Debunking The ‘Gun Show Loophole’ Argument Once And For All

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Whenever Democrats talk about gun control proposals, they almost always cite the need for stricter background checks, often referring to “universal background checks.” Usually, they base their argument on the “gun show loophole,” promoting the idea that anyone can purchase a firearm at a gun show without a federal background check.

It’s a misleading and often completely false claim that is continually regurgitated over and over. It happened again on Thursday when President Joe Biden announced the first phase his executive gun control actions.

“Most people don’t know you walk into a store, you have a background check. You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want with no background check,” Biden said during Thursday’s press conference. 

The reality is quite different.

The majority of sellers at gun shows are Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), and are required to conduct a background check every time they sell a firearm. It doesn’t matter if the sale takes place at a brick and mortar store or a gun show. A seller has to go through the entire process of purchasing the firearm, which includes filling out the ATF’s 4473 form, which includes information like the person’s full name, social security number, driver’s license number, and address. The bottom of the form has a number of questions that are used to determine whether or not a person is prohibited from owning a firearm. Being an illegal alien, dishonorably discharged from the military, or a drug user are all reasons someone would be denied a sale. The answers are generally based on the honor system, unless criminal convictions are flagged during the background check. 

The FFL then inputs that information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS will tell the FFL whether or not to proceed with the sale. If there is something in the buyer’s past that would prohibit them from purchasing the gun, like a criminal conviction, the sale is denied.

Failing to provide truthful answers on a 4473 form can result in fines up to $250,000 and/or 10 years in prison.

In some states, Private Party Transfers (PPTs) take place. This is where two private citizens buy and sell guns to one another. A background check is not required to complete this process but it is federally regulated.

Under current law, two private parties can transfer firearms to one another without going through an FFL “provided the transferor does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the transferee is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under federal law.” Some states, however, require citizens to obtain the transfer through an FFL.

If a PPT is taking place between two parties in two different states, both the buyer and seller have to conduct the transfer through an FFL. PPTs are most common between family members, particularly parents and their kids, and close family friends.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki was forced to address Biden’s blatant lies about the “gun show loophole” during her press conference later in the day.

“The president said in a moment ago, ‘You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, no background check.’ Is there a special exemption in federal law that he’s referring to, or do FFLs not have to do background checks when they’re at a gun show?” Real Clear Politics’ Philip Wegmann asked. 

Psaki asked Webmann to clarify his question.

“I mean, is it the president’s belief that you do not have to undergo a background check when you are at a gun show?” the reporter asked.

“No, that’s not his belief,” Psaki said, contradicting Biden’s previous claims. “He believes background checks should be universal.”

The reporter reminded Psaki that Biden said “no background check” takes place at gun shows. She replied by saying, “Well, we know what his position is, right? So let me reiterate that. Background checks are something that should be universal. They’re supported by more than 80 percent of the public. He’s supported legislation, advocated for that, and advocated against loopholes as well and so that’s his position.”

Federal firearm laws are not tossed out of the window simply because an FFL is stationed in a gun show, rather than a store. The same laws still apply, regardless of where they sell a gun, with each transaction requiring a background check.

The important factor to understand is that what both Biden and Psaki mean by “universal background checks” is the construction of a system which regulates private party transfers. The only way to create a so-called “universal background check” is to create a firearms registry, something some Second Amendment advocates believe could lead to firearm confiscation.

Beth Baumann is a Political Reporter at The Daily Wire. Follow her on Twitter @eb454.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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