Anti-Gun Writer Misses the Point on 'Gun Show Loophole'

AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, TJ Mullinax, File

The supposed gun show loophole was always a talking point among gun control advocates. They often talked about it with the media, who in turn swallowed the whole thing without question, and it led many people to believe that you could buy guns at gun shows without a background check.


When they tried it, they often found themselves filling out a Form 4473 and getting the required NICS check.

Assuming, of course, they didn't just walk away because they were ineligible.

But there were always a lot of myths and misunderstandings about the "gun show loophole," but it seems there are just as many misunderstandings about why it doesn't exist.

I realized that when I came across this piece at the anti-gun The New Republic:

Huh? Much like the tobacco lobby before it stopped fighting regulation, the NRA speaks largely in epistemological riddles. When the NRA says there’s no such thing as a gun-show loophole here’s what it means: 

(a)  “Gun shows” only barely exist because 75 to 80 percent of the vendors at these events sell no firearms at all,


(b) to the pitiful extent guns shows do sell firearms, 75 to 80 percent of the sellers are professional vendors and therefore required already, under the 1993 Brady law, to conduct an instant criminal background check for every sale. 

This is highly disingenuous. The gun-show loophole is called a loophole because when Congress passed the Brady bill it neglected to require background checks for sales by people who aren’t professional firearms sellers. Also, “gun-show” is what your ninth grade English teacher taught you to call a synecdoche, wherein the part stands in for the whole. The loophole applies also to other gun sales outside traditional retail settings, such as online, out of your garage, or out of the back of your car. If you are an amateur, you can make such sales without conducting background checks. But who is an amateur? The Brady bill did not draw a very clear line between the professional firearms seller and the hobbyist. For example, if a professional firearms seller lost his license and wanted to unload his inventory all at once, he could say he was an amateur and, abracadabra, conduct his everything-must-go sale with no background checks.


First, that's not why people say the so-called gun show loophole doesn't exist. We said it didn't exist because there is no loophole for gun shows.

The sales in question are simply private transfers; sales that happen between two individuals who may or may not make contact in the course of the gun show. Because these aren't professional dealers but private individuals, trying to make it about the gun shows is what was disingenuous.

See, if you tried to make it so every sale inside the walls of a gun show had to go through an FFL, then all that would happen is some of those private transfers would just be done in the parking lot. Because they're not dealers, they don't have to conduct NICS checks in states that permit private sales.

Moreover, while the Brady Bill may not have clearly defined what a dealer was, there have always been limits. If someone loses their FFL, they can't just suddenly decide they're a dealer and sell hundreds of guns without concern about breaking the law. They can't declare themselves an amateur and just keep selling firearms. That's not how it works.

And they definitely couldn't do it at a gun show, which is what they're trying to argue.

While the ATF's new rule muddies the water entirely as to who constitutes a professional dealer and who doesn't--what are they defining as making money on guns, for example--there was at least an understanding that if you sell too many guns in a given year, you were crossing the line. It may not have been right, but we at least understood it.


Now, The New Republic is trying to make a thing about us being made over the Biden administration's new order, arguing that the "gun show loophole" isn't really closed, but they don't even understand why we argued the damn thing didn't exist in the first place.

As a result, one has to wonder just how little they understand about the subject.

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