President Obama’s latest assault on gun rights included the oft-mentioned “gun show loophole”, the fact that private sellers in most states and federally—at least until now—are not required to run background checks on gun buyers. The claim that this is a loophole is disingenuous, since only federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) have access to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). But, of course, people who don’t like the details of a law call them loopholes out of partisan motivation, and it’s best for us to avoid unprincipled usage of language.
The very existence of the gun show is something that alarms some people. I can see why this would be the case for those who desire much more control. A large room, typically a space normally rented for conferences, filled with guns for sale must give them shivers. And of the many I’ve attended, I saw what has to be truly shocking to the gun control crowd in that all the visitors and vendors behave in a civilized and positively friendly manner with everyone present. The fact that we’re not screaming at each other or shooting at each other while buying and selling is irksome to a certain point of view.
But a gun show isn’t merely an opportunity to demonstrate our courtesy in public. As alluded to, what draws us in are the table after table of guns. Two things about this have to be cleared up. For one, background checks still happen at shows when the buyer is engaged in a transaction with an FFL. The other point is one that perhaps some in the gun community may not realize—namely, the fact that there aren’t likely to be any deals. At a recent show, I saw asking prices for unremarkable Mosin-Nagants to the north of $400, and anyone who will pay that suffers a self-inflicted injury.
So what’s the point? Here, there are also two aspects to consider. For collectors, a gun show provides the chance to find the North Korean Type 68 that will make our set of Tokarevs complete. Or whatever other firearm we’re missing. Now it’s no good going to find exactly one particular gun. It won’t be there. Or perhaps it will. But if you want guarantees, you’ll be disappointed. The thing to do is to go looking for surprises that you’ve always wanted—or realize you’ve always wanted when you see it on the table—but haven’t found elsewhere. And make sure your spouse or domestic partner either approves of your spending or won’t find out about it.
Of more general importance is the celebration of gun rights that these shows offer us. We live in a capitalist nation that values individual liberty, and gun shows are an expression of this. As I’ve discussed before, I see opposition to more than just gun rights in many advocates of control. There is a general suspicion of unmonitored transactions going on between private citizens, a suspicion that too much freedom will lead to choices that busybodies don’t like.
And that is enough to make me love gun shows. It’s a basic American impulse to oppose people who like to meddle in affairs not their own, and I see that as something we must encourage and nurture. It’s good for people who desire to exert control over others to be thwarted regularly to remind them that we’re all equal under the law and in the possession of rights. And gun shows provide us a public, visible, and and assertive expression of this impulse.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.