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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why gun shows don't allow loaded guns

There really is a good reason why some public places don't allow loaded guns. You wouldn't think one of them would be gun shows. But this article shows just why loaded guns can be dangerous in a crowded public place, such as an Illinois gun show. Now I know that most of those law abiding gun owners practice gun safety and are sure that nothing could ever go wrong with their own guns. So accidental shootings should really never happen.

The problem is that they do. I have argued here that guns are inherently dangerous. They are designed as weapons to kill or injure. People with loaded guns kill people every day in great numbers and injure even more. Some are intentional, some not. Good guys with guns don't do anything wrong, right? Um- wrong. 32 people a day die from intentional shootings. Some of the shooters were not criminals until they pulled the trigger. 47 gun deaths per day are suicides by firearm. 2-3 gun deaths per day are due to accidental discharges. Injury numbers are higher. Presumably the suicides and accidental gun deaths were committed by law abiding gun owners- or by the guns owned by them.

So if guns are so safe and we will all be safer if people with loaded guns are allowed to carry them everywhere they go, why do we have about 80 deaths per day due to firearms? And if loaded guns are so safe, why don't the gun show promoters want to have them at their own gun shows? Accidents do happen, of course, and when they happen with a gun, serious injury or death can and does occur. Common sense should tell us that loaded guns in public places are just not a good idea. So if loaded guns are prohibited at gun shows, they should be prohibited in other public places as well. If law abiding gun owners are willing to leave their loaded guns at home when going to shop for more guns, surely they can leave them at home when they go to the shopping malls or out to eat.


  1. Actually, gun shows do allow loaded guns. At least at all of the gun shows i've been to. If you have a license to carry a concealed gun, then you can carry it into a gun show, loaded. The only loaded guns that aren't allowed in are guns that are going be exhibited or sold. Any gun that's going to be handled by the public or sold is inspected at the door and unloaded if necessary. The ammunition is put in a paper bag, stapled closed, your name written on it, and kept at the front. You can claim it on your way out of the show.

  2. Joan-

    Let me ask you to clarify a few things here. Are you saying that there are 32 shootings a day by law abiding gun owners? And why are you assuming that suicides and negligent discharges are all by the law abiding? Are you saying that criminals never commit suicide or have accidents?

    I guess I should remind you that the majority of violent crime is criminal on criminal.

    People with a criminal record are also more likely to die as homicide victims.[11] Between 1990 and 1994, 75% of all homicide victims age 21 and younger in the city of Boston had a prior criminal record.[34] In Philadelphia, the percentage of those killed in gun homicides that had prior criminal records increased from 73% in 1985 to 93% in 1996.[11][35] In Richmond, Virginia, the risk of gunshot injury is 22 times higher for those males involved with crime.[36]

    Nobody said accidents never happen- they do, and just like with young drivers, it happens dispropotionately more often with the completely inexperienced. Comparing gun shows to restaurants is ...how do you say..."apples to oranges". Gun shows have people milling around handling firearms. Concealed carriers have a gun in a holster or pocket and it STAYS there. Despite what you seem to want to believe, we don't get our guns out and fiddle with them while we wait for our food.

    Some gun shows are run right, where every gun is zip tied open. You need to do this, because inevitably some idiot who doesn't know better and who found a box of ammo in grandpa's stuff has a couple rounds in his pocket "just to see if it fits the gun".

    I'll close by calling your attention to the fact that Illinois is one of the last bastions of draconian gun control. I would argue that if Illinois had a little more practice with gun shows, maybe this wouldn't have happened.

  3. To answer your question, I think the number one reason gun show promoters don't allow loaded guns is due to liability. They don't want to be sued if a negligent discharge occurs, and I've read about promoters having trouble procuring insurance at a reasonable rate if they don't prohibit loaded magazines and firearms.

    Also, gun shows by nature lead to many violations of the fundamental rules of safe gun handling. The venue is usually crowded, so there is no safe direction to point firearms when they're being shouldered ("never point a firearm at something you aren't willing to destroy"). People justifiably want to ensure that the actions work before buying a used firearm, so they are working levers, bolts, and dry firing ("keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire"). There are lots of people handling firearms in rapid succession and while one should always check the status of a weapon when taking possession of it, rapid handling means that someone might forget ("treat all guns as if they are loaded"). With that much gun handling going on in a facility that isn't set up for it (i.e., not a range with safety features), it isn't an unreasonable safety precaution!

    I hope that answers your question. I personally don't have an issue with keeping the guns that are for sale and trade which are being casually handled unloaded. That is a safe practice. Interestingly enough, promoters manage to come up with that policy themselves, without being required to by force of law -- probably because it actually makes sense in this context!

  4. Joan. Concealed is concealed. People with permits carry at gun shows all the time
    Besides in Minnesota only about one gun owner in twenty has a carry permit

  5. Sadly, the death mentioned in that article isn't so extraordinary for gun shows.

    It's a bit hypocritical for the pro-gun side to say that law-abiding gun owners are safe with their weapons and then have gun shows that disallow loaded weapons, or choose venues that don't allow it. But then, I'd say the organizers might just be recognizing a bit of common sense -- that weapons intended for killing might be unsafe if loaded in public.

    Like you say, law-abiding gun owners and those around them die every day in America at the hands of their own weapons.

  6. "Common sense should tell us that loaded guns in public places are just not a good idea. So if loaded guns are prohibited at gun shows, they should be prohibited in other public places as well"

    Not quite. There is a difference here that you are not seeing. Loaded firearms on display are not permitted at gun shows. Nowhere at a gun show are concealed carriers prohibited.

    As these guns are being displayed and *handled* they are not permitted to be loaded in the event of an accidental discharge.

    If a friend comes over to my house and wishes to see the new rifle I've just purchased, I don't say "Well, here, let me load it for you." But as a guest would presumably have no business seeing a concealed weapon, it remains holstered and loaded.

    No loaded weapons *on display* are allowed at gun shows, but properly holstered ones aren't a problem.

  7. Readers- I am not saying that all 32 of those homicides are committed by law abiding gun owners. A good number of them are, though. What we each perceive as "law abiding" is different, as I have learned from the exchanges on this blog. Jared Loughner was not a prohibited purchaser for the purpose of buying a gun from a licensed dealer. He was not a felon but was clearly mentally ill. Was he law abiding? He could be considered as such since he was not labeled as not being a law abiding citizen at the point of the shooting. Most gun homicides are committed by a shooter who knows the victim. From the Violence Policy Center (which I know you all hate but here it is)" In cases where the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 91 percent of female victims (1,587 out of 1,743) were murdered by someone they knew. Of these, 62 percent (990 out of 1,587) were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. More than 10 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers. In 88 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, the homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery." In some of the mass gun murders, the victims were known to the shooters. Cho was considered for legal purposes, to be adjudicated mentally ill yet was not in the system as a prohibited purchaser. Was he law abiding before he pulled the trigger and killed 32 people? Was Major Hasan law abiding before he opened fire at Fort Hood? (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/01/26/army-panel-reportedly-rules-alleged-fort-hood-shooter-sane-fit-trial/)

    I am interested in your thoughts about this since I plan to write further about it. My contention is that more gun homicides are committed by a shooter who knows the victim than not.

  8. "Like you say, law-abiding gun owners and those around them die every day in America at the hands of their own weapons."

    "The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides..."
    -"10 Leading Causes of Injury Death by Age Group Highlighting Violence-Related Injury Deaths, United States". National Vital Statistics System. National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. 2003

    Of the remaining deaths by firearms, the vast majority is criminals killing each other off* as criminals have always done, and as they always will until the ROOT CAUSES of crime are addressed. Until the "excuse" of gun availability is discredited, violent crime will continue unabated.

    *Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig (2000). "Chapter 2". Gun Violence: The Real Costs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513793-0.

    So if most gun deaths are suicides, and most of the remaining deaths are only among criminals, then let's be clear about how bad the problem really is among law abiding gun owners.

    And just to be clear, I'm not diverting. The reason this always happens is because you continue to say that the millions of hard working people who just want to be productive members of society and raise a family are responsible for a significant amount of gun violence.

  9. Joan-

    I object to two things in the above comment, but I must say, one of your better responses.

    1. "A good number"- You provide three examples, two of which are unquestionable cases of mental illness, and one religious extremist. Whether Major Hasan was mentally ill ("physician heal thyself") remains to be seen. I understand you can't provide every example available, nor would I want you to, but the pattern seems to be that mental illness is primarily at fault. With HIPAA (and accompanying fines in the tens of thousands of dollars) being on every provider's mind, it'll be a while before they learn to faithfully report those who truly shouldn't have firearms. It's something that needs addressing, and the way it's addressed could easily result in people NOT seeking psychiatric help or even counseling for fear of becoming a prohibited person for the rest of their lives.

    2. Jerod Loughner had a criminal record, he just didn't have felonies. More to the point, everyone knew he was a problem, but no one did anything about it. The response to a super creepy guy with a growing criminal resume needs to be clarified, but that really takes us back to mental illness.

    I disagree with classifying the mentally ill as "law-abiding".

  10. Anon- I am pretty sure you are wrong about the majority of homicides being criminals who kill each other but I am going to write about that soon.

  11. I actually agree that classifying Jared Loughner as law abiding is questionable but given our current laws and the inability to get those names to the FBI, how else to classify him? He was not on the radar of a lot of people and hadn't committed serious crime. He was known to be mentally unstable. But those who work in the field of mental illness and the mentally ill themselves, are reluctant to classify all in the same category and deny rights to all of those. This is a dicey issue and one with which we need to deal.

  12. Different gun shows have different policies. Almost any gun show I've been to, if you're bringing in a firearm for display or sale, it has to be inspected, verified it is not loaded, and tied off. Some are fine with carry pieces coming in loaded. Others demand all guns entering the show be inspected and tied off.

    But the reason for this is that gun shows are a place where people are going to be displaying but more importantly handling firearms, checking them out, and probably dry firing them. All it takes is one idiot coming in with a loaded gun, another idiot who assumes a gun handed to him is unloaded, and that dry fire is going to be a live fire. A negligent discharge at a gun show is going to make the news almost certainly, because it is not a common occurrence. On any given weekend there are hundreds of gun shows with tens of thousands of attendees happening around the country. The safety record is pretty stellar, generally, but every once in a while you get a couple of idiots.

    Your solution to that seems to be to treat everyone as being too irresponsible to be trusted. That doesn't strike me as being very conducive to a free society where the default is for the government to trust its citizens with adult responsibilities until they show good cause why they can't be.

  13. Anon- I am pretty sure you are wrong about the majority of homicides being criminals who kill each other but I am going to write about that soon.

    Also See this:

    "In Baltimore, about 91% of murder victims this year had criminal records, up from 74% a decade ago, police reported."

    "Philadelphia police Capt. Ben Naish says the Baltimore numbers are "shocking." Philadelphia also has seen the number of victims with criminal pasts inch up — to 75% this year from 71% in 2005."

  14. Baldr. Have you ever been to a gun show?

    There are hundreds of tables set up with thousands of weapons on them. There are thousands of people who attend and the sellers have no clue what sort of person is looking at the guns on the tables. If any of the guns were left loaded all sorts of people who have absolutely no clue about guns COULD handle the weapon.

    That said there as gun shows every single weekend across the US and the reason it is news when there is an accident is because it happens so rarely.

    I put it to you this way, why don't car dealers leave the keys in their cars during the day? Same reason people don't leave unattended guns laying around at a gun show. Idiots happen.

  15. It's a bit hypocritical for the pro-gun side to say that law-abiding gun owners are safe with their weapons and then have gun shows that disallow loaded weapons, or choose venues that don't allow it. But then, I'd say the organizers might just be recognizing a bit of common sense -- that weapons intended for killing might be unsafe if loaded in public.

    Close, but no cigar.

    It is not a safe practice to unnecessarily handle a firearm which is loaded, especially in a crowded area, with no safe backstop, when you're dealing with new weapons that have unfamiliar action types that you are intentionally working. That is the situation with most of the guns on display for sale or trade at a gun show.

    That is totally different from carrying a loaded handgun secured in a holster (preferably concealed). A modern handgun in a decent holster has approximately 0% chance of going off "all by itself." Overwhelmingly, negligent discharges involve poorly designed guns (like derringers), something getting inside the trigger guard and pulling the trigger (for example, carrying a handgun in one's pocket with a bunch of car keys and other junk rattling around, rather than being in a proper holster), operator error while handling, and so on. A holstered modern handgun is not going to go off by itself.

    I will point out that I have CCWd in gun shows even when they are posted "no loaded firearms." It is totally legally to do so in Alaska. If I'm asked to leave, then I will (trespassing is illegal). And I don't make contact -- even casual, friendly conversation -- with any law enforcement officers, because under AK law I need to report that I'm carrying immediately to a police officer upon contact with them. Which is a shame, as many law enforcement officers really have interesting perspectives on firearms and useful info to share. While CCWing my modern polymer framed pistol in a proper concealed holster, the risk of me having a ND is approximately zero. If I had to draw my sidearm, remove the magazine, and clear the chamber -- especially without a clearing barrel or other backstop -- the chance of a ND would be low but greater than zero--Any unnecessary handling of a weapon outside of its holster introduces the possibility of a ND.

    That is one reason why we dislike "Gun Free Zones." They induce people to handle their firearms more than necessary, often while trying to be discreet, so you get people fumbling around in the seat of their car or other confined spaces. They also encourage people to use off-body carry techniques (say, putting a gun in a purse or satchel) so that the gun is easier to lock up in your car if you're going to a Gun Free Zone. Unfortunately, off-body carry is also a way that guns get lost and stolen.

    Ironically, some of those "gun free zone" policies actually make people less safe! If I lived in a state where you actually had to abide by "gun free zone" signs on private commercial properties I might care more about gun show policies, and I'd probably support a more nuanced policy similar to that at our local Sportsman's Warehouse. In a nutshell: If a firearm is going to be handled, it needs to be unloaded, with the action open, and checked in at the front counter. If the firearm is a handgun that is going to stay holstered, then it can stay loaded.

    Again, a private business manages to come up with a nuanced, effective, safe policy that doesn't offend anyone and doesn't require intervention of state criminal law.

  16. So are you a law abiding citizen, Chris? Just wondering based on your comments here.

  17. "It is totally legally to do so in Alaska."

    As it is in most states. It just means they can ask you to leave, and if you don't THEN you've committed a crime. I'm sorry you had to find out that "gun free zone" signs carry exactly zero authority.

    As for avoiding police officers, you'd be surprised how many of them aren't familiar with every law in their jurisdiction. Not because they're bad cops necessarily, but because of the number and breadth of the laws.

    So it is often advisable not to invite the man into your life. That's the general consensus among cops anyway.

  18. Yes Joan. In Minnesota the law says building owners have certain rights in prohibiting gun possession in their buildings but it also gives permit holders rights too

    In Minnesota the sign has no real legal power, it is step one in the process. If I chose to shop at a store that is posted, I am perfectly legal to do so. However if I am verbally told by a representative of the store that guns are prohibited after they discover I am carrying, and I am there when the police show up, then I am at risk of a twenty five dollar tresspass ticket. I can not be forced to be disarmed or risk forfeiting my weapon UNLESS I get arrested. Which would take it to another level.

    So far in Minnesota we know of no one who has been issued a ticket for tresspass under the law in nearly 8 years of history.

    That would mean we are behaving and not getting into trouble. The fact that all the manor chains that operate in the State have not posted their stores because they understand the legal permited gun owner is not the threat.

  19. So are you a law abiding citizen, Chris? Just wondering based on your comments here.

    I know the concealed carry law in my state, and I comply with it. It may be different in your state.

    In my state, you can generally ignore "Gun Free Zone" signs posted by private individuals. You can also ignore signs posted by local municipal authorities unless they (A) have posted every entrance and (B) provide security checkpoints. The "no guns allowed" signs at a shopping mall, the state fairgrounds, and movie theaters have no force of law behind them.

    There is an exception for private residences; for any residence (posted or not), you must ask a responsible adult and get permission before entering the property with a concealed firearm. There are also some other caveats, like carrying in bars--but that is prohibited because its a bar, not because it may or may not be signed.

    Now, a private property owner can ask almost anyone to leave. Some Alaskans open carrying at a few businesses have been asked to leave, and they did so. That is why concealed carry means just that: concealed. If they don't want CCW, and they are serious about their policy, then they are welcome to search patrons or install metal detectors or other security devices. Regardless, if you don't leave immediately after being asked, then it becomes criminal trespass which is a crime.

    As far as avoiding LEOs -- in Alaska, if you are CCWing, you must notify a police officer that you are carrying as soon as you make contact with them. That is, as soon as you exchange more than two words; they don't need reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing for a contact (that's a detention). Contact can be as simple as "Nice weather out here today!" That was the cost for passing permit-less CCW.

    If I am carrying on private property which does not welcome firearms, then I don't want to advertise that I am carrying. Talking to a LEO about my CCW sidearm could get me asked to leave by the property owner. In fact, I don't like the law because it puts a barrier between me and my local law enforcement, and we're all on the same side. But that's the law, and the only way I can avoid it is by avoiding contact with Officer Friendly. It isn't a crime to avoid a conversation with a police officer.

    This isn't a course of action taken lightly, as I believe in respecting private property rights. For example, I never trespass on private land when I'm hunting or camping. However, if an establishment has a no-guns policy and refuses to provide security sufficient to detect my sidearm, then it is a facade only--how are they going to keep someone with ill intent out? Moreover, leaving guns in cars is a great way to get them stolen, and we've already talked about the small but measurable risks associated with unnecessary gun handling. Ultimately, the best course of action is just to be discreet, or leave the gun at home--and the latter is not an option I'm always willing to consider. And the law doesn't require me to.

    That's ultimately why concealed means concealed, and one reason why I don't open carry in town, even though it is also legal.

    Other states are different; in Texas I think you have to comply with "30-06" signs, for example. But just because you don't like something doesn't mean that its a crime.

  20. I avoid places with "no guns" signs just because I don't want to give them my money.