The "Gun Show Loophole" Should Be Closed

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Editor: Tami Roleff
Date: Jan. 1, 2007
From: Gun Control
Publisher: Greenhaven Press
Series: Opposing Viewpoints
Document Type: Viewpoint essay
Length: 1,230 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1160L

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Article Commentary

"Gun shows were the second leading source of firearms recovered in illegal gun trafficking operations."

Gun control advocates claim that a loophole in federal regulations allows unlicensed dealers to sell guns at gun shows without requiring the purchaser to undergo a background check. In the following viewpoint, the organization Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) contends that this loophole can be closed without putting gun shows out of business and without requiring lengthy waits for background checks. Best of all, AGS asserts, closing the loophole would make it more difficult for criminals to purchase guns, thus keeping Americans safer. Americans for Gun Safety is an advocate for responsible gun ownership in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

As you read, consider the following questions:

  1. How does the AGS respond to claims that background checks at gun shows would take too long?
  2. According to the author, what is the flaw in the NRA's reasoning when it claims that only 2 percent of prisoners got their guns from gun shows?
  3. Why is it unnecessary to give priority to background checks from gun shows, according to the AGS?

Senators [John] McCain, [Jack] Reed, [Mike] DeWine, and [Joe] Lieberman intend on offering an amendment to the immunity bill that closes the gun show loophole. Their amendment is nearly identical to S.1807, legislation authored by the four senators, and every provision of this amendment is either the same as or more centrist than the [Senator Frank] Lautenberg amendment that was approved by the Senate in 1999 by a vote of 51-50.

McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman has a less restrictive definition of a gun show than Lautenberg. It also specifically exempts private sales from the home, sales between family members and sales between members of hunt clubs from regulation. It creates a new category of licensee who can specifically perform background checks for unlicensed sellers at gun shows so that checks can be completed easily and instantly.

You'll be hearing a lot from the NRA [National Rifle Association] about what is in the amendment. This document will provide you with the truth.

The Gun Show Loophole

What the NRA will say: There is no gun show loophole.

The Truth: Under federal law, licensed dealers must perform criminal background checks at gun shows, but unlicensed sellers do not [have to]. Thus, at thousands of gun shows each year—table A is selling firearms with a background check while table B is not. According to the NRA, "hundreds of thousands" of guns are sold each year at gun shows without a background check.

What the NRA will say: Background checks will put gun shows out of business.

The Truth: Seventeen states have closed the gun show loophole on their own. According to the Krause Gun/Knife Show Calendar, which bills itself as the "complete guide for anyone who attends or displays at gun shows," states that have closed the loophole host more gun shows each year than states that have left this loophole open (an average of 45 gun shows per year in the 17 loophole-closed states, compared to 41 in the other 33 states).

Background Checks

What the NRA will say: Lengthy background checks take too long for weekend gun shows.

The Truth: Thanks to improvements made to NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] by Attorney General John Ashcroft, 91% of background checks take less than five minutes and 95% take less than two hours to complete. For 19 out of 20 background checks, "instant check" is truly instant. Of the remaining 5% that take longer than two hours, about one-third of these checks result in a denial.

What the NRA will say: Criminals don't get guns from gun shows.

The Truth: "Crime guns do come from gun shows. That's been documented," according to ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] special agent Jeff Fulton. In a comprehensive ATF report on illegal gun running, ATF found that gun shows were the second leading source of firearms recovered in illegal gun trafficking operations.

Criminals Exploit the Gun Show Loophole

What the NRA will say: A Department of Justice survey of prison inmates found that only 2% of prisoners obtained their firearms from gun shows and flea markets.

The Truth: The 1997 survey the NRA cites omits the obvious flaw. The gun show loophole did not exist until the Brady Law passed at the end of 1993. Thus, any criminal in prison before 1994, or an inmate who acquired a firearm before 1994, could go to a gun store without having to undergo a background check.

Here are several recent examples of criminals exploiting the gun show loophole:

Thomas Timms was arrested in October [2003] with 147 guns, 60,000 rounds of ammunition, a submachine gun, a 20 millimeter anti-tank rifle, a 12-gauge "street sweeper," and a rocket launcher. According to federal agents, he had been selling large quantities of weapons at Georgia gun shows that have been recovered in crimes committed in DC, New York, New Jersey, and Michigan....
Eric Barnes, a licensed dealer, was indicted on 179 counts in October [2003] for illegally selling firearms without performing background checks at Washington State gun shows, including at least one firearm that was used in a homicide....
Tommy Holmes pleaded guilty in October [2003] for being part of a gun trafficking scheme that included a known felon buying "dozens of guns" at Alabama gun shows to sell on the streets of Chicago. Fifteen of the firearms have been recovered in the course of criminal investigations or at crime scenes....

Gun Owner Registration

What the NRA will say: McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman creates gun owner registration.

The Truth: Special firearms event licensees (those that are certified to perform background checks for unlicensed firearms vendors at gun shows) are required to keep the same records as federally licensed firearms dealers—no more, no less. Unless one argues that buying a firearm from a licensed dealer constitutes gun owner registration, then one cannot argue that this amendment constitutes gun owner registration.

What the NRA will say: McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman requires gun show operators to register all firearm vendor names to the federal government.

The Truth: The amendment does not require gun show operators to submit a list of vendors to the federal government. Gun show operators are only required to maintain their own records of those who sell firearms at gun shows....

24-Hour Background Checks

What the NRA will say: McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman 24-hour maximum allowable background check is a smokescreen.

The Truth: The amendment is very simple. If a state wants to place a 24-hour limit on the length of background checks at gun shows, it may do so once that state has its background check records in order. If a state chooses not to limit the length of background checks below the current three business days, it does not have to....

What the NRA will say: McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman gives no priority to gun show background checks.

The Truth: That is because it is unnecessary. The NICS currently operates from 8 am to 1 am seven days a week and 364 days a year. That is why 91% of background checks are completed in minutes and 95% are completed within two hours. The remaining 5% are 20 times more likely to turn up an illegal buyer than the rest of the checks.

Source Citation

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Americans for Gun Safety. "The 'Gun Show Loophole' Should Be Closed." Gun Control, edited by Tami Roleff, Greenhaven Press, 2007. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https%3A%2F%2Flink.gale.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FEJ3010140308%2FOVIC%3Fu%3Dranc95197%26sid%3DOVIC%26xid%3D33d566f5. Accessed 17 Oct. 2019. Originally published as "McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman Amendment to Close the Gun Show Loophole: What the NRA Will Say Compared to the Actual Truth,", 2004.

Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010140308