Miguel over at The Gun Free Zone has a fisking of an article that’s really good, but there was one point I don’t think he explored thoroughly enough:
The catch is that the federal background check law is silent on sales brokered online and completed person-to-person when they are made by anyone other than a federally licensed gun dealer.
The law was created at a time when the expectation was that sellers typically knew the buyers personally. As a law-abiding citizen, a seller was essentially vouching that the other person was also a law-abiding citizen.
OK, history lesson boys and girls:
Waay back in prehistoric times before the internet was invented, they had these things called “Newspapers” that were published, in most places, every day. Even in rural communities they typically had a local paper even if it was only published once or twice a week.
Now these things were primarily used to share “news stories” so that the public could stay informed about what was going on in the world. Think about, say, Google news or the Daily Kos, only on paper.
But way in the back pages of the paper, usually just before the “funny pages” where they printed the cartoons for the day, there was a section called “classified ads”. If you had a piece of personal property to sell, you would pay the newspaper a few bucks and they’d put a listing of what you had for sale (usually along with your phone number) out there for public consumption.
Again, relating it to the Internet, think “Craigslist” or maybe even “eBay” but on paper.
Anyone who read the paper (and there were many people who only got the paper for the classified ads because many of us couldn’t afford to buy new things back then and buying used was the way to go) could call the number provided, set up a face to face meet, and pay cash money for whatever was for sale, no muss, no fuss.
So, contrary to the beliefs of the whipper-snapper in the story, it seems that buying used items (whether it be guns, or musical instruments, or cars, or washing machines) was actually a VERY common occurrence long before the internet was invented. In fact, I’d wager that methods for advertising such personal transactions existed before paper was invented. Humans have a unique ability to find creative ways to get things done with the resources at hand…that’s what drives innovation after all.
At any rate, the actual fact of the matter is, the drafters of the National Firearms Act of 1968 specifically exempted private individuals selling their personally owned property from the restrictions of the law for one primary reason:
At that time it was still politically expedient for government officials to at least pretend like they were still trying to work within the constraints placed upon them by the Constitution. To that end, they understood that the term describing the ability of a private citizen to sell, trade or otherwise transfer ownership of their own personal property to another private citizen without having to beg permission from the government first is actually “freedom”, not “a loophole”.
By the way, gun shows have been popular in the US since at least the 1950’s, so when the GCA of 1968 was being drafted, they were fully aware of the ramifications of declining to restrict private sales under the aegis of that law.