According to estimates somewhere around 40% of the guns in circulation were purchased through “private sellers” at gun shows. Which means 40% of the guns were bought and sold with no background check. A loophole that according to recent polls in excess of 80% of americans- including a large majority of republicans, endorse closing.
This past week a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle went to the gun show in Las Vegas to explore just how the loophole works in practice.
Two things should be pointed out:
1)Legally transactions must occur between people legally residing within the state.
2)California already has an assault weapons ban- something every gun enthuiast in the region knows well.
So, hee approached a number of private sellers- people selling everything from an Uzi to an AR-15 with grenade launcher. All were told the buyer was from California- which would violate both the resident requirement and the CA assault weapons ban. Only one of 5 sellers saw either of these as reason to not go through with the sale.
The article is here.
I will add- I have been around firearms since childhood, and have been to many gun shows in my life. A few times with a friend who possessed a federal firearms license to own (pre 1986 ban) fully automatic machine guns. And at times with a friend with one of the largest collection of pre 20th century firearms in the country. And they are strange places. A lot of good people- collectors, enthuiasts, competive shooters, families looking for a hunting rifle or shotgun for their kid, or a handgun for their wife.
There are also a lot of crazies. I have met a number of gunsmiths who, often openly, offer their services converting (illegally) virtually any semi-automatic weapon to fully automatic. I have seen people making the rounds with large wads of cash and duffel bags buying up every decent semi-auto handgun they can. Guns you pretty much knew were headed to sale on the streets. People with jailhouse and gang tatoos buying weapons. People who would not make eye contact with the seller when buying weapons. And more then a few with “that look” in their eye that you knew they were a few cards shy of a full deck.
And of course- we as a people do not have the information to know just how many guns purchased at gun shows without a background check end up in the hands of those barred from owning them. Nor do we know how much of the gun violence in america is caused by these guns. Because congress- at the behest of the powerful gun lobby and it’s citizens have chosen to effectively bar the CDC from doing studies on gun violence. And Law Enforcement agencies have been largely barred from releasing data- to researchers or the american public.
If americans truly want to protect their gun rights- the rights of law abiding citizens- they will support a few simple steps:
1)Close the gun show loophole. Require background checks on ALL gun buyers- whether at gun shows, pawn shops, or wherever they occur.
2)Support Obamas moves with some of his EO’s to allow distribution and dissemination of info on guns and gun violence so we can understand the issues and make informed decisions.
3)Untie the hands of the ATF and other agencies to go after the small handful of gun shops in America who sell the vast majority of guns that end up on the streets- both here and in mexico. It is a small number of gun shop owners, employees, and the network of straw-men purcharsers who are purchasing huge numbers of guns- and reselling them on the streets. These shops know damn well what they are doing- and their greed and indifference is killing us- literally.