Apr 14 2013

The Gun Show Loophole

At the center of the current debate over gun control is an issue known as the “gun show loophole”. Anybody who is in the business of selling firearms is a firearms “dealer” and must be licensed under federal law.

(11) The term “dealer” means (A) any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail, (B) any person engaged in the business of repairing firearms or of making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms, or (C) any person who is a pawnbroker. The term “licensed dealer” means any dealer who is licensed under the provisions of this chapter.


Gun shows are public events where firearms and firearm related materials are sold. Many non-firearm related goods are also sold at gun shows. Typically, they sell food and drink (which are not firearm related) and some vendors tables sell things like t-shirts, boots, hats, bumper-stickers, books, gunsmithing tools, targets, hunting gear and other products that are firearm related but are clearly not controlled by federal firearm licensing law. Vendors at gun shows also sell products like knives, swords, gas masks, survival rations, tasers, mace, batons, bb-guns, airsoft guns, belt-buckles and even jewelry, some of which have no connection to firearms and some which may, but in either case, these products are clearly not regulated by federal firearm licensing law. In most gun shows, the non-firearm sellers outnumber the gun dealers and in some cases, the gun dealers make up a small percentage of the tables at a gun show.

Any firearm dealer at a gun show is required by federal law to be a federal firearm license (FFL) holder, which also requires them to run background checks in exactly the same manner as a gun dealer in a store. But all the vendors at a gun show who do not sell guns obviously do not have to have a FFL and do not have to run background checks to sell their wares like books and scented candles.

Media hype has sold the idea that because gun shows have many vendors in attendence who do not hold FFLs, that those vendors are selling guns without background checks. This is false.

What Gun Show Loophole?

There is nothing you can’t do at a gun store that you can do at a gun show.

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