to reach gun owners, and at least begin to have an honest debate. You have to know what you're debating if you want to have a chance of success. There are major issues with trying to regulate private person-to-person sales, which is why we haven't done it before, but that is a discussion everybody can have. Among those issues:
1. This would require a background check to be done if you're, say, handing a gun to your spouse. Or inheriting a gun from a deceased family member. 

2. It's impossible to track violations of the law without establishing a national gun registry. I buy a gun. 6 months later I sell it to Bob. 6 months after that he sells it to Steve. Firearms generally aren't tracked by the serial numbers on them, not now anyway, as those numbers are not standardized. The only way to prove that I didn't go through the background check process when selling to Bob or when Bob sold to Steve would be if we had a national gun registry tracking all guns individually. 
3. Because of 2, it would be impossible to have a national gun registry without serious privacy concerns. Quoting from an ABC article:
They’re an invasion of privacy. 
As opponents of gun control warn about privacy issues, background checks are tangled up with another proposal, that records of gun sales must be kept. In a March 22 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, six GOP senators, led by Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, warned that they would oppose any measures that involved “government surveillance.” While it’s not entirely clear what policy those senators had in mind, the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about both records and background checks. “You just worry that you’re going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected,” Chris Calabrese, an ACLU privacy lobbyist, told The Daily Caller last week. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has made it clear that a “national gun registry” is illegal and won’t be part of any Democratic gun bill.
There may be ways to resolve these issues. But they won't be resolved if the people involved in the debate don't know what they're talking about, and abandon reason and logic to focus on emotion and gut feelings.

Something else that doesn't help is when gun opponents say: 
"We aren't talking about taking anybody's guns" and then go on to say, explicitly or implicitly, "...but you shouldn't be allowed to have them and it means you're mentally ill and you have a small penis and nobody should be allowed to sell or buy guns and the 2nd amendment should be repealed."

And then after going through all the reasons why they think guns should no longer exist and should be taken away because everybody who has them is crazy, they say

"Why are you crazy people being so paranoid???"