Reason Roundup

Contrary to What Biden Says, Gun Show Sales Aren't Exempt From Background Checks

Plus: GOP gender policing in North Carolina, marijuana legalization mistakes, and more...


Setting the record straight on gun show sales. In announcing new gun control plans yesterday, President Joe Biden commented on alleged loopholes in gun background checks. "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," according to Biden.

Multiple fact-checkers have taken issue with this claim.

The Washington Post fact-check team notes that federally licensed gun show sellers are indeed required to conduct background checks on buyers and to "file substantial paperwork." You can check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) guidance for gun show sellers here.

Some people do try to circumvent these rules by pretending they are not actually in the business of selling guns. However, "gun dealers who pretend to be gun hobbyists but actively trade guns at gun shows are prosecuted," point out the Post's Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo. "It's also against federal law to sell a gun to any person you have reasonable cause to believe is a prohibited person, such as a felon."

Politifact also took issue with Biden's statement. Fact-checkers Louis Jacobson and Amy Sherman point out that:

When it comes to background checks for gun purchases, what matters is who sells the guns, not where the guns are sold — and when a federally licensed seller is a vendor at a gun show, they have to run a background check just as they would if they were back at a bricks-and-mortar gun store.

What matters is if the seller is in the business of selling guns—in which case they must be licensed by the feds and must conduct background checks or else they're already running afoul of the law—or a private seller who just happens to be selling a gun. More from Politifact:

Specifically, the law says that a license is required if "a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms."

The law specifically rules out a required license if a person "makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms."

The administration defended Biden's comments by saying that it is possible for someone to buy a gun at a gun show without being subject to a background check. This is true but misleading, since it's possible for someone to buy a gun anywhere from a private seller and not be background checked; gun shows aren't the issue.

"Biden's phrasing can leave the impression that no background checks are required at gun shows," notes the Post. "Our colleagues at PolitiFact labeled Biden's statement as 'mostly false.' We would lean more toward 'half true,' (i.e., Two Pinocchios) given how Biden's statement could be misinterpreted."

On Thursday, Biden announced six new actions related to gun control. Reason's Jacob Sullum goes into detail about Biden's proposals here.

As is to be expected, these measures—including new restrictions on the sale of gun kits and the appointment of anti-gun activist David Chipman to lead the ATF—have raised a lot of praise from progressives and a lot of consternation from conservatives and libertarians.

One especially worrying development is Biden's attention to private gun sellers. Biden alone can't do much to change the rules surrounding gun gifting and sales between individuals. But he is throwing support behind legislation that would clamp down on such exchanges.

"Many Democrats and gun control advocates now want almost all sales and transfers to face a mandatory review," including sales and transfers "between friends and extended family," notes the Associated Press. "Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator on guns, said he's been on the phone with Republican colleagues every day 'making the case, cajoling, asking my friends to keep an open mind'" about this proposal and also told the A.P. that Biden was "ready and willing to get more involved."


Republican gender policing efforts get more extreme. "A handful of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want to force school officials to monitor kids for signs of any genderbending and to snitch on them to their parents," Reason's Scott Shackford reports:

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Ralph Hise (R–Spruce Pine), Warren Daniels (R–Morganton), and Norman Sanderson (R–Minnesott Beach), orders school officials and child welfare workers to notify parents or guardians in writing whenever a minor under their supervision "has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor's sex."

In other words, the aim here isn't to "protect" struggling teens who have doubts about their gender identities from making life-changing decisions too soon. The bill sets out to police gender conformity. By its very nature, it will target gays and lesbians as well as trans kids—and opens the door to surveilling boys and girls who are neither gay nor trans but simply don't manifest typical masculine or feminine traits.


"States keep repeating the same mistake with marijuana legalization," complains Slate. That mistake: making it too complicated to open and operate a legal business, leading to the legal marketplace being dominated by large, multi-state weed conglomerates.

Increasingly, a group of larger companies known as multistate operators, or MSOs, dominate the industry. While still small compared with, say, liquor companies, the largest MSOs have dozens of stores and hundreds of millions in annual revenue. Leading MSOs such as Curaleaf, Cresco Labs, and Columbia Care have raised money by going public in Canada.

Left behind are mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, including those who could benefit from equity programs. In the mainstream economy, entrepreneurs of color often struggle to access capital, but in the cannabis world, the entire industry is locked out of the financial system. Some banks are willing to quietly work with pot companies and charge them high fees, but smaller businesses can't afford this option.


• The latest on the George Floyd murder trial:

The prosecution in Derek Chauvin's murder trial argues that the former Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd by pinning him facedown to the pavement for nine and half minutes. In that position, prosecutors say, Floyd could not breathe enough to stay alive. Today expert witnesses reinforced that account, saying the evidence indicates that Floyd—who complained 27 times that he was having trouble breathing—died from lack of oxygen.

• Biden hedges on getting troops out of Afghanistan by May 1.

• Kat Murti and I debunk myths about women, work, and the pandemic.

• Tennessee joins 18 other states that allow permit-free carry: