10 Gun Show Myths

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10 Gun Show Myths

There have been myths about what happens at gun shows. These myths stem anywhere from anti-gun activists to people who honestly don’t know the law. In truth, several of the sources for these myths can be traced back to distorted facts.

To help credit the authenticity of this article, all sources will be linked. Please note, it’s been made a point to use sources that are government agencies or that may or may not be biased towards strong gun control. Also J.S.T. Andrews is not an attorney, nor should this be taken as legal advice.

  1. Myth: Anyone can Purchase a Firearm at a Gun Show

    Fact: False. Licensed dealers are required to run a background check on every gun purchase. This even applies to those who are trading-in a firearm for another.

    Source: ATF – Brady Law

  2. Myth: Most Guns Used in Crimes are Purchased from Gun Shows

    Fact: False. According to the Washington Post, a staggering 1.7% of “… offenders [who] were incarcerated from crimes committed with handguns… reported… they obtained the guns…” at a gun show.

    In addition the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reports:

    According to the latest available data, those who use guns in violent crimes rarely purchase them directly from licensed dealers; most guns used in crime have been stolen or transferred between individuals after the original purchase.

    Source: Washington Post – The stale claim that 40 percent of gun sales lack background checks
    Source: NCJRS – Firearms and Violence.

  3. Myth: Anyone can Purchase Ammunition at a Gun Show

    Fact: True. So long as they are not legally prohibited from purchasing ammo and/or receiving ammo. (Most people would know if they were prohibited.)

    Long guns and long gun ammunition may be sold only to persons 18 years of age or older. Sales of handguns and ammunition for handguns are limited to persons 21 years of age and older.

    Source: ATF – Unlicensed Persons
    Source: ATF – Licensees

  4. Myth: Gun Show Vendors are Not Licensed FFL Dealers

    Fact: True. The majority of dealers sell accessories including ammo, magazine clips, t-shirts, knives, ice cream, etc. Typically, private sellers at gun shows tend to have a single table. However uncommon, there are some cases where a private seller might have 2+ tables. In addition, most gun shows will dedicate more tables to licensed FFL Dealers. Typically these dealers have anywhere from 5 to 20+ tables.

    Let’s use New York City’s data from their 2009 “Gun Show Undercover” report. 1% to 8.9% of the tables at gun shows are private sellers. With that being said, if every private seller had two tables, that would mean that anywhere from 2% to 18% of all tables were private sellers.

    Source: NYC – Gun Show Undercover

  5. Myth: Gun Show Prices are More Expensive

    Fact: This really depends on the gun show and its dealers. Keep in mind that the larger the gun show, the more competition there will be between vendors. Competition between firearm dealers will help lower the prices on guns. This will also depend on the location and the gun you’re looking for.

    Source: Green Sheet – Interchange: Will regulation or competition drive down pricing?

  6. Myth: Gun Shows are not Family Friendly

    Fact: Usually this is not the case. Most promoters actually offer a discount for children (usually under the ages of 12) and some promoters will even offer discounts for spouses! It’s even possible to attend a show that has activities for children.

    Source: Post Bulletin: Letter to the Editor

  7. Myth: Gun Shows are Dangerous

    Fact: The largest factor in gun-related injuries at a gun show is due to accidents. However small this percentage is, it’s still an issue. There’s a reason why promoters require all guns to be zip-tied, no ammo in the firearm(s), and an empty magazine. Never been to a gun show before? Follow these gun show tips.

    In addition, crime is typically below the local average at and during gun shows. Think about it. There are hundreds to thousands of armed citizens all within a building or two. Not to mention the Law Enforcement Officers, active military, retired military, concealed carry trainers and NRA trainers that all attend the show.

    Source: NEBER Report – The Effect of Gun Shows on Gun-Related Deaths

  8. Myth: Gun Shows Cause an Increase in Gun Violence

    The National Criminal Justice Reference Service reports:

    Self-defense is the most commonly cited reason for acquiring a gun, but it is unclear how often these guns are used for self-protection against unprovoked attacks.

    Fact: False. Gun sales are at an all time high and gun crimes are dropping.

    This is actually relatively inconclusive on all accounts. Most reports on this issue gather from relatively small pools of data. Not to mention the majority of these reports do not decipher between gun-related defense and gun-related deaths (Take this report from NEBER.org as an example).

    Source: NCJRS – Firearms and Violence.
    Source: Forbes – Disarming Realities: As Gun Sales Soar, Gun Crimes Plummet

  9. Myth: Firearm Gifting is Legal

    Fact: Gifting a firearm is not uncommon within pro-gun families. According to the ATF: “Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith [then] gives Jones the money for the firearm.” This is not gifting. If “Mr. Brown goes to buy a firearm with his own money to give to Mr. Black as a present…” this is considered gifting. “However, you may not transfer a firearm to any person you know or have reasonable cause to believe is prohibited…”

    Fact: False. The rules changed on June 16th, 2014. It now appears that if you are not the intended owner of the firearm it is now considered a “Straw” purchase.

    A federal law banning the “straw” purchase of guns on behalf of others applies even to transactions where the person who ends up with the weapon could have legally acquired a firearm…

    Source: WSJ – Supreme Court Upholds Federal Ban on ‘Straw’ Purchases of Guns

  10. Myth: Guns can be Shipped from a Gun Show

    Fact: There are lots of stipulations to this. Basically, the only way a firearm can be mailed is from a licensed FFL dealer to another licensed FFL dealer.

    Example: A gun show attendee purchases a firearm from a private seller and wants it shipped out-of-state. The firearm needs to be taken to a licensed FFL and shipped to another licensed FFL near the purchaser’s desired location.

    Source: ATF – Unlicensed Persons


  1. carl martigani says

    Hello, can a private person ( me ) sell ammo to a seller, and/ or dealer at a gun show, the May 31st South Point show in Las Vegas, NV ? Thank you. Carl Martigani. Las Vegas, NV.

  2. marion farney says

    Can you tell me what is the law that governs sales of firearms between individuals of different states. I’ve heard so many different stories, ie. you can sell or buy long guns but not pistols, etc. No guns may be purchased, etc.

    Please clear this up if you can. I would appreciate it very much.



    • says

      Hey Marion,

      According to the ATF:

      A person not licensed under the GCA and not prohibited from acquiring firearms may purchase a firearm from an out-of-State source and obtain the firearm if an arrangement is made with a licensed dealer in the purchaser’s State of residence for the purchaser to obtain the firearm from the dealer.

      [18 U.S.C. 922(a)(3) and 922(b)(3)] ATF FAQ

      This follows Myth #10. Basically it can be purchased. However, it can not be taken home immediately. Instead it has to be shipped to a local FFL dealer (that is in the state of the purchaser) and it can be picked up there. I’m not an attorney, nor is this a legal advice.

  3. Bruce A. Wittmeier says

    Thanks for the great job you are doing with Gun Shows.

    About prices at Gun Shows:
    “The more competition will yield an increase in price drops throughout the gun show.” This may be correct but I had to read it 3 times to understand what was being said.

    I believe much of the confusion about guns in general are the laws that apply. They have too many double negatives, positives, etc. I think we can help ourselves by making simple statements that everyone can understand without re-reading or 2nd thoughts.

  4. marion farney says

    Thanks Jason. This was very helpful. I know that there is a lot of confusion on this subject. I’ve heard so many different explanations.
    Good work!

    • says

      It is. However, there is actually sound reasoning behind it. I’m not speaking for gun show promoters, but it’s usually due to one of two reasons: 1) Safety (unfortunately people tend to get careless and it affects us all) 2) To appease the venue.

  5. Nick says

    As a resident of California, I tried to buy a shotgun in Oregon and the vender at a gun show couldn’t sell it to me. I was wondering why?

  6. Anthony says

    Back in 2006 i had received a class b misdemenor for a (THEFT) charge.. It was defferred, and since then i have gotten my record sealed. My question is can i purchase a hand gun in my name for my homes potection..

    • says

      Hey Anthony,

      This question came up a lot when I worked for an FFL. Unfortunately the ATF doesn’t clearly define which violations directly effect handgun purchases. In fact, I’m sure it varies from state to state. Here’s what the ATF says:

      Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;
      Is a fugitive from justice;
      Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
      Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution;
      Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;
      Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
      Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship;
      Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner; or
      Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
      Cannot lawfully receive, possess, ship, or transport a firearm.

      FAQ – Unlicensed Persons

      I’m not an attorney, nor is this a legal advice. From personal experience, if none of these rules apply, running the NICS background check may be the only way to find out. This is the background check ran when you purchase a firearm. Sometimes it goes through fine, depending on the person and/or the violation. Other times it may take a few days to process and they will either come back with a “yes” or a “no”.

      Keep in mind that you will most likely have to pay the application fee (usually $5.00). Also be sure to clarify with the dealer that you will get all your money back if the application doesn’t go through. Some dealers may charge a fee for denied application.

      The most important thing to do When filling out the application is to be honest. I hope this helps.

  7. brian says

    i am looking to purchase a walther ppk 380. however buying it new is banned from california. can i purchase one from a gun show out of state and bring it in to ca.?

  8. Jodie says

    If I have an out of state license (CT) but am active duty military and current Virginia resident, may I purchase weapons?

      • Lee says

        If you have orders assigning you to another state, you can purchase firearms in that state. You are considered a state resident wherever you are assigned.

          • Bryan says

            In addition to what Lee stated; an active duty military member can (as stated above) purchase a firearm in their state of assignment (on orders) as well as their state of residence. This would still most likely require an FFL to FFL transfer; however, there could be a way around this though if the member has a concealed carry permit and will be “carrying” the firearm only through states with reciprocity agreements. I am also not a lawyer and am not intending to give legal advice.

  9. andrew says

    Can anybody purchase a gun from a gun show?
    Say I go to a gunshow to purchase a firearm and I don’t have a permit, could I still purchase it even if they run a background and I’m good to go?

    • says

      Yes, depending on what you mean by “good to go.” If you’re expecting to take the firearm home immediately, some states require a waiting period. As an example, in Florida if you purchase a handgun without a permit it’s a 3-day waiting period. If you have a permit or it’s a long-gun there’s no wait. Keep in mind I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

  10. WW says

    You may want to update the section about buying guns as gifts given the latest supreme court ruling covering that issue.

  11. Bryan says

    The BATFE states that an individual under 21 cannot purchase a handgun or handgun ammunition. Is this really realistic considering the interchangeability of many cartridges, especially in the AR15? If someone owns a 9mm AR15 carbine, are they then not allowed to purchase ammunition for their long gun?

  12. Marty Conte says

    I am a Life NRA Member and hold all of the Police Instructor Certifications offered by the NRA. My background is 32 years LE to include State and Federal service. While I find the questions and answers very informative I would have to differ on the “loophole” so to speak that Gun Shows currently provide. Example, at the last two Gun Shows I attended there were at least 2-3 guys attempting to sell handguns to those of us waiting in line prior to the show doors opening.Just for the hell of it I asked the seller of the Ruger model GP1oo if he needed to see my ID prior to buying the firearm from him. He stated no, just cash. Now forgive me for thinking that this is the exact reason that the anti-gun crowd uses to attack gun shows. I would support a law/rule forbidding any sales “outside” the actual show and requiring all sales inside to go thru the required background check. The show promoter would have to be responsible for security outside the show but still on the grounds to prevent this type of sale. This may not be a popular idea but it does make sense.

  13. F.D. Maloney says

    If Thomas Jefferson ,himself,came back to life or descended from
    Heaven,he would keel over on his back!
    All these Federal Regulations on what little individual AMERICANS
    and STATES can do.
    It is all a revolting mess.
    Diseased people flowing into the country…raping and killing and we the people
    do nothing.This is not the America that I know.

  14. michael says

    I have read a lot of conflicting information regarding AR builds using 80% lower receivers ( Unmarked/ not serialized). And the associated legalities of NOT needing to register the weapon and legal possession of the finished firearm. The only illegal thing that I may have done in my life is breaking the speed limit. I do not want to partake in anything illegal. Can you tell me if it is legal to complete a 80% lower receiver and build the AR (completely) and you don’t need to register it???? Please advise. Thank you.

    • says

      Hey Michael,

      Sorry for the late reply. This will most likely depend on which state you are in. In Florida you don’t have to register a firearm. Keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

      Here’s what the ATF says:

      For your information, per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.

      ATF: Firearms Technology

  15. BliTzer says

    Hi, I live in Florida. What about private sellers at gun shows. If you buy or trade from private sellers does a 3 day waiting period still in effect?

    • says

      Hey Blitzer,

      The Short Answer: No, you don’t have to wait. Don’t take my word for it. I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. Here’s a quote from the ATF:

      An unlicensed individual may transfer a firearm to another unlicensed individual residing in the same State, provided that he or she has no reason to believe the buyer is prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

      For your own sake, it is best practice to keep a record of this transaction in case the ATF needs to locate this firearm. Also note, that it is now completely illegal to buy a firearm and immediately sell it, gift it or give it to someone else. Read this article for more information on Straw Purchasing.

      ATF: Transfers of Firearms by Private Seller

      • BliTzer says

        Thanx. The prices are getting so high. Sometimes it feels good to get a break even if it’s just saving paying sales tax.

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