Are Gun Shows Dangerous?

Every time the subject of guns comes up, whether on this blog or elsewhere (see here, here, and here for a few examples), the resultant discussion is predictably passionate.

I am guessing that passionate gun discussions are taking place all over the country today with the news that an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself over the weekend at a gun show in Massachusetts.

Every element of this incident — the age of the victim, the controls in place at the gun show, the fact that the gun was an Uzi — will surely be analyzed for many days to come. But it might be worth taking a step back from this single tragic incident and asking a broader question: are gun shows themselves dangerous?

That’s the question posed in a new working paper by Mark Duggan, Randi Hjalmarsson, and Brian A. Jacob (abstract here, PDF here). The paper is called “The Effect of Gun Shows on Gun-Related Deaths: Evidence From California and Texas.” And here is the abstract:

Thousands of gun shows take place in the U.S. each year. Gun control advocates argue that because sales at gun shows are much less regulated than other sales, such shows make it easier for potential criminals to obtain a gun.

Similarly, one might be concerned that gun shows would exacerbate suicide rates by providing individuals considering suicide with a more lethal means of ending their lives. On the other hand, proponents argue that gun shows are innocuous, since potential criminals can acquire guns quite easily through other black market sales or theft. In this paper, we use data from Gun and Knife Show Calendar combined with vital statistics data to examine the effect of gun shows. We find no evidence that gun shows lead to substantial increases in either gun homicides or suicides. In addition, tighter regulation of gun shows does not appear to reduce the number of firearms-related deaths.

Duggan in particular has done a lot of gun research, some of which suggests that more guns generally equal more crime, not less. So it is an interesting twist, to say the very least, that gun shows themselves do not seem to exact a societal cost.

The family and friends of the 8-year-old boy will of course take no solace in this conclusion. But it is a good reminder that when something tragic (and anomalous) spurts up in the daily news, we shouldn’t rush to instantly paint it as representative of the larger picture.

Loren Pechtel

Some comments:

Most murders are of people known to each other, not robberies??? The two states are *NOT* exclusive. A lot of murders are drug deals gone bad. Look back in the mists of time and you can see what's really going on. The murder rate used to be low. Prohibition came along, the murder rate went up 10x. Prohibition was repealed, the murder rate began to fall but the drug war brought it back up before it had fallen all that far.

As for whether he could control the weapon--obviously, an 8 year old doesn't have the strength to hold one on target. I don't think the instructor expected him to be able to. So long as rounds that go high over the target are still safe this wouldn't be a problem. It seems to me the kid must have panicked and tried to force it down instead of releasing the trigger when it went for the sky.

This isn't the first kid to die participating in his parent's hobbies and it won't be the last. The mere fact that it involves guns shouldn't be a reason for a big panic.

As for liability, how about 50% for the father and 50% for the lawyers. I think the denial of personal responsibility that's stock in trade for the legal profession actually makes society more dangerous.


Michael K

Mean while, why not ban all minors under 18 from gun shows? Will is be difficult to ban minors from gun shows?


@22, Bond saith: I never understood how this country will allow its citizen to carry guns. It's pathetic to hide behind the constitution for gun rights. No Gun, No Violence.

Like Britain!


I would like to see some research saying whether changes in gun legislation are actually the most dangerous thing. I always felt it was, deregulation puts guns into the hands of people who haven't learned to respect them in vast numbers, tightening regulation drives guns underground.

I always suspected that changing gun laws would kill more people than the new law saved before it was changed again.

Dale S.

Gun control and the 2nd Amendment are not about arms - they are about the RIGHT to defend yourself.

It's common sense that someone has the right to physically defend themselves if they feel threatened. The ONLY reasonable way to do this is with a firearm, preferably a handgun.

It's sick the way the gun control lobby has exploited this poor kid's tragedy.


Please go all the way back to post number 6. This was NOT A GUN SHOW. Useing this terrible accident to bash gun shows is like advocating the confiscation of all legally operated automobiles to eliminate the problem of DUI by unlicensed illegal ailens. Not logical. Just a misguided feel - good agenda.


The point of regulating gun shows is not to reduce crime but to make it easier to track the guns and solve the crime.

Mark Freeman

Thanks for links to the research (wish more posting hear had read it). I read the whole paper, and agree with others that the next draft should take a look at distances greater than 25 miles and a more extended timeframe. That said, my bet is the results will not change. And I think it makes sense for those of us who have been to gun shows (they do not seem to be frequented by black market gun dealers or other criminals). At the same time, the lit review in this paper does point to compelling evidence that gun ownership is associated with more gun violence (more murders and suicides). So maybe gun shows do not increase the rate of gun ownership, at least in the short run, so are therefore not associated with contemporaneous spikes in gun violence. If so, regulating gun shows is probably not a fruitful policy option for reducing gun violence. Government would do better to focus resources on options other than regulating gun shows. But how do we explain that small (but statistically significant) reduction in gun homicides from the Texas regressions? Still thinking about that.



mmar cel:
A bunch of people went on and on about the pretty stock picture attached to the story not matching the story but alot of the anti-gun people do not understand gun show versus a machine gun shoot.

3:45 pm NOTE to all posters: This was NOT a gun show, this was an organized machine gun shoot. Do not show your ignorance by assuming the picture linked with the story and this opinion page is correct

To expand on my earlier question from #60 (which no one has seemed to considering answering):

“Is this incident any different from a child dying while his father is flying a private plane, dying while on a personal watercraft (Jet Ski for those who don't know the generic term) with his father, dying while hiking and mountain climbing with his parents?”

For the record:
1. I am not a pro-gun or anti-gun shill. Guns are inanimate manufactured objects.
2. I do not own a gun.
3. I am employed in an industry which manufactures physical goods for humans to use.


jim sawyer

The answer to the question is in parts :
1) God / Jesus stated we should love are enemies !
Now if we love our enemies we would not need guns.
2) Do people on earth actually believe in heaven in the United States ! If you truly do believe in heaven and God you recognize that only he determines who comes and goes on earth so this is another reason why we do not need guns.
3) Thou shalt not Kill ! Bible reference ,
Written by God !
4) If you truly believe what Jesus says , " Love your enemies, it would be impossible to shoot a bullet which kills someone without contradicting the teachings of Jesus .
5) All war on our planet would come to an end if everyone would follow that strategy !
6) If George Bush only increased the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq to 10,000 we never would have needed to kill a single Iraqi citizen !
We would have eliminated a multi billion dollar mess directly caused by one man George Bush who's decision resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraq's civilians dying ! George also messed up our economy by spending 100s of billions on guns !
7) Do you think in heaven God will be handing out gun permits ? Jesus wants us to LOVE !
8) The people who are the saints in heaven , do you think they will be walking around with a UZI's ?
I truly doubt it ! Many of the martys were killed by UZI's because they did not beieve in violence !
9) Dose anyone on earth believe in eternity (heaven) ?
10) Has anyone looked at a supernova star through a telescope at observatory ? The force of a single supernova like the one that blew in February 1988 SN1988c was so powerful that the concussion from the explosion in the time of Noah traveled 5,000 years through the universe and reach earth in Feb. 1988. Now what is the power of a UZI in the hands of a terrorist or for a matter of fact the sum total of all the guns, cannons, missles, tri nitro tolulene bombs, nuclear bombs, of earth would be compared to the power of God. All of man's gun toys are a small firecracker compared to the power of God. So why do we play with those silly guns ? Men need wisdom not guns !
I pray for all the people on earth who want to play for oh so short a time with guns, compared to eternity with God forever ! Check your gun in at the pearly Gate !
God Bess the world please
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE, John Lennon and give mankind a tiny bit of wisdom beyond the caveman and the spear !
11) We are just temporary residents of earth and the people who decide to play with guns are really just paranoid and should ask themselves with a honest
12) We would not need to kill hundreds of thousands of people if we loved our enemy !
13) England is a country which bans 99% of the guns in the hands of people . Police do not even have guns ! Why don't we follow the example of the United Kingdom !
England has only 10 % of the gun deaths per population as the USA.
14) Love is the answer !
15) We are only temporary residents of earth !



Every time this issue comes up, it turns into a Presidential debate... i.e. a lot of posturing and overuse of cliche.

This issue and some others are all about safety vs. freedom. Freedom is dangerous, especially so for stupid people, but to me and many others it's still preferable to living in Massachusetts, where according to #121 the natives can't be trusted to pop a firecracker without injuring themselves. If that's true, then the good residents of MA flat out don't deserve to continue living. Where I come from whole generations of kids grew up shooting bottle rockets at each other. None died. Personally, I have spent a great deal of my life doing things that are technically unsafe, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it for 100 years in Massachusetts. Bonzai!

And since this is a gun discussion, I feel obliged to add that I own guns too, and none of them have ever committed a crime!


At the risk of stating the obvious--why was a minor allowed at this event? Much less allowed to shoot a gun--supervised or not? This is a tragedy. I am pessimistic about any gun laws or restrictions changing because of it.


Even if the 8-year-old could have fired the gun safely, what's the point in allowing him to fire it? So he can feel what it would be like to mow down crowds of people?


Note first that this incident did not happen at a "gun show." It occurred at a private club hosting a, 'Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman's Club.' The intelligence of letting an eight year old boy shoot a machine gun at a practice range should be the object of discussion here, not gun shows where semi-automatic weapons are sold but are kept locked and free of ammo.

Class III machine guns are not the normal trade at gun shows since you cannot buy and take possession of such a weapon at a show.

Also note that there is no such thing as a gun show "loophole." Any purchase from a licensed FFL dealer at a gun show requires the same background check as you would go through at a store. Sales between individuals, the same as selling a gun via a classified ad to another individual, is a private, unregulated transaction as it well should be.

Pierce Randall

#31, that's a stupid point. The UK has less than half the homicide rate of the U.S.

I'm not going to wade into it about how much of that is actually gun control. (Let's just say I'm pro-amending the constitution and replacing the 2nd amendment with something a little more relevant.) But they're definitely a bad example specifically in support of your point.

Steve K

Did anyone see the videos, many with loud, foot-stamping AC/DC songs, introduced by the screaming drill instructor from the History Channel, that was still up yesterday at They're the company that actually put the show on.

They showed men (maybe a woman or two) shooting all kinds of automatic weapons, including what looked like .50 cal machine gun, a Gatling gun, and something that was the size of a portable cement mixer with at least 4, maybe 8 barrels. Not personal weapons that a citizen gun-owner might reasonably have, but weapons of destruction. The targets were three trucks in front of a berm. There were thousands of rounds being fired. There was no pretense of target practice or sport. Just destruction with firearms. This event had absolutely nothing to do with Second Amendment rights.

Father-33% Jerk! His whole family will suffer the rest of their lives for his idiocy.
Promoters-33% They based a business on military fantasy. They were negligent in ensuring that EVERY patron was safe in a potentially deadly atmosphere.
Military Fantasist Culture-33%

Damages? Every penny, times 3, that C.O.P. Firearms has made in the past 10 years, including officer compensation.


Idea Dude

See Fahrenheit 911 for a little insight on guns. They have all sorts of guns in Canada too. But for some reason (or is it many reasons?), it's just not a problem. The world laughs at us.

A Gun Owner

I'd assign responsibility to:
Father: 50%
Directly responsible for not putting his son in situations dangerous to him.
Promoter/Instructor: 50%
There's not enough information to really say. Did the show have any sort of age restriction? If so, was the instructor following the show's restrictions?

Also, as others have stated, this was not a gun show but a gun shoot at a gun club. Gun shows are very strict about not allowing loaded weapons. Every one I've been to requires some means of rendering a gun inoperable (for example, running a zip-tie through the action to prevent ammunition from being loaded).


I may be a liberal, but I like guns and have a couple.

The weapon might be inherently dangerous, but it's the idiots mishandling them that present the greatest danger to themselves and others.

I will continue to own guns and use them properly as long as criminals will misuse them.

In the mentioned case, the father, the kid and whoever was supposed to be supervising the weapon all share the blame.

More common sense is needed rather than more useless regulation.


I feel sorry for the 8 year old! All kids love guns. Most safe responsible gun club's will not allow anyone under the age of 12 on the range. The accident shows that the gun club was also unsafe for adults! I'm also not "scared or insecure",but, I'm now watchful of new untrained gun owners with CC permits.

"Democracy is a Wolf and Sheep deciding what's for dinner; Liberty is well armed Sheep."