But even in an environment where all facts have been scraped away and an appeal to reason is viewed as foul calumny, I suppose my common sense isn't quite so scabbed over that I cannot still work up a touch of outrage over the notion of banning something that doesn't exist.
The original meaning** of “loophole” has long since been subsumed by the metaphor – a gap, omission or ambiguity in a law or agreement, used to subvert that law or contract’s purpose or spirit. Nothing wrong with that, for that is the very nature of language. Words morph and move through the lexicon, becoming something that they weren't before. As meanings change and flow, old words are shaped to serve new needs. For those who are after the “Gun Show Loophole,” there is certainly such a need. After all, if they framed their goal as “the elimination of one free citizen’s right to sell his property to another free citizen,” it might be hard to get folks to go along, what with the notion of private property being a foundation for the very concept of human liberty.*** Even in today’s America, when you want to erode the foundations of the very concept of human liberty, you do well to call your law something else. (Like, say, the USA PATRIOT Act.)
Such semantic obfuscation is nothing new – ask the fellows at the Ministry of Love. But you have to admire the audacity of the “gun show loophole” crowd. It has to be at least audacity; it cannot be that they misunderstand the law, as it’s too simple for that.**** So if the invocation of the “gun show loophole” isn't the result of ignorance, what does Hanlon's Razor tell us is left?
They've got a way with language in the South, as I quickly learned as an Ohio Yankee reporter displaced to lower Alabama. Folks down South know that you can say a thing, or you can say a thing. (If a Southern Baptist lady has ever told you “bless your heart,” you might know what I mean.) I learned that if I wanted to do my job I’d better be able to suck boiled peanuts with the boys at the firehouse, sip sweet tea with the ladies at the DAR (to say nothing of the UDC), and listen for those telling turns of phrase that landed soft as down on the ear, but were weighted with meaning. Folks there had a little saying that managed to be polite and vulgar and wise all at the same time, with room left over for just the tiniest genteel threat. It couldn't be more perfect for those craven hoplophobes now so intent on reducing all men to the same helpless state where they choose to abide.
“Y’all go ahead,” even the prettiest belle might say. “Y’all go ahead and piss down my leg. Just don’t try to tell me that it’s raining.”
* And not just any Brit, but a Brit whose ethics weren't up to the dubious standards required to keep a job at a tabloid newspaper there.
** A loophole was a small aperture either designed or hastily made in a defensive wall or barricade to allow those inside to direct fire onto attackers. If you are a fan, as I am, of movies in which imperial English soldiers succumb to colonial uprisings, then you have seen this field expedient version depicted as Redcoats gouged holes into the walls of the the farmhouse at Rorke’s Drift.
***"He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force." Thomas Jefferson to Edward Bancroft, 1788
**** If you make your living as a gun dealer, you need a Federal Firearm License (a creature of the Federal Firearms Act of 1938). When an FFL dealer sells a gun, he has to collect certain paperwork from the buyer, and conduct a federal background check. He has to do this whether he’s selling the gun at his shop or a gun show or anywhere else. If you do not make your living as a gun dealer, and your buddy wants to buy your old shotgun, you can sell it to him without a background check – in your kitchen or at the gun show or anywhere else – so long as your buddy is a resident of the same state as you. If you want to send a gun to buyer in another state, you have to get an FFL involved and he has to do a background check. None of the rules for gun sales by anyone change depending on the existence of a gun show. None.