April 10th, 2013
10:20 PM ET

Buying guns: No questions asked

A hidden camera investigation demonstrates how easy it is to buy guns at gun shows without giving identification. CNN's Martin Savidge explains the results of the undercover report.

Background checks are not required for private sales, but the seller is legally obligated to check the buyer's ID to verify that person is not from out-of-state.

The CNN crew that visited Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia was able to purchase several weapons without having to prove residency or fill out paperwork, but not in every interaction with a seller. In once instance, a seller tells our producer that he got a gun "off a police officer."

The total weapon haul from the weekend was three semi-automatic handguns with extra magazines and one semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round magazine. The total spent was $2,800. No identification was given, leaving zero paper trails. The guns were turned over to CNN security to deal with.

Watch the video to see the gun show investigation, and then watch NRA President David Keene's response:

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Filed under: Gun Control • Guns
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Tell me again what these background checks will uncover? I'm convinced these checks are flimsy. Very flimsy. I know, because I've passed more than ten of them myself. I've had thoughts that would curl your mind. Idle thoughts, certainly, but you never, ever know when ANYONE is going to SNAP, do you?

    These are nothing but delusional attempts to comfort hoplophobia (fear of guns).

    April 16, 2013 at 6:49 am |
  2. Sheena

    My son tried to by a gun at the show they have here every few months.. they refused him because his ID is out of state.
    But funny how many seemingly 'normal, healthy people' manage to walk away with these things every day because they are not documented as a threat.....

    April 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  3. Chris

    I see both sides of this issue, on the one hand I want to be able to purchase a gun without the added hassle of a background check. At the very least the government will need to make the process a whole lot quicker than it is now or the private citizens will just not do the background checks, much like the experience of the buyers that contributed to this article. On the other hand, I also can see that an unregulated 'private sale' system is how a criminal could easily obtain a gun that is not traceable to them, which is what a lot of gun control advocates want to prevent. I can respect that aspect for sure. In the end it would better if there were less guns in the hands of criminals but that will probably never happen. They will always find a way to arm themselves. Just ask a police officer in the UK if their criminals still have weapons.

    Also, kade madison, protecting myself and my family from someone who would harm us is a human right that everyone deserves to have. I believe the father of our constitution said it best: "Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms." – James Madison

    April 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  4. John

    Since there is no check of ID's, what happens if you purchase a gun from an individual and the gun was either stolen or used in a crime. I wonder if that can effect the buyer?

    April 15, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  5. morgan

    I've been to several gun shows in the last three years. Only two had someone who was a private seller. One was an older fellow slimming down his collection. He asked for drivers license and recorded all the info. The other guy had a table and a sign that read, "Private seller". So, he was advertising. Even he was asking questions. On the order of,
    Do you already have a firearm? or
    Have you passed background check in the last six months?

    So I don't believe it is likely a felon will easily find a gun at a gun show. Another factor that would discourage a felon from visiting a gun show is they don't want police to think they are looking for guns.

    Word is out, some places have police watching for felons via security cameras.

    All of the licensed dealers a the shows I visited were running background checks, so no felons were buying from them.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  6. BillPurdy

    "God made man; Samuel Colt made them equal."
    The same is true today, and also applies to women and children (of course, the God part is still up for debate). The only thing that gives criminals power is having more (fire)power than you. Restrict or remove guns from law abiding citizens and the criminals gain the upper hand. Criminals, by definition, will not follow any new or existing gun laws; and if they're getting ID'd at gun shows (which they don't attend, anyway), they'll just go to Craigslist or somewhere on the street.... or they'll simply steal them from law abiding citizens. Please don't kid yourselves about these proposed laws making any kind of dent in the acquisition of firearms by criminals.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  7. BobJackson

    What we need is for all criminals to know about this method of purchasing weapons, and for them to know how easy it is for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to get the weapon of their choice. Then, and only then, will the criminals start hesitating to behave as criminals, as they will begin to assume every home owner has an AR ready to mow them down upon illegal entry. No, this is not sarcasm. If you believe a career criminal goes to gun shows for his firearms, you should befriend one or two and learn some things about the seedy underworld. A French Lex Luthor blasted his way through nearly a dozen prison doors, for Pete's sake. Criminals don't have to follow any rules or laws in order to fulfill their agendas. They find ways. What we need to do is make sure that their potential victims have found ways, too.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  8. lily

    Until a background check can reveal mental illness, they are just what they are a tool. A tool that is more for government infringing on the people's rights and less of a tool to weed out the irresponsible. Any criminal can buy a gun on the street. Any mentally ill person can find a gun on the street or steal it from his mother's safe. The Connecticut shootings would not have been prevented by any gun control measures. It could have maybe been prevented had the shooter received mental help. Do we all REALLY want government to dictate every decision we make? Not every horrible thing is preventable.

    April 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Ken Schwerin

    The hand gun sales would never be allowed in Pa but the rifle sale could. with the private seller the one held responsible.
    I would like to see that changed. Every weapon sale should have to be completed with a background check. As in Pa the officials can only make the checks and then the paper work, by penalty of law has to be destroyed.No tracking on the approve buyer and no record kept. This has worked for hand guns in Pa for years with no affect on my rights.
    I think it's about time that the government is held accountable also.The failure of not updating the information should have no excuse!

    April 14, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  10. TommyD

    Im a huge 2nd Amend supporter, but this article right...all private sales need background checks

    April 14, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  11. Thomas Jefferson

    The "issue" that most people miss is the constitutional infringement imposed by prohibiting direct sales between private individuals across state lines.

    But no one looks at the "old laws" that violate the US Constitution, they are intimidated into thinking they are valid when they are not.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  12. S.Jones

    You'll always be able to buy a gun and there's nothing they'll ever be able to do about it. All this regulation isn't hurting anyone BUT the law abiding individual who wants to do it legally so we can enjoy our 2nd ammendment rights and have the ability to defend ourselves should the need arise.

    April 13, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  13. Joe

    I get that it'd be better to have more foreknowledge about a potential buyer, but if some seller ever asks me "what are you going to do with it" I'll tell him it's none of his danged business. I don't get asked if I'm gonna drink and drive when I buy a car. Besides, this "Gun Show Loophole" won't be fixed by the proposed legislation. The AR-15 style rifle was a person-to-person sale, and there would be no difference if it was sold at a gun show or a fashion show. The people with stalls were a bit surprising, but I'm sure they felt they were following their state law. Fact is, guns, like any other commodity, will be sold regardless of legal restrictions. Sales of guns happen like this every day, and NONE of the recent mass shooters bought their guns this way. Why don't we focus on the killers and their warning signs instead of the tools they use? Box cutters being banned on planes isn't what has stopped a second 9-11, it was better understanding of the killers who plotted it.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  14. Jim

    Everything was legal except for the three that did not make sure they were selling to someone out of state. How many people are prosecuted for this? And do you think if they were required to do a background check they would do that? If no one is making sure they follow the law now will they if they require them to do a back ground check.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Jcooper

      I don't think it's legal to buy handguns across state lines without an FFL transfer.

      April 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  15. Antonio

    And the issue is what exactly? Our 2nd amendment right lets us do just that. So if we are all to blame for what a few do then let us stop watching the news because our poor journalism or hey why doesn't everyone stop driving cars because of vehicular manslaughter. How about everyone stops voting and just let the government do what it wants anyway cause guess what even though this whole gun control issue is the new hot topic we still haven't worked out our job security our healthcare issues or the trillion dollar debt problem that we are blasting head on for. So yes lets not focus on the real issues lets just keep eating away at the constitution until there is nothing left!

    April 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • kade madison

      It's sad if you don't see what the "issue" is. And no, you don't have a 2nd amendment right to do just this. You have a right to bear arms which is a right,more so a privilege, that was written into law during a time of war when there was nothing else to protect us. It was so people could have weapons and form militias. But even our constitution must change with the times. Laws made over 200 years ago sometimes need tweaking to ensure they conform with society today, not the way it was in 1776. Anyone can obtain a weapon this way and we want to stop criminals from obtaining weapons this way. If you can't see that, then you certainly are not worthy of any rights of this country.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:19 am |
      • igor1963

        You absolutely welcome to propose constitutional amendment and as soon as it will be approved by Congress and ratified by states we will obey it. But before this we will live by the existing one.
        People who doesn't follow the laws and do not ask for id during private firearm sale must be prosecuted at list until that law will be challenged in scouts and repealed as unconstitutional.

        April 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      How utterly stupid. Background checks for ALL gun buyers is just common sense. What do you have to hide? Are you a convicted criminal? A mental case? No, then you shouldn't mind a background check. If you do, then you're either a criminal or plotting a criminal act and don't deserve to own a gun.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:22 am |
      • Mark

        The problem with background checks is that Obama just signed with the un WHICH lets them regulate all handguns and rifles and that records to be kept for 1 year at least. Thats registration. Oh, and believe me they are out hunting gun owners. It just happened here in NY. The state police used a persons medical files to tell the pistol dept to revoke his permit and they went to his house and confiscated his firearms because he was on an antianxiety med. NO MD reported him dangerous. They have admitted culpability and he got a lawyer and got his guns back but it has begun. The Gestapo is here, and they are knocking on your door.

        April 12, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
      • Leo

        II haven't heard how many lives they think will be saved by passing the universal background check. Since people are so adamant about passing it, they must have an expected reduction in murder rates. What is it?

        April 13, 2013 at 12:25 am |
      • mike

        what we need is not a UBC but rather a national identification card that will include your immigration status, all criminal records and health records. then with a simple scanning with a phone app any citizen can tell if the purchaser is able to posses the firearm

        April 13, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • lily

      I was forming my opinion to write it but you said it exactly. The constitution what set up to keep government from getting too big. Who is America anyway? Is it the government or is it the people? Anyone who thinks these have not become two different entities is asleep at the wheel. No, I don't mean republicans and democrats. I mean a government against the people who put them there. Both sides have found ways to take our rights away and justify it....where WILL it stop?

      April 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  16. Stacy

    It is legal to sell PRIVATE PROPERTY even if it is a gun. Once you allow the govt to start regulating citizens PRIVATE PROPERTY SALES you get into other Constitutional violations. You don't get to pick and choose what the govt can violate and what private property the govt can regulate or not.

    April 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • kade madison

      We're talking about weapons. And yes, there is plenty of "personal property" that is still regulated how it is sold. When it comes to weapons we must protect the good of the people. We must protect everyone as a nation.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:14 am |
  17. Randall

    Excellent. Exercising one's human rights shouldn't be dependent upon showing ID and asking permission.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • kade madison

      Purchasing a weapon is not your "human" right. And if you think it is you have been grossly misinformed.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:15 am |
      • mike

        you are wrong, self defense IS a unalienable human right, or are you saying rape and murder are a rights? as someone that has legally used a concealed firearm to stop an violent assault of woman by a drug enraged man while over 70 people watched the attack I know full well the value of a law abiding citizen having the right of self defense or in the state of Florida the right to stop a felony.

        April 13, 2013 at 7:58 am |
      • Jon S

        Purchasing a weapon might not be a "human right" but defending yourself in the best possible manner is. And nobody has the right to dictate what means I use to defend myself. Firearms are private property and when transferred from one person to another you should not need to do a background check. Soon you will have to do a background check for other private transfers. Selling a laptop computer to somebody does not mean that you should do a background check on the person buying it just in case he does criminal hacking, illegal downloading, or any other computer related crime.

        April 14, 2013 at 12:09 am |
      • igor1963

        Right to bear arm is part of the constitution. Freedom of private business is also.

        April 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  18. Heather

    I just watched the report on buying guns with no questions asked. I don't know where in Tennessee the investigation was done but not all gun shows in Tennessee are like that. I went to one last month in Nashville at the Fairgrounds looking for a gun and every person who sells there is required to do a background check on the buyer. So don't judge all gun shows by the two or three you went to because there will always be those who cut corners or don't care about the consequences of selling a gun without the proper checks.

    April 11, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  19. John

    At these gun shows they are " PRIVATELY SELLING" firearms. Someone owns it " privately" and is selling it privately. I think people would be more reluctant to do background checks privately if NICS was not so backed up. Thats the problem. The government wants you to go through channels to do it. Thats fine. Background checks are a good idea for the most part, however they take forever. You have the right to a speedy trial, why can't you have the right to a speedy gun purchase as well. Also just to make this point proven... Most gun shows do require the purchaser to do a NICS check. Thats to cover their own butt.

    April 11, 2013 at 8:51 am |