Gun show

Gun show

A gun show is a temporary exhibition or gathering where guns, gun parts, gun accessories, ammunition, and gun literature, as well as knives, jerky, militaria, and miscellaneous collectibles are legally displayed, bought, sold, and discussed. Gun shows also often include exhibitions related to various types of hunting and the preparation and preservation of wild game for consumption. They also may be used by gun manufacturers to demonstrate new firearm models—or by gun enthusiasts to exhibit antique or unusual guns. Gun shows also serve as a common and recurring meeting place for members of the gun culture. Michael Bouchard, Assistant Director/Field Operations of ATF, estimates that 5,000 gun shows take place each year in the United States.cite web |url= |title=Oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Part 2: Gun Show Enforcement |publisher=Hearings before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, 109th Congress, 2d Session, February 28, 2006|format=PDF]


Gun shows are typically held in public buildings, including hotels, malls, armories, stadiums, etc., and are open to the public with a nominal fee charged for admittance. The number of tables at shows generally varies from as few as fifty to as many as two thousand tables.cite web |url= |title=Gun Shows: Brady Checks and Crime Gun Traces |publisher=Washington, DC: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms|format=PDF] They are almost all two-day events held on weekends by a promoter who leases the large space, provides or rents the tables, and allows dealers to rent tables to show guns, knives, crafts, and wares, and/or demonstrate services they can provide. A high share of tables typically do not sell guns or ammo at all, but instead sell accessories like scopes, holsters, and tools such as pocketknives.

Most gun shows have 2,500 to 15,000 visitors over the two day period. At the largest gun shows, over 1,000 firearms are sold over two days. In the United States, gun shows are sometimes a venue for the sale of militaria and 'brought back' war trophies.

In recent years, gun shows have become controversial. [cite web |url=|title=The Oregon Gun Show Controversy. |publisher=AP |date=10-12-2000] [cite web |url= |title=Greens target gun show. |publisher=The Journal Times|date=11-08-2004] Additionally, the scope of the right of private citizens to own firearms has become a topic of political debate. [cite web |url=|title=U.S. Supreme Court takes up gun-rights case. |author= Richey, Warren |publisher=The Christian Science Monitor|date=2007-11-21] Those opposing gun shows argue that such shows contribute to illicit trafficking in firearms, [cite web |url=|title=Mexico has gripe of its own about U.S. Gun smugglers. |publisher=AP |date=5-03-1997] whereas those supporting gun shows point to Second Amendment rights and existing regulations that are on the books which already govern the sale of firearms at gun shows. [cite web |url= |title="Americans for Gun Safety:" Shamelessly Manipulating Acts Of War To Promote Political Agenda.|publisher=NRA-ILA |date=2001-10-26]

Since 2002, web-based "gun shows" have arisen on the Internet. Typically, these do not charge the high table rent fees that dealers at traditional shows pay, instead charging only either a low listing fee and/or a small commission-on-sale to list an item, with actual transfer of any gun being handled by a local licensed dealer for a small fee. The web-based "shows" also do not charge shoppers the admission for browsing that traditional shows do.cite web |url= |title=Green Bay-based Web site sold gun to Virginia Tech shooter.|date=2007-04-19 |last=Bauer |first=Scott] Even many dealers still on the traditional show circuit are now also running extensive branches of their business on such Web "shows" as "Auction Arms","GunBroker" or "Gunvendor" and have many of their wares for sale there. Some Web shows have become as well organized as the traditional shows, such as "GunBroker" and "Internet Gun Show," with some actually organized much like the table-type format of the traditional shows.

Gun laws governing gun shows vary from state to state, and even within some states and within some metropolitan areas.

The "Gun show loophole"

The "Gun show loophole" is a term coined to describe the legal sale of firearms between private individuals at gun shows in states where this is legal. When these sales take place at a gun show, some perceive a "loophole" in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), although these laws have never applied to individual-to-individual sales of personal firearms. United States federal law requires persons engaged in interstate firearm commerce, or who are in the business of selling firearms, to hold a Federal Firearms License and to perform checks prior to transferring a firearm, but there is an exemption for private sales by individuals who are "not engaged in the business" of selling firearms, or who only make "occasional" sales. Unlicensed private sellers are permitted by law to sell privately-owned guns at gun shows, or at private locations, in 24 states (as of 1998). [cite book |author=Boston T. Party (Kenneth W. Royce) |title=Boston on Guns & Courage |publisher=Javelin Press |year=1998 |pages=3:15]

Although gun shows remain a point of concern, a 1997 Department of Justice survey of 3,959 inmates found that only 2% stated that they had bought a gun used in a crime from a gun show. [cite web |url= |title=Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 1997 |publisher=DoJ] The remaining 98% were obtained from other sources, in which the criminal had no direct connection with a gun show. The most common sources (35%) were family or friends. [cite web |url= |title=Federal Firearm Offenders, 1992-98 |publisher=Bureau of Justice Statistics|format=PDF]

Licensed gun dealers that sell at gun shows must, by federal law, strictly adhere to background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Additionally, some states and parts of states have laws requiring that a purchaser observe a waiting period before taking possession of a firearm from even private sellers, unless a CCW license is held by the buyer. These waiting periods typically range from 3 to 10 days depending on the state where the firearm is purchased. []

These waiting periods may not apply to firearms that fall under the "curio & relic" laws. To be recognized by ATF as a C&R firearm [cite web|url=|title=Firearms - Curios/Relics |work=ATF Online|accessdate=2008-08-23] , a firearm must fall into at least one of the following three categories:
#Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof;
#Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
#Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event. Proof of qualification of a particular firearm under this category may be established by evidence of present value and evidence that like firearms are not available except as collector's items, or that the value of like firearms available in ordinary commercial channels is substantially less.

Another concern sometimes voiced is the possibility that a gun dealer, who would otherwise be required to be licensed, could pose as a private seller to circumvent federal law requiring dealer licensing and mandating background checks of firearms purchasers at a gun show. However, the criteria that would differentiate a person "in the business of firearms dealing" from a "private seller" has not been clearly defined under U.S. law. As well, such cases have yet to be tested in U.S. courts. Tom Mangan, of the ATF, has stated, "There is no limit to the amount of guns that a private collector can have. Some have 10; some have 1,000, if I go to a gun show and state that this is my private collection, I am not required by law to ask you for identification, ask you to fill out any paperwork or conduct a background check." [cite web |url= |title=Pursuing honor students more than gangsters |publisher=The Arizona Republic] The ATF has reported that between 50% and 75% of the vendors at these venues possess a Federal Firearms License. Remaining vendors may sell books, parts, collectibles, or food and drink.clarifyme|date=August 2008|What about gun vendors without a FFL? Individuals who are not in the business of selling firearms, and who thus are not required to possess Federal Firearms Licenses, may make legal private firearm sales to residents of their own states, subject to state law. Federal law does not require a background check on such sales.

Private sales between attendees or between attendees and non-dealer vendors are not uncommon at gun shows, though they make up a small fraction of the guns sold. [cite web |url= |title=Gun show myths/Polling, petitioning on background checks say much |publisher= The Gazette (Colorado Springs)] Groups opposed to these legal private sales at gun shows contend that allowing them makes gun shows an attractive venue to persons prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms (convicted felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts, fugitives from justice, individuals adjudicated as mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and others) who would be stopped by a background check.

Others question the usefulness of laws that would make private sales at gun shows illegal, while the same private sales would be legal in the parking lot. [cite web |url= |title=The Loophole |publisher=The Richmond Times-Dispatch]

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) prevented approximately 1.4 million firearms purchases between 1994 and 2005. Between 1999 and 2005 there were 161,000 appeals to the system, for a number of reasons including mistaken identity. Of these appeals 57,000 were reversed, restoring gun purchasing rights. [cite web |url= |title=Background Checks for Firearm Transfers |publisher=U.S. Department of Justice, 2005] A National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms (NSPOF), conducted in 1994, indicated that Americans owned 192 million guns, with 36% of these consisting of rifles, 34% handguns, 26% shotguns, and 4% other types of long guns.cite web |url= |title=National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms |date=May 1997 |publisher=National Institute of Justice|format=PDF] Most firearm owners own multiple firearms, with the NSPOF survey indicating 25% of adults own firearms.

ATF Criminal Investigations at Gun Shows

From 2004 to 2006, ATF conducted operations at 195 gun shows (approximately 2% of all shows). Specific targeting of suspected individuals (77%) resulted in 121 individual arrests and 5,345 firearms seizures. Seventy nine of the 121 ATF operation plans were known suspects previously under investigation. cite web |url= |title=The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Investigative Operations at Gun Shows |publisher=US Department of Justice|format=PDF]

Additionally, ATF Field Offices report that:

* Between 2002 and 2005, more than 400 guns legally purchased at gun shows from licensed dealers in the city of Richmond, Virginia, were later recovered in connection with criminal activity. Bouchard notes that, "These figures do not take into account firearms that may have been sold at Richmond area gun shows by unlicensed sellers, as these transactions are more difficult to track."
* The Department of Justice reports, "after reviewing hundreds of trace reports associated with guns used in crime recovered in the [New Orleans] area and interviewing known gang members and other criminals, ATF Special Agents identified area gun shows as a source used by local gang members and other criminals to obtain guns."
* The San Francisco ATF Field Division has cracked down on illegal guns being smuggled into California. During these operations, "agents purchased firearms and identified violations related to "off paper" sales, sales to out-of-state residents, and dealing in firearms without a license." The "ATF seized or purchased 400 firearms before making arrests and executing search warrants, which resulted in the seizure of an additional 600 firearms and the recovery of explosives."
* ATF's Columbus Field Division conducted its anti-trafficking operations based on intelligence from Cleveland police that "many of the guns recovered in high-crime areas of the city had been purchased at local gun shows." Subsequent gun show sting operations resulted in the seizure of "5 guns, one indictment, and two pending indictments for felony possession of a firearm." The state of Ohio is one of the top ten source states for recovered guns used in crime.
* Gun shows are also a major source of guns used in crimes beyond U.S. borders. The ATF's Phoenix Field Division reported that "many gun shows attracted large numbers of gang members from Mexico and California. They often bought large quantities of assault weapons and smuggled them into Mexico or transported them to California." Mexican police claim that 100% of guns used in "drug-related killings" in Mexico, which has strict gun laws, are smuggled from the United States, often from gun shows in the Southwest. Garen Wintemute, a professor at the University of California at Davis, calls Arizona and Texas a "gunrunner's paradise." [cite web |url= |title=U.S. Guns Behind Cartel Killings in Mexico |publisher=Manuel Roig-Franzia, The Washington Post]

Alleged private vendor harassment by ATF

In early 2006, 206 gun show visitors from Richmond, Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania areas were stopped and interviewed by BATF agents, which resulted in fifty firearms seizures. Most of the guns were returned, but purchasers of the guns were ordered by mail to appear at the local ATF office. They were also notified that failure to appear could possibly result in an arrest warrant. The letter was a pre-printed form with blanks for the gun show visitor name and date and time of the interview. [] Several FFL licensed dealers were targeted by ATF agents who were allegedly scaring their customers by using racial and gender profiling (focusing on interracial couples to treat them as straw purchasers.cite web
url =
title = Congress Told of ATF Seizures, Threats to Gun Buyers
date = 2006-02-17
work = Cybercast News Service
accessdate = 2008-02-13
dead link|url=|date=August 2008]


In January 2007, Representatives Mike Castle (R-DE), Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the “Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2007” (H.R. 96). The bill would require background checks on the sale of all firearms at gun shows, and increase penalties for record keeping and criminal background check violations. The bill has yet to be considered in committee. [cite web |url= |title=Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2007 |publisher=THOMAS]

Additionally, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) has introduced S. 2237, the “Crime Control and Prevention Act of 2007,” which would require background checks on sale of all firearms at gun shows. [cite web |url= |title=Crime Control and Prevention Act of 2007 |publisher=THOMAS]

In August 2007, the Virginia Tech Review Panel issued their final report which recommended that the "Gun Show Loophole" be closed in Virginia, stating “In an age of widespread information technology, it should not be too difficult for anyone, including private sellers, to contact the Virginia Firearms Transaction Program for a background check that usually only takes minutes before transferring a firearm”. [cite web |url= |title=The Virginia Tech Review Panel Report |publisher=Virginia Tech Review Panel|format=PDF]

Due to an administrative mistake, Seung-hui Cho, the shooter at the Virginia Tech massacre, was able to purchase his weapons legally under state law, despite perhaps being banned to do so by federal law (state interpretations of federal law differed from federal interpretations.) Several Virginia State officials and legal experts have stated that "under federal law, the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment."cite news |first=Michael |last=Luo |title=U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun |url=|publisher=New York Times |date=2007-04-21 |accessdate = 2007-04-21 ] Gaps between federal and Virginia state laws led to the Commonwealth not reporting Cho's legal status to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine issued Executive Order 50, to clarify reporting requirements in cases of mental illness to resolve this difference. [cite web |url= |title=Executive Order 50 |publisher=Commonwealth of Virginia]

Cho purchased one of his two handguns (the Walther P22) from what some consider to be an Internet gun show venue (but which others consider to be an Internet gun dealer). However, he successfully completed this transaction at a local FFL dealer to which the gun ordered online was delivered, while meeting all gun laws then in effect in Virginia. (Subsequent to this, differences in Virginia law versus Federal law were resolved, to prevent the future purchase of firearms by individuals who should be prohibited from buying firearms based on mental health issues.) The Virginia Tech Review Panel recommendations sought to clarify reporting requirements of the background check system (NICS), as well as disallowing all private sales conducted without a background check, including those conducted at gun shows. [cite web |url= |title=The Virginia Tech Review Panel Report |publisher=Virginia Tech Review Panel|format=PDF]

Notes and references

External links

* [ Crossroads of the West] Calendar of gun shows
* [] - A directory of gun shows around the U.S.
* [ Find a Gun Show] - Looking for a local gun show in your area?
* [ Gun shows across a multistate American gun market: observational evidence of the effects of regulatory policies] - Study by Dr. Garen Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H.
* [ America's Gun Shows: Open Markets For Criminals] - Published by CSGV/EFSGV
* [ Debunking a Myth: The Gun Lobby's Claim That Less Than 1% of Crime Guns Come from Gun Shows] - Published by CSGV/EFSGV

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