The Private-Property “Loophole”

Before he begins his vengeful rampage in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey (Artisan Entertainment, A.D. 1999), British parolee Wilson (played by Terence Stamp) buys two handguns from children on a playground in California. While this scene depicts what most viewers will recognize as an illegal transaction, it was not staged as writer Lem Dobbs and the director had originally intended. They had hoped to exemplify “the availability of guns and how sick that is” by filming a similar sequence at a gun show. However, the show’s organizers wisely denied them permission.1







Copyright © A.D. 2007
by M. D. Van Norman.

The Limey (Artisan Entertainment, 1999)
This scene from The Limey depicts an illegal gun purchase.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the filmmakers were trying to perpetuate a legal fallacy commonly known as the gun-show loophole. In fact, this so-called loophole has very little to do with gun shows. There are no legal exemptions for firearm transfers at these shows. All federal, state, and local laws still apply.

Under federal law, a non-licensed individual may legally give, sell, or trade a firearm to another non-licensed individual, so long as such transactions are infrequent and the recipients are not prohibited persons. In other words, one citizen may transfer his private property to another. State laws may vary, but this is the exemption that gun-control proponents are really talking about when they refer to a “gun-show loophole.”
Gun shows are not exempt from federal, state, or local firearm laws.
Gun shows are targeted because they are events where large numbers of firearms enthusiasts gather, making them convenient venues for non-licensed individuals to sell or trade their private property. Rather than attacking the private-property “loophole” directly, the prohibitionists try to confuse the issue and frighten uninformed voters, implying that gun shows are somehow exempt from gun-control laws. Ironically, less than one percent of crime guns originate from such shows.3

Had the fictional Wilson attempted to make his purchase at a real gun show, he would have most likely failed. As a convicted felon and non-resident alien, he would have been prohibited from buying a firearm by federal law. California law would have also required a safety certificate and a waiting period. No doubt, Wilson would have simply turned to the black market for his guns … just like most other criminals.
The Limey (Artisan Entertainment, 1999)
Less than one percent of illegal firearms originate at gun shows.
This tidbit can be found on the commentary track of the DVD release. The filmmakers’ politics aside, The Limey is still an excellent film.
With a few very narrow exceptions, California law requires that all firearm transfers go through a licensed dealer, so there is no “gun-show loophole” here, but that still doesn’t stop disingenuous politicians from campaigning to close it.
U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Firearm Use by Offenders,” 2001.

Dancing Giant
“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law …”