How the Senate’s bipartisan gun bill would affect firearm buyers and sellers in NC

·3 min read

One key provision of the compromise gun legislation approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday night effectively expands background checks on potential gun buyers by changing the definition of who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms.

More people who sell firearms will need to register to become Federally Licensed Firearm dealers, and licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks.

Will the change be effective?

Gun dealer Ricky Barbour of Maverick Gunworks in Mebane said the bill would be added regulation on a law that already requires licensed sellers like him to conduct background checks on all buyers.

“The purpose I’d say of (this bill)... looks to me like it’s to prevent people from selling, in theory, used guns, their personal guns, without having a legal license,” Barbour said in a phone interview. “That law is not going to change whether they sell it to someone illegally or not. People who are illegally getting guns or can’t have guns legally ... they’re going to get them regardless.”

Barbour pointed out that his store was broken into two years ago and 12 guns were stolen.

“I think there will be less people willing to sign up (for a license),” he said, “because that’s not an easy task to start with. At the same time, those people will be bringing their guns to stores like mine to try to sell them.”

Gun stores like Maverick Gunworks can sell guns on consignment and conduct background checks on behalf of sellers.

Closing the “gun show loophole”?

The current legal definition of a gun dealer is someone who sells guns ‘‘with the principal objective of livelihood and profit.’’ The new law changes that definition to someone seeking ‘‘to predominantly earn a profit.”

This definition means someone primarily concerned with making a profit rather than other intentions, like improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection. But it also applies to people who sell smaller numbers of guns — enough to earn a profit but not necessarily to earn a living.

A customers checks out a handgun at Fuquay Gun & Gold in Fuquay-Varina Monday, Jan. 25, 2020. Gun sales have soared across the Triangle in the wake of recent protests and a change in the presidential administration.
A customers checks out a handgun at Fuquay Gun & Gold in Fuquay-Varina Monday, Jan. 25, 2020. Gun sales have soared across the Triangle in the wake of recent protests and a change in the presidential administration.

This provision aims to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows unlicensed private sellers to sell guns without performing background checks on buyers.

Brady United, a national organization in favor of gun control, says on its website that unlicensed sellers peddle firearms online “unregulated and unchecked” thanks to the loophole. Kris Brown, the organization’s president, called the bill “a historic step forward for the nation.”

Jacob Charles, the executive director for the Center for Firearms Law at Duke University, said the bill would seek to put more teeth on existing laws for gun dealers.

The bill would mean fewer people who want to sell guns will do so and someone seeking to buy a gun from an unlicensed seller will have fewer options. But it would not remove their chances of buying one altogether.

“(The law) would make no more people today have to go through a background check than yesterday,” Charles told The News & Observer. “It’s not allowing more people to go through a background check ... more of those sellers will now have to do a background check if they want to sell.”

“There are still going to be some unknowable number of gun transfers that don’t undergo background checks,” he said.

Paul Valone, president of the gun rights group Grass Roots North Carolina, opposes the Senate bill and called North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis a “traitor” for being one of its sponsors.

Valone and other gun rights advocates oppose the bill, because “Second Amendment supporters and gun owners gain nothing and continue to lose,” he said in an interview.

The bill’s effort to make more gun sellers become federally licensed dealers is an effort from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly known as the ATF, to further regulate and surveil gun dealers, said Valone.

What I see here is a continuing effort to process as many transactions as possible through the computerized (National Instant Criminal Background Check System),” Valone told The N&O. “By putting more people under the (federal firearm licensee) provision, they can further restrict gun sales. That is what the purpose is.”