The “Gun Show Loophole” Myth

The gun control lobby makes stuff up. They just do. They fudge numbers, misrepresent shooting incidents, downplay defensive firearm use, and never miss a propaganda opportunity. Sometimes, they just invent something out of whole cloth. And sympathetic politicians and news media repeat the whole thing as gospel. On a side note, the media’s general ignorance of just about everything is ironic at best. Anyway, one of those gun control inventions is the so-called “gun show loophole.” I’m sure you’ve heard the term ad nauseum. But do you know what it supposedly is? Did you know that it’s a complete fabrication? Let’s look at this supposed “loophole” and talk about why there’s no such thing. Nor has there ever been.

Anti-gun protester
I’m sure this guy means well, but he’s ignorant. He’s protesting something that doesn’t exist. (

The “Gun Show Loophole”

Gun control advocates, including politicians and the media, are always crying about the “gun show loophole.” But they never actually explain what it supposedly is. That’s deliberate. Like other propaganda terms, the name itself is meant to conjure a specific image in the minds of people who don’t know any better.

In this case, people are prompted to imagine large exhibit halls where unscrupulous people wheel and deal in an unrestricted firearms free-for-all. They are meant to believe that gun shows offer any gun to anyone at any time, and here’s the payoff: no background check. Gun controllers want you to believe that gun shows are “background check-free zones.” That’s the supposed “loophole” to the federal law requiring background checks when guns are purchased from a licensed dealer.

Gun owners, of course, know better. Most gun show exhibitors are licensed dealers. They perform background checks at gun shows just as they do in their shops. I was once denied a sale at a gun show because I had forgotten to change the address on my driver’s license when I moved. The guy was cool about it, but he wouldn’t sell me the gun. That’s just the law. Luckily, he was very cool and allowed me to place a cash deposit and he held the gun until I updated my license. I bought the gun from his store when my license was accurate.

Media report on the "gun show loophole"
An ignorant and complicit media helps drive gun control propaganda. (

But the gun controllers aren’t really talking about licensed dealers. They know how that works. They just gloss over that part, as they do with so many other things. The “gun show loophole” is really about private firearm sales and how gun controllers want people to think about them.

How Private Sales Work

Private firearm sales between individuals have always been legal. The requirements may vary in different states, but it is legal to sell a gun to someone else. So-called “universal” background checks have added a new layer, but you can still do it. Don’t get me started on “universal” background checks. That’s a whole other article itself.

Anyway, gun controllers invented the term “gun show loophole” because gun shows have traditionally been places where private sellers could find potential buyers. Want to sell your son’s first .22 rifle because he’s graduated to something better? No better place to do that than a gun show. In fact, I bought my son’s first .22 just like that. It’s an old pre-1967 bolt action Remington Scoremaster. It had been the seller’s son’s first .22 as well, but he wanted to sell it. The rifle was a little beat up, but it functioned smoothly, and I bought it for $89. The guy told me it was a tack driver, and he was right. My son is grown now, but we both like that little .22 so much we had it refinished, and he’s saving it for his kids.

Gun control advocates don’t like private sales. They especially don’t like that private sellers and buyers can easily find one another at gun shows. So, they made up the supposed “loophole” in federal law. Then, being what they are, they blew it completely out of proportion as a scare tactic. They want the public to think that gun shows have no background checks at all when it’s really a few people doing what has been legal since the Republic’s founding.

Anti-gun protester
Looking at the sign, I’d say this person thinks gun shows are “background check-free zones.” That’s exactly what the gun controllers want him to think. (

“Universal” background checks states have disallowed private sales without a background check. Gun shows were adopted by asking local police to set up a background check station at their shows. It’s now a common sight, even in states without “universal” background checks. Some private sellers feel better running that check.

But the “gun show loophole” myth will not die. Why is that? Gun controllers want the public to think criminals buy their guns at gun shows since gun shows supposedly do not require background checks. We’ve debunked the background check thing, but do criminals buy guns at gun shows? In a word, no. A 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report broke down criminal gun sources. Among state and federal prisoners who were serving time for gun-related offenses, 0.8 percent said they got their guns at gun shows. That is way below being statistically significant. But that’s the narrative gun control advocates and politicians continually push.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Gun Source Survey Table
Criminals don’t buy their guns at gun shows. The gun control lobby just wants you to think they do. (

Propaganda Tool

The gun control lobby has used the “gun show loophole” as a cudgel for years. They’ve gotten way more mileage from it than it deserves. Mainly because the term is purposely vague, news outlets are lazy, complicit, or both, and everyday people have lives. They hear it and shrug, absorbing the image conjured for them. Maybe they think that something ought to be done about it. Gun controllers use that apathy to push “universal” background checks, which I believe are merely precursors to a full-blown gun registry.

Politicians campaign on closing the “gun show loophole,” knowing full well that it doesn’t exist. Gun control advocates cry about it. “Close the loophole for the children,” or some such nonsense. Again, the term’s vagueness draws attention since it’s seemingly self-explanatory. It’s quite literally a perfect propaganda tool. So, why would they stop using it?

Educate Yourself and Others

Effective propaganda is difficult to counter. The other side says three words that convey their message. We have to explain how private sales work and probably how dealer sales work, too. We don’t have a sympathetic media to debunk their nonsense, but we can educate people we know. I’m not saying you should preach the “gun show loophole myth” gospel, but you can correct people who mention it.

Gun Show
I promise this guy will run a background check before selling you a gun. But I’d say his deals aren’t that great. Gun shows aren’t what they used to be. (

I rarely attend gun shows anymore. The selection is generally uninspiring, and good deals seem to be a thing of the past. I get a better selection and better prices online and even at my local gun store. And it seems the non-firearm-related tables outnumber the ones with guns and gun accessories. I don’t go to gun shows looking for coins, books, or beef jerky. But propaganda annoys me, especially anti-gun propaganda.

The “gun show loophole” is an outright lie, as is much of the gun control narrative. But it’s an admittedly effective lie. Those of us who know better have to do what we can. It may seem like a small thing. But the thing about lies is that the smallest hint of truth can eventually unravel them. That includes the gun control platform. Keep fighting.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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