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 gun show 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.
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
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.
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.
Myth: Most Gun Show Vendors are Not Licensed FFL Dealers
Fact: True(ish). In most states, private sellers are not required to preform background checks. The majority of dealers sell accessories including ammo, magazines, 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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…”
Even with the Supreme Court Ruling on June 16th, 2014, gifting is still legal. Using someone else’s money to purchase a firearm and then giving them said firearm is illegal. This is even true if they could legally own a firearm.
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…
Myth: Guns can be Shipped from a Gun Show
Fact: There are lots of stipulations to this. Basically, a firearm has to be mailed (UPS or FedEx) to a 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 shipped to a licensed FFL near the purchaser’s desired location.
Source: ATF – Unlicensed Persons