The debate over gun control and gun rights would be more productive if both sides focused on the facts instead of pushing myths about America’s gun laws.
After every shooting, politicians and activists rush to the cameras or their keyboards to tell people exactly what should be done to stop mass shootings in the future. Gun control proponents demand more gun control. Gun rights advocates dig in their heels and explain why new laws won’t stop evil people from doing evil things, especially when current laws aren’t adequately enforced.
Unfortunately, the debate between the two sides is rarely illuminating, as it usually devolves into tired recitations of worn-out talking points about the issue. These talking points are invariably littered with myths and factual inaccuracies. Here are 7 myths about gun control that just won’t die.
1) The ‘Gun Show Loophole’ Allows Anyone, Even Criminals, To Get Guns
In reality, the so-called “gun show loophole” is a myth. It does not exist. There is no loophole in federal law that specifically exempts gun show transactions from any other laws normally applied to gun sales. Not one.
If you purchase a firearm from a federal firearms licensee (FFL) regardless of the location of the transaction — a gun store, a gun show, a gun dealer’s car trunk, etc. — that FFL must confirm that you are legally allowed to purchase that gun. That means the FFL must either run a background check on you via the federal NICS database, or confirm that you have passed a background check by examining your state-issued concealed carry permit or your government-issued purchase permit. There are zero exceptions to this federal requirement.
If an individual purchases a gun across state lines — from an individual or FFL which resides in a different state than the buyer — the buyer must undergo a background check, and the sale must be processed by an FFL in the buyer’s home state.
What does exist, however, is a federal exemption for sales between two private, non-FFL residents of the same state, regardless of whether that transaction happens at a gun show or not. The identity of the parties involved in the transaction, not the venue of the sale, is what matters under federal law. This federal exemption makes perfect sense: there’s no federal nexus for a purely private transaction between two private individuals who reside in the same state. Many states, including Oregon, Colorado, and Illinois, have enacted universal background checks in order to eliminate the exemption for same-state private firearms transactions.
Federal universal background checks may or may not be a wise idea — the U.S. Senate in 2013 explicitly refused to enact them — but referring to the federal exemption for private, same-state sales as a “gun show loophole” is misleading and factually inaccurate.
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