Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Post script to background checks at gun shows

The stories keep coming about tracking illegal guns . This article supports the fact that some trafficked guns come from gun shows. It also supports what most know to be the iron pipeline which funnels guns from southern states up the coast to states like New York which has strict gun laws. " “Half of them were stolen and half were, we believe, purchased at gun shows in North Carolina,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “The 22 semi-automatic handguns in the streets of the city is indication the iron pipeline continues to pump.” I'm going to go out on a limb here and claim that if Police Commissioner Kelly says that about half of the guns traced in this case were purchased at gun shows, they were likely purchased from private sellers without a background check. Why would this gang member purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer where he would have to undergo a background check? Common sense tells us that requiring background checks on all gun sales at gun shows would stop some of the illegal gun trafficking and therefore potentially stop some of the senseless shootings in our communities.


  1. You're absolutely right. I wouldn't limit it to gun shows, though.

  2. I read the article. Looks like good police work on the part of the NYPD.

    Living in North Carolina like I do, I'd like to know how this guy purchased pistols. By state law, you have to have a pistol purchase permit, which you get from the Sheriff. That goes for all pistol purchases, either from a store or from a private person.

    Hopefully the NYPD will provide information on who sold this guy the guns. That is, unless, this guy was just buying stolen guns on the street and shipping them to NYC, bypassing the gun shows entirely.

  3. That's funny - North Carolina requires purchase permits from Sherriffs to buy handguns even in private sales. Commissioner Kelly needs to get his facts straight and so do you - gang members would have to get these permits to buy handguns at gun shows too in north Carolina.

  4. Well, the NYC Police Chief says the guns were either stolen or purchased at gun shows. You don't have to show your license to purchase if you buy guns from private sellers. You should know that. It's the same in Minnesota. We have hidden camera video of private sellers selling without asking for the permit to purchase. I don't make this stuff up.

  5. Not from a private seller. It's the same in Minnesota. Maybe you need to get your facts straight.

  6. Joan, in North Carolina, you have to have a pistol purchase permit. There are no loopholes here. You can buy a rifle or shotgun without permit, or you can show your NC Concealed Handgun Permit, but what you cannot do, by state law, is buy a handgun or a crossbow without a Sheriff issued pistol permit or a Sheriff issued NC Concealed Handgun Permit. That goes for ALL sales, private ones too.

    "You must obtain a valid pistol permit whether you receive the weapon from a commercial dealer or a private person. The requirement also applies without regard to whether it is a transaction for money or a gift.

    It is a misdemeanor to sell or otherwise dispose of a handgun without first obtaining a pistol permit from the recipient of the pistol."


  7. Joan, you should read up on individual state requirements before you make blanket statements. For example, have you read MN's statutes on firearms transfers, REGARDLESS of venue?


    P.S. You strategy of posting selected comments must be working well for you. I'll be curious if you post this one.

  8. Thanks, Pat. I am familiar with the Minnesota law. I also know that there are exclusions, including this one: " a transfer by a person other than a federally licensed firearms dealer;" That is the problem I am talking about. We have hidden camera video of Colin Goddard at a Minnesota gun show buying a gun from a private seller with not I.D. asked for and no proof of a permit to carry or permit to purchase.

  9. Ok, then you must have read this portion as well...

    Subd. 14.Transfer to unknown party. (a) No person shall transfer a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon to another who is not personally known to the transferor unless the proposed transferee presents evidence of identity to the transferor.

    aka...they must ask for ID.

  10. No Pat, I did not miss that one. I am aware of it. The problem is that private sellers- many of them but not all- do not care. We have proof of this on our hidden camera video. I didn't make it up.

  11. Ok -- then you agree that they're guilty of violating the law when they don't ask for ID, right?

    I'm just making sure that you talk about things that are actually not already illegal...

  12. Joan,

    The problem is that private sellers- many of them but not all- do not care. We have proof of this on our hidden camera video. I didn't make it up.

    So you get your way and pass a background check requirement, do you think that the same people illegally selling guns are suddenly going to stop?

    Given the low probability of being caught, it is unlikely that the very few people illegally selling firearms are going to change their ways regardless of the laws you pass- don't you agree?

  13. Were you aware of Minn. Stat. 609.66?

    Subd. 1f: Gross misdemeanor; transferring firearm without background check.

    A person, other than a federally licensed firearms dealer, who transfers a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon to another without complying with the transfer requirements of section 624.7132, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if the transferee possesses or uses the weapon within one year after the transfer in furtherance of a felony crime of violence, and if:

    (1) the transferee was prohibited from possessing the weapon under section 624.713 at the time of the transfer; or

    (2) it was reasonably foreseeable at the time of the transfer that the transferee was likely to use or possess the weapon in furtherance of a felony crime of violence.

    Private sellers in Minnesota very much do care about not only checking ID, but about checking that the buyer has a purchase permit, because if they sell to someone without checking that he has a purchase permit, and the buyer commits a crime, they can be held criminally liable.

  14. I guess some may take the chance that they won't be caught or are unaware of the law. This, of course, is only if they do get caught or if that weapons is used in a crime of violence.

  15. " So you get your way and pass a background check requirement, do you think that the same people illegally selling guns are suddenly going to stop?" Yes- it will surely make it much harder for prohibited people to get guns at gun shows.

  16. Joan,

    If they are willing to break the current law, what makes you think they wouldn't break the law requiring a background check?

  17. If everyone is on the same page and it is understood that the same laws apply to all, I am guessing that the law will be adhered to. There will be people watching to make sure that is the case. Right now, these folks may break some laws but they are breaking a law when they don't require background checks since it is legal for them to do so. With a stricter law, they would be in danger of breaking several federal laws ( or state laws, if that is the case). That doesn't mean that all will comply. But there will be a lot more pressure on them to do so.

  18. I think we need more people "watching"! Would you support a call to increase ATF funding for enforcement activities?

  19. Joan,

    A requirement to store all firearms at a central location, overseen by law enforcement, would also reduce the number of illegal transactions.

    Do you support a requirement like that?

  20. I'm not sure what you are talking about here. I have not heard that one before.

  21. A good possibility exists at the North Carolina gun shows that straw buyers with permits were involved. Unfortunately, NYPD doesn't mention that, one way or the other.

    Pat says Subd. 14 (must be of MN statute 624.7132) requires a seller to see ID of someone not personally known to the seller. Subd. 14, as well as the rest of 624.7132, simply does not apply to non-FFLs.

    624.7132, Subd. 12(1) excludes "a transfer by a person other than a federally licensed firearms dealer". However, there is ONE exception to the exclusions, and that is the requirement of 609.66 subd. 1(f) quoted by "jdege", which I will not repeat here. The problem with 609.66, subd 1(f) is that there need not be any paper trail between seller and buyer. If the firearm cannot be traced back to the seller, or the date of transfer cannot be ascertained, that pretty much ends the investigation.

    .45 Colt

  22. Regarding the MN gun laws 624.7132 & 609.66; they form a confusing & convoluted approach to prevent guns from going into prohibited hands. 624 seems to tell all gun sellers that they need to do a background check. But its subd.12 pares that down to only FFLs. Why don't they just say that at the beginning; i.e., 624 only applies to FFLs?

    And 609 is equally goofy, especially as it's tied to 624. 609 is basically a "look back" law that punishes people for not doing a sufficient check on prospective purchasers accordding to 624. Yet 624 actually exempts non-FFLs. So 609 punishes people for not doing something that another law, 624, says they don't need to do. In any event, it's pretty tough for non-FFLs to get a background check done anyway.

    I think a uniform background check law would work if it was clearly & simply written. It would stop purchases by prohibited persons from the majority of sellers since that majority is willing to follow all laws. At present in Minnesota, if I'm selling guns at a gun show as a non-FFL, about the only thing I can reasonably do is ask for an photo ID & a Permit to Acquire. Now it's the latter that's really important but requesting to see it is only voluntary for me. True, I do run a risk via 609 if the buyer does harm with the gun I sold within a twelve month period, but many sellers just opt to see a photo ID. That doesn't really tell them all that much.

    When I bought my .44 Mag last year at a MN gun show, from a non-FFL, he only asked to see my driver's license. I did have a Permit to Acquire but he didn't ask about it. I think he was within MN law. (Or was he?) Fortunately for him the bank heist I used it for was 13 months after the purchase.

    It's like that movie "Cider House Rules". Make laws clear, logical, easy to read & the vast majority of folks will be more than willing to follow them.

    Brent G.

  23. You Wrote:
    If everyone is on the same page and it is understood that the same laws apply to all, I am guessing that the law will be adhered to. There will be people watching to make sure that is the case. Right now, these folks may break some laws but they are breaking a law when they don't require background checks since it is legal for them to do so. With a stricter law, they would be in danger of breaking several federal laws ( or state laws, if that is the case). That doesn't mean that all will comply. But there will be a lot more pressure on them to do so.

    You are not advocating for harsher penalties, though. You claim that there are no existing laws and that we need new ones. Now, you say that there are existing laws, but they are ignored, so we need to add more.

    I generally support having the fewest number of easily understood laws possible. As you add more laws -- especially those with technical components and lacking a mens rea and/or an actual evil act -- the ability of a reasonable person of good intent to understand and comply with them decreases. I think that a functioning justice system entails giving fair notice of what the rules are to everyone in a way that can be understood by the layman.

    Perhaps what you really should do is endorse changing the existing law to make the penalties stiffer. For example, you could make violating the "must check ID and permit" law a felony, not a misdeamonor. Alternatively, you could ask for more enforcement of the existing laws.


    The problem with this whole private sale loophole thing is exactly what .45 colt just pointed out above: the only way to close it and make it work is to institute a paper trail aka registration scheme. So, when I hear "gun show loophole," I hear "private sales loophole + registration."

    I'm sorry if that is unfair, but it is a logical outcome, and one which your group has endorsed in the past. I personally don't think such policies have demonstrated much effectiveness in dealing with violent crime, and they entail substantial costs, so I generally don't support them.


  24. I think if you read some of the comments here, you will see that some are willing to take a look at language in bills to clarify it. I don't know why legal language has to be so complicated. Keep it Simple Stupid- KISS. We need to make very clear laws about what is legal and what is not. I actually agree with some of what you said there Chris.And I don't object to making penalities stiffer but not in lieu of preventing the sales in the first place to prohibited purchasers. And you are right- it is a private seller loophole. Sometimes things are misnamed causing a lot of problems.

  25. I think that everyone is missing the point here. What evidence do we have that any of these proposed infringements have any net positive effect upon overall crime rates?


    There is no evidence that any of the previous infringements have had any positive effect, and there is no evidence (or even a convincing sounding theory) that any future infringements will have any positive effect of crime rates.

    So, no. No more infringements. And we'll have less of the previous infringements as well. Until you can show some effect beyond "it makes me feel safer," then there is no point making new laws.

  26. .45 Colt and Cris are exactly right. For any attempts at eliminating straw purchasing gun registration is pretty much essential.

    I say we go all the way. License every gun owner, register every weapon, require background checks for any transfers. Everyone would be responsible for the guns they own and they must maintain possession of them.

    Straw purchasers who cannot produce the weapon when renewal of the registration comes around, go to jail.

    Do you really think this problem would continue under circumstances like that?

  27. MikeB,

    Yes, I do think that the problem would continue.

    Canada has a scheme much like you suggest. It has been hugely expensive and not very useful for solving actual crimes. In fact, it is so expensive with so little benefit that several of the provinces have opted out of enforcing it. Britain has even stricter laws and is an island yet somehow they still have unregistered guns turning up in crimes.

    I've been to Guam, which also has a licensing/registration scheme as you suggest with all transfers being done through the local PD (it is a holdover from the colonial days when the US Navy ran the place like its own private colony). Also being an island with extremely limited points of entry, you'd think it would be impossible to slip in guns outside the system but it still happens.

    Likewise, look at something else in the US that requires licensing of every user and registration of every tool: driving. Yet, if you look at any average size city's police blotter on any random day you'll likely find reports of people driving without a license or with lapsed registration. They often don't get caught until they commit some other sort of violation or get in an accident. Most firearms are a lot smaller, cheaper, and easier to hide or smuggle than vehicles are.

    Unfortunately for your side, registration is just unacceptable for a lot of folks. It is expensive, has a poor track record for actually stopping crime, and is a significant infringement on the law abiding. That is why many law abiding gun owners are extremely unwilling to entertain any of this "gun show/private sale loophole" discussion.



    Thanks for acknowledging that you think simpler laws are actually better, and that the "gun show loophole" is perhaps misnamed (I am willing to bet that "private sale loophole" doesn't poll very well though...). Unfortunately, from my perspective, it often seems like your side's intent is to create confusing, ambiguous, broad laws that are traps for the unwary average citizen. It would do a lot to create good faith if your organization used clear language to talk about exactly what they mean and actually supported refining existing laws to make them work better rather than layering on more and more.

    Chris from AK

  28. Chris- I wish we had more to do with crafting the laws. In some cases, we have had some input( as in the gun show background check bill in the last legisalative session) but then the legal folks get involved and the bill revisors and then, of course, the legislators or Congress member and the next thing you know we have convoluted laws. Minnesota's gun laws are really bad and quite confusing and it has led to some misperceptions and unnecessary problems between the gun rights folks and us. Also, amendments get in there sometimes gumming up the works.