An often misunderstood issue is the concept of Gun Shows and the “Gun Show Loophole.”
In order to “deal in firearms”, a person or entity must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL.) The term “Dealer” applies to:
-Any person engaged in the business of selling firearms wholesale or retail; or
-Any person engaged in the business of repairing firearms, or of making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms; or
-Any person who is a pawnbroker.
“Licensed Dealers” are dealers who are licensed under federal law. The distinction between who is a dealer and who is not is important as it relates to the transfer of firearms because a person who falls under the definition of a Dealer could be subject to criminal penalties for transferring a firearm if they do not obtain the proper licensing first. The key concept in differentiating who is a dealer required to obtain a license, and who is not is whether or not the person is “Engaged in the Business” of dealing in firearms. “Engaged in the Business” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(11)(A) as “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 phrase “with the principal objective of livelihood and profit” means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominately one of obtaining livelihood and pecuniary gain.
Despite all of this, the GCA does not require a person to be a licensed dealer if they make occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection, for a hobby, or sells all, or part of their personal collection of firearms. Practically, this means that one private party may sell directly to another private party, so long as the seller does not have knowledge that the buyer is a person prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. No paperwork is required to make the sale. However, if an individual transfers a firearm through a private sale, and does not track the sale on Form 4473, then the firearm will be traced back to the seller if the firearm is subsequently used in the commission of a crime. In this situation, a seller would be wise to track the sale on Form 4473. A private seller must be very careful and not cross the line into “ dealing” without a license.
Private transfers are often referred to as the “Gun Show Loophole.” Realistically, far more private transfers are arranged online than at gun shows. Sites like Gunbroker.com and Armslist.com exist for this specific purpose. Gun shows are far more regulated than private transfers made through an online agreement. Often, gun shows have regulations that vendors and attendees must follow in order to satisfy the gun show operator’s liability insurance regulations. Also, many law enforcement officers are also gun hobbyists, and are likely to be among show attendees.
North Carolina General Statute 14-402 makes the sale of certain weapons without permit forbidden:
It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation in this State to sell, give away, or transfer, or to purchase or receive, at any place within this State from any other place within or without the State any pistol unless:
(i) a license or permit is first obtained under this Article by the purchaser or receiver from the sheriff of the county in which the purchaser or receiver resides; or
(ii) a valid North Carolina concealed handgun permit is held under Article 54B of this Chapter by the purchaser or receiver who must be a resident of the State at the time of the purchase.
It is unlawful for any person or persons to receive from any postmaster, postal clerk, employee in the parcel post department, rural mail carrier, express agent or employee, railroad agent or employee within the State of North Carolina any pistol without having in his or their possession and without exhibiting at the time of the delivery of the same and to the person delivering the same the permit from the sheriff as provided in G.S. 14-403. Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
This section does not apply to an antique firearm as defined in G.S. 14-409.11 or an historic edged weapon as defined in G.S. 14-409.12