MetraPark on Friday and Saturday will host the first gun show in Billings since President Barack Obama’s January speech announcing executive actions to fight gun violence. But this weekend’s event won't be affected.
In his emotional speech, Obama said one of the actions would be ensuring those “in the business of selling firearms” operated with a license and conducted background checks regardless of where they operated, including gun shows.
Lisa Meiman, public information officer for the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said no additional laws regarding gun shows are planned or in place. The only thing new is a 15 page document explaining who needs a federal firearms license.
“The guidance is something the ATF was working on for a while,” Meiman said. “The president’s announcement gave ATF an opportunity to put the guidance out so it received the attention it deserved.”
Federal law already required federal firearms license holders to conduct background checks at gun shows. Collectors and hobbyists are not held to that standard.
The problem is separating the dealers from the hobbyists. Basically, anyone who frequently buys and sells guns with the primary purpose of making a profit needs to be licensed.
“There’s no change. That’s all they did was give examples, more clear and precise examples of who should have an FFL,” said Brian Kjensmo, organizer of the Billings Gun Show.
Kjensmo said determining who is in the business primarily to make a profit presents a lot of gray area. How often can they buy and sell, and how much profit can they make?
The ATF’s guidance quotes federal law as stating a person in the business “devotes time, attention and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.”
The guidelines also said sellers do not have to buy and sell firearms as their primary source of income or even make a profit to be considered in the business. People have been prosecuted for selling as few as one or two firearms.
At the same time, making a profit does not necessarily mean firearms sellers need an FFL. The guidelines state one identifying factor is how the sellers present themselves.
Meiman said things like business cards or websites implying a seller is a firearms dealer or someone who takes orders for guns could mean a license is necessary. But enforcement at the gun show at MetraPark is unlikely. Agents aren’t allowed to enter shows on official business.
The Billings Gun Show opens to the public at 1 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday afternoon.