We Do Police Our Own

It’s interesting to listen to gun control advocates describe gun shows as largely a Wild West kind of atmosphere where anything goes and no law actually exists. It seems quite at odds with what I have experienced spending many days camped out behind various volunteer tables working at gun shows.

Today, I heard about a dealer who was, on one hand, doing a great job of policing his own sales. On the other hand, he was apparently a jerk about it and just lost future customers over a pretty innocent mistake.

See, it was a father-son team from New Jersey. The father is a longtime gun owner who is fully up-to-date on all required paperwork, and even has a pistol purchase permit waiting to be used. The son just came of age, but is facing usual delays of getting everything he needs processed. Shocking from New Jersey, the state where gun ownership is really only legal under exceptions to the laws.

Anyway, the son found a rifle he wanted at the show, and the father asked him if he wanted it bad enough for the father to buy it and then later sell it to him through another documented transaction once he can finally be a New Jersey-approved gun owner. The dealer over heard this, and apparently got very bitchy about it. He refused the sale. I don’t really understand why he apparently also bitched out the two guys for making a pretty common and honest mistake of assuming that a dealer is really only prohibited from selling to someone who is going to give it away or sell it to a criminally prohibited person. The father made clear to his son that the firearm would not be available to him until they could lawfully sell it between the two of them, so they assumed that the dealer wouldn’t have an issue with it.

The dealer still has the gun and hasn’t lost anything at all in this interaction. Yet, rather than using the opportunity to make it a teachable moment on the law and maybe offering up a business card to the duo in order to encourage future business once the son does have his paperwork, the dealer got an attitude and just blew off the chance to sell guns to two men in the future.

So, good job on the dealer for following the law. Bad job on being polite while educating people who clearly have no criminal intent on their misunderstanding.

One thing to add about today’s show: There were many, many women there buying guns all on their own.

24 thoughts on “We Do Police Our Own”

    1. For turning down the sale? Not one bit. For ranting and raving at them for a misunderstanding while they try to follow the complicated process of becoming Jersey-legal gun owners? Yes, I can fully blame the dealer for a bad attitude.

      The dealer isn’t out anything. He still has his gun, and he has not put the gun at risk in a straw purchase. He can go on to sell it to other people. He has broken no laws. There is no need to bitch out new gun owners for being confused. It only turns people off. In fact, half the reason they both decided to take chances in our gun raffle today was because I was nice to them. One of the guns isn’t even Jersey legal, so if one of them wins it, they will have to either forfeit it, or offer it for sale here in Pennsylvania through consignment. Either way, it’s a risk that they might just be flushing $20 down the toilet. But they supported us because I gave them information about where to learn more on Jersey laws and likely legislation dealing with gun ownership (ANJRPC) and let them know about Friends dinners in Jersey that they might enjoy, especially once the son gets all of his paperwork.

      Gun laws are complicated. Being rude to people who have an honest misunderstanding of the law because they aren’t criminals looking to engage in mayhem and violence doesn’t help the cause. And this dealer just lost a lifetime of sales because he got an attitude rather than using the situation to explain the law.

      1. Wouldn’t it be possible to transfer a non-Jersey legal gun to them out of state (at least if it were a long gun)?

        They could then store the firearm outside NJ without ever bringing it into Mordor.

        Unless, of course, Jersey has somehow made it a crime for their subjects to engage in a transaction outside of the state’s borders. I don’t know how NJ would be able to enforce such a law, though.

        1. Federal law says that FFLs have to comply with the state of residence. So no, you can’t buy a NJ prohibited rifle outside of NJ, even if you keep it out of state, because it’s illegal for an FFL to sell it to you.

      2. Uhmmm, how is that a straw purchase?
        Even in NJ it is (or at least used to be) legal for a father to give his son a rifle or shotgun, not too sure about handguns.
        I don’t see how that is any more a straw purchase than if I bought a gun and a few months down the road re-sold it.
        Following this line of logic all sales are straw purchases unless you plan to have the gun buried with you…..

    2. Coming back to revisit this thought a bit more, I actually think that being polite and using opportunities to educate people on the law is exactly the opposite of what Bloomberg-style stings want to get on camera. Even if a dealer does turn them down, if they lose their temper and start ranting and raving at the person, it reflects poorly on gun owners. That’s ultimately all the anti-gunners want – any poor reflection on gun owners. But a demonstration that not only do we follow the law, we are helpful and nice? That’s definitely not what they want under any circumstance.

      1. Also, patiently explaining the byzantine laws surrounding firearms would make their “less regulated than a teddy bear” line look really, really stupid.

  1. As a former NJ gun owner, I appreciate your courtesy/sympathy to one of my brethren. The hoops are high and far apart to acquire a gun in the People’s Republic of NJ.

  2. Well, maybe that father-son team from New Jersey ought to just stick with going to only gun shows in New Jersey.

    Oh, wait a minute…there are no gun shows in New Jersey. Just like there have not been any gun crimes in New Jersey which involved .50 BMG rifles, but facts such as this never stopped New Jersey Democrats from passing yet another one of their feel-good, do-nothing, and unconstitutional gun law, right?

  3. What the dealer did was dumb, in any imagined scenario, but perhaps he suspected he was being set up by a couple of undercover guvvie agents, and thought he’d put on a show for them. People get jerky in a variety of ways when they think there are cops around and eying them.

    1. That was my thought too.

      Bitter was right though, refuse the sale, explain the law , tell him to come see him when the permit clears………everybody wins.

  4. Was it illegal, though? Purchases for the purposes of gifting are legal federally, and I thought a private citizen could buy from an out-of-state FFL as long as the laws of both states are followed. NJ allows out-of-state purchases as long as the certificate of eligibility is filed, and private transfers are legal as well.

    1. I was wondering about the same thing. I thought familial gifts didn’t fall under the straw-purchase prohibition.

      Of course, the fact I am guessing is just more evidence of how damnably arcane and arbitrary the gun laws are in our country. It shouldn’t require the advice of a lawyer to legally purchase a firearm!

    2. Gifting is legal… but if you indicate “I’ll buy that firearm for you now, and you buy if off me later,” then you are not “the actual buyer of the firearm” for 4473 purpose, which means you’re lying on the form. That is a straw purchase, under federal law. You can buy a firearm for someone else as a gift, provided they live in the same state as you. You may not buy a firearm on behalf of someone else. That is a crime.

  5. I’m not seeing how this is a straw purchase, unless son was going to give father the money to make the buy for him, and that didn’t seem to be the case. Or does PA or NJ law have provisions of which I’m not aware?

    This is puzzling to me. Collector-type collectors — for instance Tam, with her revolving S&W revolver inventory — buy things planning to sell them later all the time, in a well-known process of pyramiding up a collection to the very best examples by using good judgement in what to buy and what to sell.

    On the other hand, an excess of caution in dealing with a transaction involving firearms and New Jersey is doubtless wise.

    1. It’s not a straw purchase if it’s a bone fide gift. It is if money changes hands between the father and the son. In that case the father is not the actual buyer, and is, in fact, purchasing on behalf of the son. At best it’s a questionably legal purchase, leaning toward being an illegal straw buy. All that that 4473 asks is if you’re the actual buyer. If it’s not a gift, and you indicate to the dealer that money is to be arranged afterward, you’re indicating a straw purchase, which means the dealer is really obliged the turn down the sale.

      Which is why I suspect he was pissed. There would have been a way to arrange that sale legally down the line had they not been ignorant about it. But having advertised a willingness to do a straw arrangement, the dealer was obliged to tell them to take a hike.

      1. That was the part I missed in the whole brouhaha. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

        Firearms law should not be more complicated than the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

  6. It wasn’t clear to me if the father was offering to pay or not. But keep in mind what the dealer is hearing, there is one person who cannot legally buy a gun, and someone else is offering to buy it for him. The father wasn’t exactly an old man, so it would not have been obvious that they were related. The dealer had every reason to assume the worst. I don’t blame him for not wanting to sell to someone who has declared it is really for someone who cannot buy it himself. Of course, if he had not read them the riot act, he could have learned the details. Certainly, he could have invited the son to buy guns from him once be has all appropriate permits.

    1. So, by jumping to conclusions and being a “gun-store lawyer,” he in fact lost a sale and gave a potential gun owner of tomorrow a negative experience. This we should be encouraging?

      1. I specifically said that his attitude was a big problem and would cost him his sales in the future. But in terms of being aware of potential problem sales, I think that’s fine. The father looked fairly young, so merely overhearing them talk about what seems to be a straw purchase for someone who admits they cannot legally buy a gun, it was a reasonable conclusion. It’s caution in a highly regulated industry, and that’s not bad.

        1. Not bad, but “following the law” is kind of a biseline for judging actions, and “being a prat while doing so” is several minus points from there.
          OTOH, if the father said he was going to sell it to the son later, as in exchanging value, that might take it out of gift territory – ISTR folks who *have* sold guns for a living mentioning that a gift required no exchange of value at the giving.

  7. Ok, Ok, another question…….

    Is it illegal for a father to SELL a gun to a son/daughter?
    But not illegal to gift it?

    Seems to be what I’m hearing here, if it is then that’s got to be the most asinine law ever!

    1. We’re into Schleswig-Holstein territory here. The problem is that the dealer has a legal obligation to not participate in a straw purchase. Whether a particular transaction is a straw purchase is superficially straightforward, buying a firearm on behalf of someone else. In this particular case, apparently not only had the dealer overheard that the father was going to buy the firearm on behalf of (intending to transfer to, particularly with exchange of value) another, he was going to do so specifically because the other person could not legally receive at the time.

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