Went to a local gun show yesterday, where I saw lots of people meticulously filling out the paperwork for their background checks. I also saw about 10 or so individuals milling about in the crowd trying to sell a firearm of their own.
I like going to gun shows. For one thing, it temporarily renews my faith in humanity — that we aren’t a completely wussified nation … yet. I’ve bought everything from knives to sheet sets, forceps, socks, flint and steel, hand-carved back scratcher, and a tactical bag I use to carry my camera equipment.
I’ve even bought a few guns at them. Background check every time.
There was a letter to the editor in today’s paper, trashing the NRA for resisting closing “The Gun Show Loophole™“, going on to claim that “40 percent of all gun sales are not subjected to background checks because they are made at gun shows.”
What? What were all those people doing, wasting time filling out their paperwork, and all those dealers on the phone with the FBI background check line?
That 40% statistic is getting a lot of repetition these days. It’s laughably false. It’s a conflation of different statistics with that number from a 20 year old study. Background checks are mandatory for guns bought from dealers at gun shows.
While it remains true that individuals who attend gun shows (not dealers) can sell their firearms to another individual, it certainly doesn’t account for anything close to 40% of sales at gun shows much less 40% of all gun sales period. (I’d question whether or not even 40% of all gun sales happen at gun shows). The 40% number comes from a nearly 20 year old National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms survey where gun owners were asked if they THOUGHT there was a background check when they obtained their firearm. The question was not about gun shows, and would have included people who weren’t aware that a background check was done or people to whom firearms were passed down from parents and grandparents. Didn’t take long to track down the study itself, via this excellent post by the Carolina Shooters’ Club.
The National Institute of Justice did a study on private firearm ownership. They found that 60% of gun purchases occurred at FFL dealers, or gun stores. The Brady campaign has extrapolated from this that 40% of the purchases must occur without a background check then. But that’s not what the study said.
Only individual to individual sales that occur at gun shows (and these sales don’t have to occur at gun shows) are exempt from background checks. The vast majority of gun sales at gun shows in fact, do require, by law, a background check.