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Anti-Gun Lobby Scores Another Hit
by Dr. Michael S. Brown

In a war of words, words are the weapons.  The anti-gun lobby has learned this lesson well and once again has used their word skills to good advantage against their foes.

Their past victories include the invention of the popular, but meaningless term "assault weapon" and the rehabilitation of the old racial slur "Saturday Night Special".

The latest term to score a direct hit on the gun rights forces is the relatively new phrase, "gun show loophole".  By repeating this term endlessly, the gun prohibitionists have led millions of people to believe that there really is a legal principal that exempts gun shows from normal laws. 

Since most people have never been to a gun show, it is easy to convince them that these gatherings are "illegal arms bazaars" where sinister gun smugglers sell machine guns to children and criminals.

In reality, gun sales at the shows are governed by all same laws that apply everywhere else.   There is no special dispensation that turns gun shows into free trade zones.

Another interesting term that has been fired at gun shows is "unlicensed dealer".  This is an oxymoron.  According to federal law, if you sell enough guns to be considered a dealer, you must have a federal firearms license. The overwhelming majority of gun show sales are by licensed dealers who always conduct the background checks in the prescribed manner. 

There is no such thing as an "unlicensed dealer", but there are a few individual exhibitors at gun shows who are properly known as private collectors.  They typically offer a small number of used guns for sale or trade on their tables filled with hunting paraphernalia, books and harmless war memorabilia.  These are usually antique or collectable guns, not something that would interest criminals on a shopping spree.   It is perfectly legal to sell guns in this manner as a private citizen, just as it's legal for you to sell your old shotgun to a friend.

Dramatic statements about the number of "crime guns" that come from gun shows must be taken with a grain of salt.  In reality, nobody knows how many guns of any kind are sold at gun shows.  That information just isn't collected.  Criminals often tell police that they got their gun from an "unlicensed dealer" at a show, because it is much safer than admitting it came from a relative or criminal associate.  This makes any studies linking gun shows with crime guns utterly worthless, but the lack of real numbers creates fertile ground for the anti-gun lobby.  They are well known for making up numbers to meet their needs.

The media has weighed in with the usual anti-gun distortions.  Television cameras show licensed dealers while the on-air personality talks about the mythical "unlicensed dealers" selling to non-existent criminals.  Anyone who has ever been to a gun show knows that gang bangers and drug dealers would stick out like a sore thumb among all the hunters and recreational shooters.

What is the real story behind this clever verbal assault on gun shows?  Anti-gun groups hate gun shows, because there are all those horrible guns and gun owners concentrated in one evil place.  However, they are also thinking strategically.  Gun shows provide a meeting place, a recruiting platform and an important source of funding for gun rights organizations.  If gun shows can be eliminated, the prohibitionists will have won a great victory.  Even if you don't agree with their beliefs, you've got to admire their cunning.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, WA who moderates a large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. You can reach the rest of his archive here.  He may be reached at

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