Gun-show 'loophole' is complicated issue

To the Contrary

Special to The HeraldDecember 20, 2008 

I don't think the author of Tuesday's editorial, "S.C. exports guns," is well enough informed on the subject matter, which would explain such a lopsided editorial. Background checks are required for purchases on guns sold at gun shows -- by licensed dealers only. Currently, anyone can rent a table at a gun show within the state and sell guns privately, no different from buying one from your neighbor -- no background check required, no laws broken.

Many people collect guns for a lifetime, then at some point decide to sell their collections for monetary reasons, and this can be done legally at gun shows, again with no laws broken. Same thing with "old hunters" who may give up the sport and just decide to sell their guns privately. (It's no different from running an ad in the classified sporting section of The Herald.) I don't remember The Herald ever requiring background checks for anyone listing a gun for sale in the classified section or requiring the sale of a gun to go through a licensed dealer.

Gun shows give the gun enthusiast a common place to congregate, search for collectibles and, yes, purchase guns and ammo at reasonable prices. Just like going to the Southern Living Show, antique shows, car shows, radio shows, etc.

As for "dealers," you are either a licensed dealer or you are not. All federally licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks for each sale, regardless of whether they are at a gun show or their place of business. In addition to a federal license to sell long guns, South Carolina goes one step further and requires a separate license to sell handguns in addition to the federal license. Several years ago, South Carolina went one step further again in prohibiting sales of cheap handguns with melting points of less than 800 degrees.

Background checks

Your editorial suggests that licensed dealers could perform background checks for others not licensed. Yes, that is done all the time. The seller must request it, but things are a bit more complicated than what you may think. If an individual wants to have a background check performed on an individual, he must turn the gun over to the dealer who would take the gun into inventory and record it on his books. The buyer would fill out the required form, then the dealer would begin the background check. If the buyer passes the background check, the sale can proceed. Either the buyer or the seller typically pays the dealer a fee for the service. After all, we spend all this money for legitimate licenses, and we are in business to make a little profit -- just like The Herald.

But just suppose the buyer cannot pass the background check. Then, to get the gun back, the seller now has to fill out the federal form and the dealer has to run a background check on him. If he passes, no problem. If the seller can't pass the background check, the gun now belongs to the dealer. Pawn brokers run into this problem at times, and they make a lot of money from guns pawned but never returned to the owner. This can be a good thing, particularly if you're the pawn broker, because now you have another gun for sale that cannot be returned to another person with an unsatisfactory background.

Gun 'exports'?

I'm aware of the report that some of your information came from, and when I first read about it, I thought, what a loose interpretation of the word "export." Your editorial makes it sound like South Carolina is in the business of making and selling illegal guns all over the world. We do have a fine manufacturing facility (FN) in Columbia that produces fine military and sporting arms, but I wouldn't put them in the same category as people who steal guns then sell them out of state or people who originally purchase guns in South Carolina move out of state then sell them privately, which is perfectly legal in most states.

After reading this, I felt like I did at the forum held at Winthrop University a year ago. So many people who had questions simply did not understand the laws in place concerning guns. The delegates from York County really shone on this issue, and any gun owner would have been proud to be a South Carolinian living in York County.

Despite the lack of supporting information on this editorial, I would like to commend Toya Graham on her article several months ago concerning the process for obtaining a Concealed Carry Weapons Permit. What better way to write about a subject than actually going through the process. She really did her homework.

Mike Janeski, a resident of Newport, has been a federally and state licensed gun dealer for 27 years.

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