ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Finding a gun is easy. But what about legally buying one?
Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson said “If it’s between you and I, and neither one of us is a licensed dealer, I can sell you a gun, you can sell me one, and there’s no requirement in there to do a background check.”
Alisha Eiken is a volunteer co-leader for Moms Demand action for Gun Sense in America. She tells the Newscenter that “We would like to see a criminal background check completed on every single gun sale.”
That includes “secondary markets” and private transactions.
Federally licensed dealers covered the vast majority of vendors at a Rochester Gun show in January.
It’s there that we met Matthew Cooklock, the Executive Director for the Minnesota Weapons Collectors Association.
“When you’re a federal firearms licensed dealer,” Cooklock said. “That’s your livelihood, and you’re not going to give that up to some punk that, you know, is trying to cheat the system.”
There are far fewer private dealers at gun shows, and they are not subject to putting their customers through background checks like their federally licensed counterparts.
“It’s become known as the gun show loophole,” Eiken said. “But I personally think a more accurate term would be the ‘unlicensed sale loophole,’ right? Because currently, criminals are legally obtaining firearms through unlicensed gun sales on the internet.”
Guns ordered online would need to be sent to a Federally licensed dealer after the purchase is made. It is there that the buyer would fill out a firearms transaction record, which includes a section for private sales. However, there’s nothing stopping two private entities from completing the transaction in person.
“We require all dealers, private or federal, to follow all state and federal firearm laws,” Cooklock said. “So that’s why they’re posted, and we try to make people as aware of the information as possible.”
A prohibited person would be breaking the law by making the purchase. But as long as the private seller has no knowledge of their criminal record, they can legally make the sale. But if the gun is used in a crime within a year of the purchase, the seller could possibly be liable for the crime committed.
“It’s kind of a silly way to put it, but you know, people do illegal things all the time,” Cooklock said. “That’s why we have laws and that’s why people are in prison. And if you are to sell a firearm to an individual that wasn’t supposed to have that firearm, I mean, you’re gonna be liable.”
In Minnesota, a permit is not required to purchase shotguns or rifles, as long as your ID has a current address and the weapon isn’t defined as an “assault-style” according to Minnesota statute 624.
At a December gun show in Stillwater, one private dealer was willing to sell our reporter a revolver without seeing a permit to purchase. It’s minority of a minority, but look hard enough, and you may find someone who’s willing to make a sale without seeing any kind of paperwork at all. They’d be within their rights to do so, as long as neither party crosses state lines.
“I really think of background checks as the very important first step,” Eiken said.
“You could try,” Sheriff Torgerson said. “But when they do that, they’re just gonna go somewhere else. Anytime we know of something that’s going on, we’re gonna do everything we can to investigate it.”
Eiken pointed out that the organization she represents is not inherently anti-gun.
“We have firearms in my home, almost every single family member I have owns a firearm,” Eiken said. “Many of the problems we have in our country right now are very complex, and will likely take more than a few months to solve. But this problem of gun violence affecting our country is a problem we can solve. And we can solve it now. This is not something we need to live with, our children do not need to live in a world where this is their reality.”
“It’s about public safety,” Sheriff Torgerson said. “It’s not about gun rights people versus gun control people. We’re gonna follow what the law is that’s on the books at this point in time.”