Rules, Regulations and Best Practices of Gun Trade Shows

Gun trade shows deal with products that are stringently regulated at the federal and state levels, but when all the applicable rules, regulations and best practices of conducting gun trade shows are fulfilled, they can be just as effective as any other trade show or expo at exposing new products and innovations, while acting as successful marketing tool for new and expanding businesses, in a safe and festive atmosphere.

Gun show vs. Trade Show: What’s the difference?

Essentially, gun trade shows are like all other trade shows, expo-style events where people can buy, sell, trade or introduce others and be introduced to new products, services and peripheral products, such as accessories or other enhancements. In the case of gun shows, ammunition and accessories like holsters, storage mechanisms, cleaning and care products and outdoor and hunting gear might also be on the menu, besides new, used and unique collections of firearms.

gun trade showsOf course, the obvious factor that brings special attention to gun shows is their dealing with a product that has been known to be dangerous when accidently mishandled or maliciously misused, can be politically, legally and philosophically controversial and is tightly regulated and monitored by government entities at most levels.

It is up to those attending and those vending, selling or showing at gun shows to not only follow the laws and regulations but take whatever steps necessary to ensure that everyone at an expo remain as safe as any other trade show, such as a tech fair or green building expo. In fact, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimate that at least 5,000 gun shows are held annually in the United States.

Knowing the Law

Unlike similar expos that deal with non-weaponry products, gun shows are regulated by laws and rules at all levels of government jurisdiction, plus the guidelines of whichever industry and professional standards organizations govern any particular event.

Federal law states that a gun show is defined as:

“A function[s] sponsored by any national, State or local organization, devoted to the collection, competitive use, or other sporting use of firearms, or an organization or association that sponsors functions devoted to the collection, competitive use, or other sporting use of firearms in the community.”

It also important to note that federal gun laws, including registration requirements, background checks, etc. apply to Federal Firearms Licensed dealers, whether dealing from their normal place of business or at popup trade show displays at a gun trade show. As long as the proper documentation is filed and processes followed, gun dealers may set up trade show booths at any show at which they are welcome in the state where they are licensed.

However, private gun owners can also trade and sell at gun shows but may not be held to the same restrictions, especially when it comes to background checks and other licensee requirements. Federal law does not require private sellers to do any background checks.

It is important for one to know his or her state’s laws because several of them do differ. In 33 states – in accordance with the absence of federal regulations in this area – there are no laws or regulations governing private firearms sales at gun trade shows.

More than a handful of states have their own laws that require even private sellers to conduct the same background check processes on firearms sales as any FFL-holding dealer. Nearly a handful of other states require private and licensed dealers to conduct the same processes exclusively on handguns. At least in the state of Florida, regulations can very amongst more local jurisdictions.

States can even differ widely in their simple definitions of what gun shows actually are. For example, a gun show in Maryland is defined as “(A)ny organized gathering open to the public at which any firearm is displayed. (Public Safety Code Sec 5 130(a))”

At the same time, in Maryland, the definition reads:

“Any event (A) at which fifty or more firearms are offered or exhibited for sale, transfer or exchange to the public and (B) at which two or more persons are exhibiting one or more firearms for sale, transfer or exchange to the public. [General Statutes Sec 29-37g]”

Along with these vastly dissimilar definitions, you can imagine the differences in rules and regulations governed by them and the differing political and social philosophies behind the dissimilar mandates.

Going Beyond the Law

Guns are just like any other product one could market or consume at a trade show. It’s a vibrant industry that fluctuates, innovates and puts people to work. They are symbols of ingenuity, sportsmanship and security and one of the only products that are addressed specifically in our Constitution.

The fact that the disconnect between the rights of FFL dealers and private sellers, as stated above, has been negatively connoted throughout the media and during political debate as “the gun show loophole,” is difficult to ignore, even in this positive piece about gun shows. But it truly has become a positive time for gun shows and the industry in general.

As studies have suggested that up to 81% of Americans want background checks and registered sales of firearms, legislatures may have been slow to respond, but the gun show industry has answered the call.

Individual gun trade show promoters have taken their own steps to ensure safe, credible dealings at their venues and events. Some go as far as checking to make sure identities of the people leaving their shows with weapons match up with the purchaser’s names, to prevent straw-buyers and other deceptive acts. Others act to reduce accidents by ensuring weapons remain unloaded at all times.

When you’re sure that you are compliant with your own local laws, regulations and the guidelines of show organizers, and you’re ready to register your gun trade show displays, contact Northwest Creative Imaging. We specialize in portable trade show booths and large format printing and any related accessory to help you hit your target market.

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