Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Second Hand Private Gun Sales - How to do it right

A lot of hullabaloo is made about the so-called "gun show loophole." This is a law in some states that allows non-dealers who sell at gun shows to sell firearms without conducting a background check on the buyer. Licensed dealers always have to perform the check. In Oregon a "gun show" is legally defined as any place where 25 or more guns are available for purchase. But in this state, there is no "gun show loophole." If you sell at a gun show you must do a background check. Here's the statute that says so:

166.433 Findings regarding transfers of firearms. The people of this state find that:

(1) The laws of Oregon regulating the sale of firearms contain a loophole that allows people other than gun dealers to sell firearms at gun shows without first conducting criminal background checks;

(2) It is necessary for the safety of the people of Oregon that any person who transfers a firearm at a gun show be required to request a criminal background check before completing the transfer of the firearm; and

(3) It is in the best interests of the people of Oregon that any person who transfers a firearm at any location other than a gun show be allowed to voluntarily request a criminal background check before completing the transfer of the firearm.

I happen to agree with this law for the simple reason that people at shows are generally selling to strangers. You should not sell a gun to a stranger without doing a background check on who they are. Sorry, but that's just common sense. There are no rights without responsibilities; and showing responsibility is the first step in preserving a right. Gun owners have the right to possess and to transfer firearms, but they should also exercise some judgment and use the resources available to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals as much as that is possible. I don't pretend background checks are going to stop gun crime or gun buys on the street from burglaries or illegal unlicensed dealers. But it might stop some purchases, and that makes it okay with me to spend a little extra time and money that might save a life.

I've sold guns in the past. I've bought guns from non-dealers and accepted presents from non-dealers. I've bought guns I later gave as gifts. In all these transactions the common thread was that the person giving the gun and the person getting the gun knew each other well. No background check was necessary or would have served any purpose.

In Oregon there is no requirement that you conduct a background check when a non-dealer sells to a non-dealer. To me that makes sense--it's stupid for me to have to run a background check on my dad or he on me if we exchange guns as gifts. The state and public have no compelling interest in this. If I were a felon or if my dad were, then we shouldn't be selling guns. But the point is I'm already 100% sure he's not, and vice versa. (Even Sarah Brady bought her son a rifle without doing a background check, so there!)

Some gun rights advocates also believe that requiring state approval for all gun transfers is the first step to a registration list, which in turn is seen as the first step to confiscation. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The events of the New Orleans police in 2005 are still shocking enough for me to know rights aren't always as secure as we think. So no, I don't support tracking all secondary sales. Philosophically, I think gun owners should--and have a duty--to take care in the distribution of firearms on their own. Owning a gun is partially about self-reliance and self-responsibility. So let's see some: know who you're selling to or don't make the sale.

If you do want to sell a firearm in Oregon to a stranger, and you want to do the right thing by finding out if they are eligible to own a firearm; here's what you need to do:
  1. Have the buyer with you.
  2. Be sure the buyer has government issued ID with a picture.
  3. Call the Oregon state police firearms unit at 1 800 432 5059.
  4. Read off the information on the government ID.
  5. Provide the buyer's date of birth, race, sex and address.
  6. Pay a $10 fee, Visa or Master Card accepted. : )
That's it. These rules are laid out in Oregon statute 166.436 Firearm transfers by persons other than gun dealers; criminal background checks authorized; liability.

I doubt this is as simple as it sounds for a couple of reasons. First, it was very difficult to find this information. The information is not listed on the state police website or on my local law enforcement websites. This leads me to believe that in spite of the available service, nobody or at least darn few people are conducting background checks. (Let me know if I'm wrong, please. I hope I am.)

Second, when I got a call back from the state police in answer to my questions about this, the officer noted that the buyer should be present with me at the time I make the call. Okay . . . but what if they are turned down? What if the policeman on the phone mentions there are outstanding warrants for the person standing next to me in my kitchen? Talk about awkward.

For these reasons, I think it would be prudent in any discussion on the phone or internet prior to a meeting to let potential buyers know you are going to make the background check on them before they ever come by to see the firearms. That ought to take care of most felons. Also don't meet them alone. Again, common sense.

In addition to being socially responsible, another very good reason for taking the time to do this background check is to absolve yourself of liability. In 166.436, Sec 7 (a), the law reads:

Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection, a transferor who receives notification under this section that the recipient is qualified to complete the transfer of a firearm is immune from civil liability for any use of the firearm from the time of the transfer unless the transferor knows, or reasonably should know, that the recipient is likely to commit an unlawful act involving the firearm.

If protecting the public isn't good enough reason for you, then protecting yourself ought to be. The fact is, the more responsible gun owners are about controlling the transfer of weapons through such measures as conducting voluntary background checks and keeping guns locked in secure locations when they are not under our immediate control, the less ammunition we give to those seeking to abridge our rights or to saddle us with absurd regulations such as requiring background checks on our parents or childhood friends.


Anonymous said...

Thank You!!! This is the most well thought out guide for Oregon I've found, and the first time I actually found the OSP 1-800 number, which I've been surfing the web for a while now looking for.


Anonymous said...

Laws, laws, laws, how many do you want. Yes, we need to make sure a nut case is not going to be able to buy a handgun, rifle... However, your fooling yourself if you think that this law is going to make a big difference. We can't seem to inforce the laws that we have, much less try to inforce this one. If they get that Data base (medical records), God help us all, say good bye to freedom!

brian r said...

I would probably oppose a law making it mandatory to call in a background check on a private party sale, but I commend those who do so voluntarily. I have sold multiple guns private party, and never conducted a back ground check. However, I will definitely consider doing so in the future.

Anonymous said...

No where in our Constitution is there any language that stipulates we are free through inalienable right to possess a firearm that has been registered or that we have to pass a background check to obtain. Americans better wake up - as our Founders stated - we need to be alarmed at the FIRST surpation of our liberties

Anonymous said...

i am a supporter of the constitution and the NRA, fuck the brady bill the government just wants to keep tabs on who has guns so they know whos doors to knock on when the time comes to take them away.good luck with that i will be wearin my kevlar

LB said...

Progressive gun control.I'll only put it in a little bit. It won't hurt. I love you. Change , hope redistribution of wealth, government health care, transparency,change. I'll keep 1 gun and try to keep my last dollar from you communists. Take your hope and change back to your jackass convention. Kick up your heals and each others brains out if you can find any. LB

brian r said...


My how eloquently stated your comment is. Thanks for the very meaningful input.

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