President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden realize that there is a narrow window in which to press the issue of gun control within the United States. The public and Congress’ attention span isn’t generously lengthy and it often helps to railroad gun control bills through while public outcry over gun homicides and questionable firearm ownership protocol is still relatively high.
Recent Events and Preliminary Promises
In the wake of the Connecticut Sandy Hook school shooting, Vice President Biden has voiced the consensus view among liberals looking to regulate the ins and outs of acquiring lethal firearms. The Vice President is working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to find ways to achieve the following preliminary goals: limit or highly regulate the availability of certain weapons; subject ammunition to more thorough databases; limit the number of rounds in a magazine; and, scrutinize the safety, legality, and efficacy of guns shows and background checks for mental illness or criminal history.
Gun Shows and The Constitution
The ubiquity and fervor surrounding gun shows is uniquely an American phenomenon. Gun shows are essentially exhibitions in which firearms, ammunition, literature, knives, and militaria are purveyed to the public for a limited time. The ATF recently estimated that 5,000 gun shows occur in the United States annually, and up to 1,000 guns are quickly sold at those shows over a two day period.
The controversy surrounding gun shows stems from the lack of background checks and unknown origin of many of the guns distributed at these shows. The ATF claims that gun shows are a breeding ground for illegally trafficked weapons whereas the NRA assures people that guns shows are constitutional and good for the community. The truth, perhaps, lies somewhere in between these two extremes.
Although the second amendment enshrines the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, there are some very nuanced laws surrounding gun shows. These laws may come under more intense fire in the coming months. Current US federal law states that interstate commerce involve firearms requires the seller to hold a Federal Firearms License and perform thorough background checks, through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, before distributing guns. Here’s the catch: when the guns are sold in one state over a short period of time (most gun shows are two days in duration), the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 says that background checks or purchase records are not required. This has radical implications for the sale and tracking of guns, as thousands of guns are distributed every year at gun shows.
East Versus West
On one side of the aisle is President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who would very much like background checks and databasing of firearms and certain ammunition, and, on the other side, is the NRA and clout of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. The latter currently holds sway but the left-wing and Obama would like to alter this situation by closing the loophole for gun shows by which temporary sales of firearms and ammunition do not require background checks or the tracking of records of sale.
This issue is only crescendoing now, though, as it has been around for at least a decade. Even in 2009, House Representatives Michael Castle and Carolyn McCarthy introduced a bill entitled, “Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2009.” The act only had a few cosponsors but it lead to awareness about legal issues surrounding gun shows. Since 2009, seven states (e.g., Illinois and New York) require background checks at all gun shows and 17 states track and regulate the sale of firearms at gun shows.
The Future of Gun Shows
While gun shows remain controversial, there isn’t any technical violation of federal law when gun shows are conducted within one state and over two days. Since 1986, background checks and sale records have not been required on these types of gun shows. Joe Biden and Barack Obama would like to change these laws surrounding gun shows and limit perceived loopholes involving the sale and distribution of firearms and ammunition.
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Bob Farley is a gunsmith who specializes in crafting historical replicas and restoring antique firearms. He also contributed to the Best Online Gunsmith Training Schools for people interested in learning the skills required to become a gunsmith.