It’s easy to get a gun in Louisiana. It’s even easier at one of the state’s many gunshows.
Licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks before selling, but private sellers are represented in large numbers at the expos as well, and they have no such obligation. Many think they should, and some see the laissez faire attitude as dangerous.
A July Pew Research Center poll found 85 percent of Americans — including 88 percent of of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans — favor expanded background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows. That number has changed little from a May 2013 poll in which 81 percent of Americans supported expanded background checks.
“We strongly encourage all of our sellers to run a background check, but there’s no law requiring it,” said Al Simms, Ark-La-Tex Gun Collector’s Association president. His organization is hosting its 108th gun show this weekend at the Bossier City Civic Center.
Simms said the event usually draws between 3,000 and 6,000 people with more than 200 vendors selling guns, ammunition, knives, collectors’ items and jewelry — but mostly guns.
“We’ll have everything from little-bitty derringers all the way up to full-size hunting rifles,” Simms said.
All licensed vendors at the show are required to run background checks and document the transaction before firearms are purchased, but private sellers can make cash transaction with little to no record.
As for licensed dealers, background checks at gun shows are just a quick call away.
Danielle Ross, a sales associate with Guns-N-Ammo firearms store in Benton, said they’re required to contact the National Crime Information Center at the time of purchase. During the call, the seller will provide basic information of the buyer and the NCIC responds with a “yes” or “no” on their eligibility to purchase the firearm.
Laura Cutilletta, a Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence senior staff attorney, said having these firearms so readily available can cause problems in the communities hosting these events. The law center promotes “smart gun laws” and stricter gun control policy.
“You can buy a gun from an unlicensed seller anywhere in the state, but when many of them are congregated together at a gun show it makes them more accessible to people who otherwise may not be able to acquire one,” Cutilletta said.
This, in turn, can endanger the community, she said.
“If everybody’s gathering in one place where lots of guns are being sold, and then entering the community with them then that area is definitely going to be at risk for a higher gun-death rate,” Cutilletta said.
Guns used in the Columbine High School and 101 California Street massacres and the 2010 Pentagon shooting had all been purchased at gun shows, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Event organizers could potentially have a lot of people at a gun show that are convicted felons, domestic abusers or mentally ill and can easily buy a gun without having their backgrounds checked,” Cutilletta said.
The Pew study also found:
•Nearly eight-in-10 (79 percent) favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns
•70 percent back the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales
•A smaller majority (57 percent) supports a ban on assault-style weapons
Almost identical shares of Republicans (81 percent) and Democrats (79 percent) support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns. But other proposals are more divisive: 85 percent of Democrats favor creation of a database for the federal government to track gun sales, compared with 55 percent of Republicans. And while 70 percent of Democrats back an assault-weapons ban, only about half of Republicans (48 percent) favor this proposal.
Bossier City Gun Show
Where: Bossier City Civic Center, 620 Benton Rd, Bossier City
When: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Aug. 22-23
Admission: Adults — $6, Children 6-12 — $1 (all proceeds will be sent to various charities)
24-hour security will be available.