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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Only 54 Voluntary Background Checks at Gun Shows in First Year of Law

For years, the gun ban lobby has claimed that gun shows are a bazaar for criminals to buy guns without background checks.  Because there is no way to know exactly how many private sellers actually sell a firearm at a gun show, they have used hidden video taken of unsuspecting sellers in an attempt to show how "easy it is for a criminal to buy a gun at a gun show."  They claim that private sellers pay for space at a gun show to sell a table full of guns.  More likely it is the guy who walks in with a rifle or shotgun over his shoulder with a "For Sale" sign in the muzzle, and often the same guy walks out with the gun after not having found a buyer.

So, when Virginia passed a law stationing state police at all gun shows to conduct voluntary background checks on private sales as part of a deal that ended Attorney General Mark Herring's attack on concealed carry reciprocity, it offered an opportunity to get a glimpse of the private sales picture at gun shows.  The numbers are less than overwhelming.  From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
During the first full year of the measure ending June 30, only 54 voluntary background checks were requested by private sellers of firearms or their customers at 77 gun shows across the state. And of those, only one prospective gun buyer was denied the purchase of a gun, and he was never charged with an offense.

By comparison, 39,738 mandatory criminal background checks were performed by federally licensed firearms dealers on their customers at gun shows between July 1, 2016, and June 30, resulting in 325 denials, according to newly released data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which is operated by the Virginia State Police. 
This doesn't mean that there are only 54 private sellers that have sold firearms at gun shows.  It just means that at least 54 sellers wanted to make sure their buyer was able to own a firearm.  A better picture is presented in Colorado, which requires background checks on all private sales.  When that law was passed, it was predicted that 420,000 new background checks would be conducted in the first year.  But after one year, only a fraction of that number - 13,600 - had been conducted.  In Washington State, after the passage of I-594, a ballot initiative that required background checks on all private sales, approximately 6000 private sales had taken place after the first 14 months of the law.

The gun ban lobby exaggerates the number of private sales at gun shows simply to push their agenda.  The numbers however don't support the claims, whether it is in Colorado and Washington where mandatory checks are required, or even with voluntary checks in Virginia, it's more about pushing an agenda than doing something that will actually reduce crime, like locking up criminals.

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