gun shows

For the American Federal Government to close the gun shows loophole, it would have to regulate a private transaction between individuals. Things get complicated fast.

Many articles have gone over the red state-blue state divide or the power of lobbies in the gun control debate. Most readers will also know about the second amendment and its nuances. This article will focus on the gun shows loophole. The reasons it is not closed are messy and nuanced.

90% of Americans support universal background checks when purchasing guns. However, 40 guns are sold without a background check. Clinton attempted to close this loophole. Obama attempted to close this loophole. But they can’t. Why? At gun shows, private individuals come together within state lines to sell guns to other private individuals.

The real issue at stake is this: Should the Federal Government regulate sales between private citizens within state lines?

The federal government already bans those without a license from moving guns across state lines. According to US code chapter 18 section 922:

It shall be unlawful— for any person—except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or in the course of such business to ship, transport, or receive any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce; or except a licensed importer or licensed manufacturer, to engage in the business of importing or manufacturing ammunition, or in the course of such business, to ship, transport, or receive any ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce;[…]”

“To ship, transport, or receive any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce” is already illegal. Within states, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington already require background checks at the point of sale. These states have effectively closed the gun shows loophole. Other states restrict only handguns or require a state permit.

For the federal government to close this loophole, it would need to override states and legislate within state lines. This is problematic for two different reasons.

  1. Federal Overreach- as originally intended, the Federal Government was supposed to deal with issues between states or externally. However, this principle has already been violated numerous times. See: Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Patriot Act. However, just because the Rubicon has been crossed before does not mean that we should continue to cross it.
  2. Individual Rights- besides the second amendment “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” we must decide if people have a right to sell and trade whatever they want as long as it is not illegal. To close the loophole, the Federal Government would have to make a transaction between private citizens (with legal goods) illegal.

For Americans interested in Gun Control, the best venue to fight for it is your state legislature. You could help your state congress close the loophole in your state.

However, we should keep in mind the complexities and larger issues that arise from the question: Should the Federal Government regulate sales between private citizens within state lines?

Read also: The ATF Is Required To Keep Records Of Gun Sales Receipts On Microfiche

Antone holds an MSc from the London School of Economics. He has a BSc in International Relations and has worked in India, China, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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