Monday, December 24, 2007

Once more with feeling

For a while, I was happy that Congress managed to avoid passing any dumb legislation after the Virginia Tech shootings. Of course, Congress eventually passed some legislation relating to background checks and mental health records, but in the light of dumb laws of past years (such as the Brady ban), it was a minor bit of stupidity. Luckily, a group of people are going to lobby Congress to make sure the appropriately idiotic and ineffective gun laws are passed.

However, people can still buy guns through other means that require no background check in Virginia, such as gun shows where scores of people sell or swap firearms.

Efforts to close the so-called gun show loophole have failed repeatedly, and even Andrew Goddard - the most outspoken family member on the issue - acknowledges that getting lawmakers to close it this year will be a struggle.

Say it with me now:
there is no such thing as a gun-show loophole! Is everybody clear on that? Let's try it again: there is no such thing as a gun-show loophole!

There are two types of sales at a gun show: sales by a store and sales by an independent seller. If a store conducts a sale, a background check is still required. A store cannot avoid this requirement simply by making sales at a gun show. No matter where the sale occurs, a store must conduct a background check.

An independent seller is not required to conduct a background check, but that is because an independent seller is never required to conduct one. The same goes for making a sale through a newspaper classifieds, through word of mouth, or some other advertising mechanism. It's a private sale, and such sales are legal. Some states restrict these sales (at gun shows, anyway), but there are no federal restrictions.

Some people worry that a store could pose as an private seller and avoid the background check. A store cannot "sell" a firearm to an employee and then have the employee (as an independent seller) sell it to a customer to avoid the background check, though: that is already illegal. The ATF conducts stings to catch stores engaging in such behavior.

The only "loophole" is that private sellers can conduct a sale at a gun show just like they can conduct a sale anywhere else. The "gun show loophole" is an impressive bit of chicanery: the laws are uniform, therefore it's a loophole. Yay for accuracy in the media.


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