Jim Wright, 65, of the Twin Cities owns Crocodile Productions, which operates as many as 20 gun shows in Minnesota each year. He discusses his operation, including the so-called “gun-show loophole,” below.
Q: How long have you owned Crocodile Productions?
A: Seven years. I used to help the former owner when he needed a hand. I had an interest in guns, and when he sold, I bought it.
Q: How many gun shows do you produce a year?
A: They’re gun and knife shows, and we do 18 to 20. Two in Mankato and one in Duluth. The rest in the Twin Cities.
Q: The Minnesota Weapons Collectors Association also produces gun shows. Anyone else?
A: We put on the most shows, but there are some smaller shows around the state. Minnesota Weapons Collectors puts on the biggest shows, measured by customers. Their show at the State Fair Coliseum March 16 might have four times the customers our largest show has.
Q: Has show attendance increased this year?
A: Yes. And dealers’ sales have been better. Some have had to pass on some shows because they lack inventory. Not just guns. But ammunition and used military ammo cans, that kind of thing. It’s noticeable in retail stores also. Their shelves are bare of major pistol ammo and some rifle ammo, because so-called assault-style rifles use the same ammo as many hunting rifles.
Q: Do you have the same dealers at every show?
A: Half to two-thirds will be at every show. The remainder changes depending on the area. Keep in mind not all dealers sell guns. Some sell knives.
Q: Are gun shows held in every state?
A: Yes. Some are very large. An average show for us is 120 tables. Many shows around the country rent thousands of tables, the one in Tulsa, Okla., being an example.
Q: Can anyone rent space at your show?
Q: How many dealers at your shows have federal firearms licenses, or FFLs?
A: About 60 percent. The remaining 40 percent might include 10 percent who are private individuals selling guns. The rest are sellers of related products.
Q: How is a licensed dealer defined?
A: By my definition, a dealer at my show is anyone who signs up to sell their products. A “gun dealer” by federal regulation is anyone who holds a FFL, which they must have if they sell guns that aren’t their personal property. The license is issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF]. Similarly, retail stores that sell guns have to be licensed.
Q: So individuals can rent tables from you to sell their personal guns at a show?
A: Yes. It’s legal in this country to sell your personal property. We do, however, encourage private individuals to get identification when sales occur, and to ask if purchasers have a permit, if required.
Q: Let’s talk about the so-called gun show loophole. Dealers of yours who hold FFLs must complete background checks at your shows before purchasers can take possession of guns. But individuals who sell their personal guns at your shows do not, correct?
A: Yes. Again, that’s because it’s legal to sell your personal property. Note that identification of all purchasers is encouraged, however.
Q: You and other gun show promoters also allow individuals who do not rent tables from you to bring guns to shows and sell them to other individuals or dealers — another instance in which a background check might not be completed.
A: Yes. Keep in mind, these are buy, sell and trade events — not just “sell” events. Dealers not only want to sell guns, knives and related equipment. They want to buy them as well.
Q: In any event, individuals who sell their personal guns at shows aren’t subject to background checks.
A: They are not, unless the gun being sold is a handgun or an assault-style rifle. Sales of both by federally licensed gun dealers are restricted to people holding a valid permit to purchase or permit to carry. Purchasers of these guns from a FFL dealer at our shows must have legal permits, and are subject to background checks before taking possession. For other guns, including hunting rifles or shotguns, if someone comes to a show and has paid his admission, he can sell his gun to anyone he chooses, assuming they are individuals selling their private property. That’s not a loophole. That’s the law.
Q: Do you see a problem with current gun-sale regulations?
A: I don’t.
Q: Have you ever had a problem of any kind at one of your shows?
Q: Are there any gun laws or regulations that should be changed to make society safer?
A: Background checks could be made more complete if law-enforcement and other records were more comprehensively reported. Too many permits to purchase are issued that shouldn’t be.
Q: Wouldn’t so-called universal background checks achieve this, meaning all guns sales and transfers would be regulated?
A: Guns that have been stolen and used to commit crimes are the problem, not legally owned guns by law-abiding citizens. And passing laws prohibiting ordinary citizens from selling their guns won’t reduce crime or solve any other problem. Universal background checks also would violate the Second Amendment. They’d be no different than gun registration. All they’d do is make it more difficult for the majority of American citizens to legally sell or transfer their firearms.