Do something about the `gun shows.’ Either shut them down or regulate them and restrict their activities to legal transactions in firearms. The Grand Bazaar approach that we now have ensures that every pugnacious child with a grudge to settle and every other form of human predator have easy access to all the firearms that they might desire, while the legitimate firearm owner is increasingly saddled with more and more onerous restrictions.
Bill Bridgewater, executive director of the National Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers, in a 1993 letter to the House of Representatives Crime and Criminal Justice Subcommittee
The dangers and problems associated with gun shows were well known in 1986 when Congress voted to pass McClure-Volkmer. Yet in spite of this, the National Rifle Association and its congressional supporters moved to pass a measure that would increase the number of gun shows and create a raft of new law enforcement problems, above and beyond the well-documented problems that already existed. To argue that the bill’s effects could not have been predicted is not credible. The most cursory reading reveals that McClure-Volkmer was certain to multiply the number of gun shows and the number of people allowed to participate in them.
The most effective approach to remedying the law enforcement problems presented by gun shows would be to ban them. Gun shows could be effectively banned by reinstating the prohibition forbidding dealers to sell from any location other than their licensed place of business and requiring that all sales by a private individual be consummated by a licensed dealer. Short of banning gun shows, many restrictions and requirements could be imposed to greatly reduce the shows’ role in criminal gun trafficking.
On the federal level—
Limit gun show participation to licensed dealers and step up enforcement of all existing requirements regarding posting of license, recordkeeping, etc. This would eliminate confusion regarding which sellers must complete the federal paperwork and abide by waiting periods and background checks and would address the problem of licensees competing with non-licensees by engaging in illegal transactions.
Require that Federal Firearms License holders who participate at gun shows must notify ATF when they engage in business away from their licensed premises, and require that the location and date of the gun show and number and types of guns sold at the show be reported to ATF. (This requirement could likely be promulgated by ATF under current law.)
To facilitate the tracing of firearms transferred at gun shows, require that all firearm sales at gun shows be recorded on a separate version of the federal Form 4473. The form should include the name, location, and date of the gun show. (This requirement could likely be instituted by ATF administratively.)
Amend the definition of “engaged in the business” to close the loophole that allows sales from a personal collection in supposed “pursuit of a hobby.” One option could be to disallow such sales at gun shows altogether.
Grant ATF interim powers such as license suspension, civil penalties, or offers of monetary settlement. Currently, ATF’s enforcement tools are limited to either revoking or failing to renew a license.
Limit the type of weapons sold at gun shows. Prohibitions on the sale of assault weapons, handguns, and weapons regulated under the National Firearms Act (e.g. machine guns, silencers, sawed-off rifles and shotguns), would reduce the shows’ appeal to criminals and illegal traffickers.
Strictly enforce the prohibitions on the sale of U.S. military hardware at gun shows. In this area, gun show organizers and promoters could play a key role in reducing distribution outlets for stolen military material. Stepped up surveillance of shows by local, state, and federal law enforcement targeting the sale of stolen military hardware is called for.
On the state or local level—
State or local authorities could require that all sales made by private individuals at gun shows be reported to local law enforcement agencies on a standardized form.
Communities could limit the number of gun shows held in their areas. Reducing the volume of shows occurring each year would aid enforcement authorities and reduce the opportunity for criminal trafficking.
State and local authorities could also require certification of gun show organizers and promoters. Requirements could include: keeping accurate records of all gun show participants selling firearms; showing proof that the organization carries adequate theft and liability insurance; and, showing proof that adequate steps are being taken to ensure that all sellers are complying with applicable federal, state, and local laws.
As on the federal level, the type of weapons sold at gun shows could be limited by a state or community. Prohibitions on the sale of assault weapons, handguns, and weapons regulated under the National Firearms Act (e.g. machine guns, silencers, sawed-off rifles and shotguns), would help reduce the shows’ appeal to criminals and illegal traffickers.
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