In the third part of our ongoing series on how to buy and sell a firearm, we will be discussing gun shows. Even if you’ve never been to a gun show, you probably have already heard a lot about them—from other gun owners, from friends and family, and maybe from the media. To some, “gun show” is a controversial word. In this article, we’ll cut through some of the rhetoric and misinformation and explain how sales at a gun show works.

Firstly, what is a gun show? The simple answer is that gun shows are a place for guns to be sold or bought, and where new gun owners can learn more about firearms. Gun shows are widely attended and draw in all types of gun owners, including those interested in firearms for defensive purposes, for hunting, shooting sports, recreation, or for their personal collection. These events are alive and vibrant with conversation, although a fair amount of visitors come just to get a glimpse of some rare or notable firearms on display. You’re not obliged to buy or sell anything at a gun show, but if you do, there are two types of sales: those that go through FFL dealers and private sellers.

We covered both those subjects in the previous two parts of this series:

Despite what some may say, there is no such thing as a “gun show loophole.” Sales through FFL dealers and private transactions at a gun show function exactly the same as they would outside of a gun show. Everyone still has to comply with all federal, state, and local laws without exception. Gun control advocates who push for “closing the gun show loophole” are actually proposing to ban private sales entirely. This means expanding background checks to any sale or trade of a firearm, in some cases even involving gifts or temporarily borrowing a firearm. Could you imagine going to an FFL dealer to run a background check every time you wanted to borrow your brother’s rifle for deer season?

Gun control supporters say that “closing the loophole” would reduce crime, but in actuality, gun shows only account for a minuscule amount of the firearms used in gun crime. According to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), federal studies showed that less than one percent of inmates incarcerated in state prisons for gun crimes acquired their firearms at a gun show. The majority of firearms used came from theft, the black market, or straw purchasers. Also, consider the fact that any convicted felon who so much as touches a firearm at a gun show is already in violation of federal law. The same as it would be for your neighborhood gun shop.

That is what gun shops essentially are: a bigger gun shop with more options, more people, and more things to see or do. If you are familiar with how to sell or buy from an FFL dealer or in a private sale, you already know how to conduct business at a gun show. Some general tips to approaching a gun show is to do your research beforehand. Know what you want, bring more cash than you think you need—some vendors don’t accept or charge a premium for credit cards—and know the law. Most importantly, relax and have some fun.

Can’t find a gun show near you? You’ll be able to find a selection of gun shows, and more besides at Simply scroll down to the bottom of the NRA’s homepage and enter your zip code into the map. You will also be able to filter for NRA programs, events, clubs and associations, places to shoot, and more.

To learn more about state and federal firearm laws, visit The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action website has a detailed list of laws and regulations for every state, as well as up-to-date news on firearm-related issues. If you’re curious about how your state’s laws on private firearm sales, or concealed carry laws, the NRA-ILA website will offer a wealth of information.

Image from M&R on the flickr Creative Commons

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7 thoughts on “Buying and Selling a Firearm: Gun Shows

  1. That was worse piece of nra propaganda lately, as really did not inform as to “private sales” at the shows. You owe it to those who read to at least be honest about what goes on, the rules or lack of on private sales AKA there is no background check in most cases,nor even a ID need be shown. No wonder sane gun laws folks get upset, Note been gun owner for decades and this sort of half truths has no business being used for spin, and could actually cause issues. Not anitgun, but sure wish stories such as this filled a whole bunch of missing truths about “private” sales.and background checks or lack of them, and horrible lies about “If you borrowed brothers gun etc” and needing check… Article sounds like something Goebbels would author for functionally illiterate..

    1. The series already ran previous articles about FFL and private sales and provided links to them. What half-truth are you referring to? Under several of the current state enacted universal background check laws, any transfer of a firearm is subject to a background check whether its permanent or not.

      Outdoor Hub doesn’t seem to allow the posting of links, so try looking up the headline “State’s new gun law prompts museum to remove WWII rifles.” November 18, 2014. It reports the following:

      “A small museum in Washington state is removing World War II-era weapons from an exhibit to avoid having to comply with a new voter-approved law requiring background checks on gun transfers. . . . The Lynden Pioneer Museum, near the Canadian border in the state’s northwest corner, wrote on its Facebook page that it would risk violating Initiative 594 to keep the 11 rifles past Dec. 4, when the law takes effect. The weapons will be returned to the collectors who lent them.”

      Please note the use of the term “lent.” Either you are naive and woefully uninformed, or you support the “sane gun laws folks” who are attacking law abiding gun owners every day while violent criminals pay no attention your “sane gun laws.” Just exactly who would those “sane gun law” folks be, anyway? Clinton? Bloomberg? Obama?

      Unless you are “functionally illiterate,” the information is pretty easy to find.

      1. Mikial, A lucid reply to a parroting diatribe by someone who has swallowed the lies, HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER, of the Lame stream media, Liberal democratic politicians, and the gullible uneducated common citizens.
        Those “SANE GUN LAWS” would absolutely require including the SENATORIAL GEM OF ALL TIMES.
        Sadly. That imbecilic idiot does NOT realize that because of the BILL of RIGHTS, The 2nd amendment guarantees ALL the others Including The 1st Amendment allowing her to spew her despicable garbage.

      2. Guntoter,

        Thank you, Sir, for your kind words. It’s really difficult not to let my anger and frustration at people like this guy launch me into a more heated response, but I do always try to provide some sort of evidence that they are not only mistaken, but not even living on the same planet as the rest of us. It’s this kind of either blind or actively malicious attitude that puts people like ‘Mrs. Turn them all in’ into power over us. And then once they realize they’re just as screwed as the rest of us they sit around wondering what went wrong. Frankly, with a name like “inform via truths,not fiction” he’s more like Goebbels than the people he’s attacking.

        Vote . . keep Clinton out of the White House. Retain control of the House and Senate, do not allow the confirmation of Obama’s SCOTUS nominee.

      3. Great series of articles. You should make YouTube videos on the subject – a great many would benefit.

      4. Wow, thank you very much.

        I guess I feel that people should understand their right to defend themselves and their loved ones. Nothing trumps that right. Nothing at all.

      5. Thank you . You do the best job in succinctly identifying, describing , and focusing intently on the errors and outright falsehoods perpetrated by some. Many seem as ordinary sane, lucid individuals, BUT, when guns are the subject of conversation, they lose all sensible cognition as to reality.

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