The gun show loophope: could private sellers close it voluntarily?

Don’t need an answer fast.

It’s my understanding that, when a licensed firearms dealer sells a gun, he has to run an instant background check with some authority, and that authority either confirms that the buyer is legally allowed to buy the gun, or is not allowed to buy the gun.

What I am curious to know is this: could a private seller who wants to sell off one of his guns voluntarily contact the same people to make sure he wasn’t selling to a prohibited person? Or even call someone like the county sheriff or local police department?

I have been seeing this in action lately, but not at gun shows.

I’m a member of a couple of gun selling/trading/bartering groups on facebook and it has become common practice for people to do quick background checks via the Wisconsin Circuit Court access website and other means before completing a sale. It’s not perfect, but it is something.

I’ve seen several deals canceled after it turned out that a buyer was a felon or convicted domestic abuser and usually the seller posts a warning to other potential sellers.

Has a private gun seller ever been prosecuted for selling a gun to someone who was obviously mentally challenged and who then committed a heinous crime with that gun?

Doubtful, who is “obviously mentally challenged”? I can’t tell from sight if a person is violently psychotic or can’t be trusted to own a firearm. I’m sure if a person is drunk, 8 years old, or yelling about shooting people they hate you might be liable if someone witnessed you selling it. But I can’t tell if a person has a speech impediment or superficial physical deformity and I doubt a gun dealer could either.

This article cites wrongful death lawsuits (though no indication if any suit won) against people who sold guns later used in murders:

There’s a difference between being sued and being prosecuted though.

A friend of mine works in a gun store and they were sued by the family of a guy who bought a gun and then killed himself with it. The family alleged that the store employee should have recognized that the guy was “obviously” depressed.

The gun store lawyers argued that store employees are not psychologists, the guy was acting normal and they had no reason to refuse the sale.

Suit dismissed.

I’m sure the law concerning the transfer of firearms varies from state to state.
In Oregon, if I want to transfer ownership of a firearm to someone who is not an immediate family member a background check must be performed, but I can’t do it. We have to get a FFL holder to do the check.
At least that’s my understanding.

On the other hand, a number of law enforcement officials in Oregon have publicly stated that they will not pursue anybody doing a private sale in their jurisdiction. So some people (who are not me) have just gone ahead as if that law didn’t exist.

If such were available to me, I would use it. In addition to the possibility of selling to someone who shouldn’t have a gun, there is a security issue…where the “buyer” shows up armed and just takes the gun. And of course this is very dangerous because the “buyer” knows the seller is showing up with at least one gun, so may have an itchy trigger finger. If the prospective new owner knows that his personal information is known ahead of time, it might discourage foul play.


People do that ALL THE TIME. Well, not literally all the time. But it’s extremely common, whether at gun shows or not.

Almost any FFL, and certainly any actual gun store, will transfer a gun for a private seller for a small fee. The dealer calls the sale in to the same system they would if they were selling one of the store’s guns.

Not criminally prosecuted AFAIK, but there is a recent law suit over one

But a private seller has to pay the FFL, and then get the gun buyer to turn over the information needed to make the check. I assume this includes fingerprints or SSN, right?

So in practice this means the private seller makes less money, takes longer to close the sale, and the buyer may back out as they are unwilling to part with their SSN/fingerprints, even if they have a clean record.

Or you can just accept cash and hand over the gun in 30 seconds. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Not if it happens locally and doesn’t cross state lines. In the case I linked to the seller was only 20 minutes away. Wisconsin, like most states, allows private sales cash and carry. Unless the plaintiffs can show the seller had some reason to believe the buyer was up to no good I don’t see how they can hold him accountable. He didn’t break any laws as far as I can tell.

SSN but and ID showing who you are but no fingerprints… or some FFL is in a lot of trouble from my one gun purchase.

The system to do background checks is NICS, and AFAIK you need a FFL (01?) in order to access it. Some private sellers may request a CYA such as a state ID or signed statement saying that they are a legal buyer.

OP: not sure if you know but you don’t outright state: there is nothing special about gun shows, and this applies to any private sale. Gun shows are just places to [del]pay huge markups for crap[/del] meet and find buyers.

It is neither their responsibility nor area of expertise to do a psychological screening of their customers. They have the right to refuse a sale for any reason and many will do so. A common reason might be if a customer intimates that they are buying it on behalf of someone else who may not be legally allowed to buy (straw purchase).

That usually costs money, from $15 to more than $100 in some places. And the OP is asking about something else. Some places let you do it for free if you have a CCW but it isn’t universal and also that costs money to get.

No fingerprints federally. SSN is optional, but if you share a name with someone else then supplying it can reduce the chance of getting falsely rejected.

Actually, in that scenario the buyer pays for the check. The seller simply insists upon the check happening. Why would the seller agree to incur the cost of a NICS check?

For the record, I have never sold a firearm, but if I did I would require a check prior to transfer even if it wasn’t required simply to ease my own conscience. As a general rule, people who are not allowed to own one by law won’t pass the check and will therefore back out of a sale if they can’t pass the check, so insisting upon one, even if you never actually follow through with it, will deter that segment of the population.

And for the record, your SSN is not required on the BATFE Form 4473 though it may delay approval, and fingerprints are not required at all.

Fundamental principles of economics. Any kind of optional fee or tax like that ends up coming from the bottom line of the seller.

To see why this is so, think about what happens when 2 sellers at a gun show are trying to sell an identical rifle. Seller A : “Over here. AR-15, $800, hand over the cash and it’s yours”. Seller B : “AR-15, $800, plus a $50 fee to my FFL and you’re going to need to wait for your background check”.

Seller B is offering the same good for $50 more. Buyers aware of the choice will overwhelmingly prefer seller A. These interactions average out and $800 becomes the market price for the good, thus, seller B must sell his rifle at the market price, including that FFL fee. Except it’s worse than that. Even if seller B reduces his cut to $750 and pays the FFL fee himself, nobody will choose to pay $800 to receive a rifle after an intrusive background check that involves contacting the government if they can have it for cash without paperwork.