The Gollum of Gun Control

First of all, let me state that I support gun ownership and the second amendment. If you wanna own a gun, good on you brother/sister. There are plenty of reasons someone may want to own one, collecting, hunting, protection, etc. Personally, guns are not my trip but if you wanna own one, fine. You should be allowed to.

Now, do I think you should own a war weapon? No. I don’t see a need for that. And I couldn’t see a need to fight for someone to have the right to own one (unless we end up living in some sort of world like in the movie The Purge…given our current trajectory, it seems possible). 

Like many people, I’ve written about the need to have a gun control conversation in this country and I am glad it seems to be moving in that direction. It sure came at an awfully high price, but it seems a discussion is starting. And that’s good. BUT, given the talk about arming teachers as one of the viable solutions (not surprisingly, the one favored by the wing nuts at the National Rifle Association), you’ll pardon my cynicism if I don’t necessarily believe it may actually lead to anything.

But when we talk of gun reform, it seems to me that any recognition of sales at gun shows is absent.

We can talk about making changes to gun laws, creating more stringent background checks and maybe, just maybe, eliminating automatic weapons or devices that can create automatic weapons. And that would be incredible. I have to admit that arming teachers is really not a good idea. I honestly can’t wrap my head around the logic on that one.

For the moment, I’ll forego any discussion about the mischaracterization of “mental health” issues other than saying, depression or bi-polar disorder are not likely drivers in mass killing and neither is schizophrenia (+/- 8% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia are violent). Mental health IS certainly an issue but not as it relates to much of the gun violence we have seen. I would argue that there has been a cultural and societal tectonic shift that has taken place over the last 40 years that has had much more of an impact than “mental health” issues…but that discussion is for another day. 

Admittedly, I try to shy away from most news. It’s just too depressing or angering and it seldom informs. Frankly, it gives me anxiety. But in the things I have seen and read about since the Parkland massacre, I’ve not really heard anyone mention gun shows when discussing gun reform. And any reform should include gun shows because the reality is they are dangerous as hell.

If we, God willing, come to institute new gun laws we should not exclude, ignore or disregard gun shows. That would be like handing Charlie Sheen a kilo of cocaine and setting him free in a whorehouse. Which is to say, a bad idea.

So you may be wondering “What’s the big deal about gun shows, I’ve never seen one by me or where I grew up. Are they really a big deal?” I guess consider yourself lucky? I don’t know. I’ve seen them my entire life. And yea, they’re kind of a big deal.

Think of a gun show as an artisanal flea market…but instead of candles, vintage clothes and handmade jewelry there are knives, guns and a shit ton of right-wing militia paraphernalia (and if you’re lucky, some Nazi crap). 

The reality is that there are +/- 5,000 gun shows annually. BUT to be fair, in 2007 the United States Department of Justice said that the number of gun shows in the U.S. ranged from 2,000 to 5,200. Which is quite a range and I have to admit I find it alarming there is no concrete data about the number of gun shows (that’s a flag as to just how little gun shows are monitored).

But I promise you, gun shows are not like unicorns, just because you may have never seen one, I assure you, they’re out there and they are not heavily restricted (which is to say the gun shows are pretty unrestricted because unicorns don’t exist).

Purchasing a gun in a gun shop that has a Federal Firearms License (FFL) is regulated and does require record keeping, a waiting period, etc. And those that do have a FFL are allowed to sell at gun shows and must adhere to the same guidelines as they normally would. And by all accounts (gun shows fly very far below the radar so statistics are hard to come by) 50-75% of gun show sales tables have a FFL (at least that was true in 1999). And only buyers that live in the state of the gun show are allowed to purchase handguns (but in such an unrestricted environment, I’m not entirely sure there are a lot of scruples among freelance gun sellers).

I mean, I personally find that statistic a little troublesome but I could see how a gun advocate might argue that isn’t all that bad, “The majority of sellers at a gun show have a license!” However factual it may be, I still disagree, but I can see the argument.

So let’s presume that 75% of a gun show is populated by people selling arms with a Federal Firearms License. What about that 25%?

You see, I could (and I am certain some enterprising person already has) take a chunk of money, go out and jump through all the hoops and legally purchase a small arsenal of guns. Interestingly, there is no federal limit to the amount of guns someone can purchase at one time, the quantity allowed is determined on a state level. In my state of CT, a background check is required for all firearm transfers at gun shows but oddly does not limit the number of firearms purchased at one time (some states do have a one gun per 30 day limit, but that hardly seems foolproof). 

In theory, I could take the arsenal of legally purchased guns, find a local gun show (there is a website that shows you all of them but I won’t link to it), rent a sales table at the gun show for anywhere from 100-400 dollars, line up my LEGALLY purchased arsenal and begin selling firearms (at a mark up of course). BAM, I’m in business selling guns, legally…to anyone of age (or identification saying they are of age). I may not have to do a background check (I would in CT), my customers wouldn’t have to wait to take their gun and I wouldn’t be legally required to maintain a document of the sale. From where I sit, that looks an awful lot like a sanctioned black market.

It’s like going to that artisanal flea market and buying a candle…but it would be a gun.

Personally, I think it should be a little more difficult to purchase a gun than a candle.

At least from what I have seen, the NRA has been conspicuously silent since the Parkland massacre (aside from again kicking up the inane idea of arming teachers) and I can assure you that is not out of respect. I think they know the gig is up, but they are some crafty (and heartless) fuckers, those NRA folks. So they’re up to something, rest assured. And odds are it ain’t good.

They are, without a doubt, plotting how to work around any forthcoming gun reform. And I’d bet that they are hoping that gun shows continue to be ignored and get excluded from any reform. I would argue they have already begun their strategy and wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t already started greasing those wheels “Fine, Senator Shitfuck, vote for your gun reform but you better leave gun shows alone or better yet, don’t close that loophole and you better lessen gun show restrictions when you write the actual bill. Here’s your 200k, now bend over and squeal like a pig. SQUEAL!”

And politicians will take the NRA money (because politicians are mostly greedy, soulless and spineless weasels), vote for some kind of reform (God willing) and bray from the mountain top that they did something great. But because gun shows fly so far below the radar, without gun shows being part of any reform, the only thing they will have really done is create a more robust gun show environment.

While I do believe any gun reform is good gun reform, I feel (and fear) in the long run it would end up being pretty toothless without the inclusion of gun shows.

The bottom line is that ANY gun reform discussion MUST include gun shows and we should not settle for anything less.

** Just as a note, roughly six months since the Las Vegas massacre, the city is hosting the largest gun trade show less than three miles from where the massacre took place. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, Las Vegas was always pretty tactless.