(c) 2013 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
The dreaded “Gun Show Loophole” must be closed. One problem with that strategy—the GSL does not exist.
The 1934 National Firearms Act did not prohibit or regulate weapons. Read the government briefs in the Miller case. The Act was for revenue and falls under the excise power of Congress. Further, the sawed off shotgun in question was of no military utility and therefore the Second Amendment does not come into play. If this does not comport to your perception of reality, take it up with FDR’s Solicitor General.
The 1968 Gun Control Act, while it mentions public safety, is grounded in the Commerce Power of Congress. As such dealers operating in the area of “Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States” are subject to regulation. This is the concept which has accompanied the progressive takeover—that is stretching the Commerce Clause to fit the occasion. In the New Deal this was the justification for the second National Recovery Act—it was (improperly) upheld by a chastised Supreme Court after the first act was (properly) struck down. Dealers, weapons and prohibited actions are defined, with the prohibitions limited at first to constitutionally disabled individuals. It has been modified upon occasion and some of the modifications are questionable though they have not been challenged.
Gun shows are not mentioned by the act. Individual transfers that do not involve crossing state lines are neither prohibited nor regulated. That means that I can sell one of my World War I bolt actions to a friend or trade for one of his/her single action cowboy pistols without paperwork. The same would apply for any legal weapon under the Act—this includes semi-automatic weapons of the Stoner and Kalashnikov platforms. At gun shows patrons often bring weapons to sell or trade. Often they “trade up” to weapons from dealers. And they sometimes will get a better price or better trade from another patron. Believe or not, people have been trading and exchanging weapons for longer than I have been alive and I have been so trading for about half a century. I have purchased weapons from both dealers and other patrons. The transactions between patrons of a gun show are no different than transactions between individuals outside the gun show venue.
Now there are individuals who are, in fact, unlicensed dealers who use the gun shows as distribution venues. They will not get tables but will have two or three “personal” items on them as well as letting the patrons know where to contact them. There are also, at major gun shows, ATF agents supposedly looking for violations—they are not as easy to spot as they were in the old days when there were standards for professional attire. The two groups know who each other are and dance the dance. The bureau needs to do the job and nail the unlawful dealers, many of whom are probably their informants.
The use of gun shows by these people is not the fault of the law. The 68 Act follows the Constitution in not regulating private sales. These actual dealers are violating the law and need to be prosecuted. That is pure and simple—to the extent of it.
A law that mandates universal checks is unwise because it is unenforceable and because it sets up a registry. A registry is the mechanism for confiscation the next time public opinion may get manipulated. I mention the UK, Australia and California as examples of where this has happened. In Canada, fortunately, the long gun registry was an expensive joke that was made unenforceable through non-cooperation—I would expect that in this country abetted by juries that nullify the law.