- Biden said Thursday, “you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.”
- Conservative media was quick to note that’s not always true; commercial sales require it.
- But private sellers, at gun shows and elsewhere, are indeed exempt under federal law.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
More than one-in-10 US gun owners have purchased a firearm without undergoing a federal background check, a loophole available to unlicensed private sellers that President Joe Biden wants to close.
“Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check,” Biden said Thursday in an address from the White House Rose Garden.
But that is not exactly true: commercial dealers at gun shows are subject to the same background-check requirements as elsewhere. Only those private sellers – people hawking guns they personally own – can currently evade this in most of the country, with just 16 states requiring all gun sales be accompanied by an investigation into the purchaser, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Conservative media pounced on Biden’s generalization. “Biden Falsely Claims Background Checks Aren’t Required At Gun Shows,” stated the Daily Caller, a far-right website.
“Joe Biden Lied About Gun Shows,” declared the National Review.
But “lied,” while making for a salacious headline, is a bit too strong, as the conservative magazine conceded in the body of another post on the controversy. “[P]rivate transfers,” including those at gun shows, “only require background checks in certain states,” it noted.
A 2009 paper released by the UC Davis School of Medicine drives this point home. A licensed retailer must ask someone purchasing a firearm for identification, ensure that the firearm is for personal use, record the sale, and submit the buyer’s information to the federal government. By contrast, “a private party, such as an unlicensed vendor or individual attendee at a gun show, can sell you that same gun – or as many guns as you want – and none of these federal safeguards will be in place.”
Little has changed: Gun shows remain a major forum for private sales, which continue to be largely exempt from background checks. Just now there is the internet, where no-question firearm purchases can be made from the comfort of one’s home.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, pressed on whether Biden’s statement was intended to be as sweeping as interpreted, pivoted to legislation the president supports. “He believes that background checks should be universal,” she said.
A bill currently before the US Senate would make that happen. But it would require 60 votes to pass, including the support of 10 Republicans; the “gun-show loophole,” at least at the federal level, is unlikely to be closed anytime soon.
Over 43,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2020, a majority suicides, the highest number in more than 20 years.