As President Obama discusses ending the ‘gun show loophole’ that exempts some buyers from background checks firearms sell fast at Alabama event

A gun seller at the Great Southern Gun and Knife Show in Atlanta advertises the fact that his customers are not subject to background checks.
A gun seller at the Great Southern Gun and Knife Show in Birmingham, Alabama, advertises the fact that his customers are not subject to background checks. Photograph: Matthew Teague/the Guardian

Thousands of people surged past Louis Bakane’s little booth at the Great Southern Gun and Knife Show this past weekend, and he had a theory as to why.

“They’re panicking,” he said. The federal government is closing in, he figured, starting with an executive order expected this week from President Obama.

Bakane listened to an alternative theory: maybe Smith & Wesson, Remington, ammunition manufacturers and the people who run the Gun Show profit from perpetual panic. What if that’s the reason for the everlasting fear?

“Well,” he said, after a moment. “They’ve got to keep the lights on.”

So gun control, for owners like Bakane, is an ideological trench war. And the latest salvo from the opposing side is now whistling through the air: after years offighting with Congress over gun control measures, Obama is expected to press forward with an executive order curbing certain kinds of gun sales, in the hope of lessening gun violence.

He is scheduled to meet on Monday with the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to examine ways to strengthen the order against legal challenges. The order’s central change will probably require background checks at gun shows, in effect closing the “gun show loophole” that allows unlicensed private dealers to sell guns without checks.

This weekend, the Great Southern Gun and Knife Show had the frantic energy of a traveling circus. Thousands – many thousands – stood in a line that snaked out the door, and each paid $9 to enter with the hope of spending more money inside.

If it was the greatest show on earth, the Ringlings who own and operate it are the Bean family, who have run the show for more than 30 years. And 2016 has already been a very good year, according to Elizabeth Bean.

“Attendance is up probably 75% over last year,” she said of the Birmingham show. That’s largely due to Obama, she said. “Every time he talks about it, he boosts attendance.”

The show has evolved into a three-ring affair, each ring occupied by an easily identifiable group. The first has always existed: grandpas with little boys, looking to buy their first pocket knives; hunters buying shotguns and shells; people thinking of purchasing a pistol for home protection. This crowd was probably the largest, but also the quietest.

The second group is the water-boiling, tool-making crowd: hikers, survivalists, guys who like the idea of living off the land. This group comprised everyone from paunchy rednecks to dreadlocked hippies, chatting about freeze-dried chicken pasta.

The third group may have been the smallest, but it was the least possible to overlook: militants. Men wearing inexplicable desert camouflage, head to toe. Carrying assault rifles. Using phrases like “on a swivel” and “good to go”.

One vendor sold these men foot traps, of two varieties. Another sold hand grenades with the gun powder emptied out. A customer held one in each hand and said to his son: “Do you want the pineapple? Or the frag?”

Shawn Bean said the executive order would only affect a handful of sellers at the show. Most of them, he said, are federally licensed firearms dealers who are already required to do background checks. According to Bean’s wife, Elizabeth, only about 15 of the 200 sellers at the show were private sellers.

Gun t-shirt
A T-shirt on sale at the Great Southern Gun and Knife Show in Birmingham. Photograph: Matthew Teague for the Guardian

Charles Towne, a private seller from Birmingham, said he would probably be affected. At his booth on Sunday, he had put up signs that read: “PRIVATE COLLECTOR: NO PAPERWORK.”

He didn’t hesitate to share his opinion of Obama.

“I’ve read Mein Kampf,” he said. “I know Hitler started gun registration about three years before he confiscated guns. That’s the big fear.”

Republican presidential candidates fired a cannonade at Obama over the weekend, as word got out about the executive order. The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, called Obama a “petulant child” who could not cooperate with political opponents. On Fox News Sunday, Jeb Bush called the order illegal and “inappropriate”.

At a rally in Biloxi, Mississippi, Donald Trump told supporters: “You know, Obama’s going to do an executive order on the second amendment, really knock the hell out of it. You know that? … I will veto that. I will unsign that so fast, so fast.”

Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, insinuated on Twitter that people in his state would go to war with the US government over guns.

“Obama wants to impose more gun control,” he wrote. “My response? COME & TAKE IT.”

The sentiment appeared everywhere at the gun show on Sunday, on T-shirts and hats and stickers: “Obama, Come and Take It.”

It’s a matter of principle, Shawn Bean said.

“This goes back to the revolutionary war,” he said. “Back to the days when the average man was the militia … these are people who take the second amendment seriously.”

That was certainly true of Brian Radcliffe, a seller from Michigan. “If somebody comes to take my guns, I’m going to die,” he said. “And I will take some of them with me.”

About midday on Sunday, something illuminating happened: one of Radcliffe’s guns, a $2,000 Browning pistol, went missing. Police and sheriff’s deputies came on to the show floor and interviewed Radcliffe about what had happened.

To Radcliffe, the officers didn’t seem sufficiently engaged. What he said in the next half-minute showed just how immovable each side is in the battle for gun control. Radcliffe dug his trench so deep he seemed, for a moment, to have tunneled to the other side.

Brian Radcliffe, a seller from Michigan
‘If someone comes to take my guns, I’m going to die,’ said Brian Radcliffe, a federally licensed seller from Michigan. ‘And I will take some of them with me.’ Photograph: Matthew Teague/the Guardian

“I’m a federally licensed firearms dealer!” he said. “Make a report. I’ve got the receipt from the individual I bought it from and his name, address and phone number.

“And if the gun is traced, they’re gonna go back to the federal check system at NICS” – that’s the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 – “and they’re going to trace that gun from the manufacturer to where it ended up. And this is what they want to do. They want to control all the guns.”

He finished with righteous anger. But wouldn’t oversight work in his favor, here? Wouldn’t it help him get his gun back?

Radcliffe shook his head. “Maybe. Who knows.”

By midafternoon on Sunday, the second day of the show, people were still lined up outside. Shawn Bean stood just inside, watching people stream through the doors. He acknowledged that the war over guns – and the various tragedies that mark its battles – has been good for his bottom line.

“We do hate that,” he said. “We do hate that it’s been good for business.”

[Source:-the gurdian]

By Adam