[FoRK] how do you sell a used gun?

Kevin Elliott <k-elliott at wiu.edu> on Tue Sep 4 13:12:59 PDT 2007

On Sep 4, 2007, at 12:40 PM, Corinna Schultz wrote:
> I suppose that makes sense, since a pawn shop is a commercial outlet.
> I was thinking more that you could get a gun more cheaply from a pawn
> shop than you could from a gun store.

Somewhat true- Pawn shops often have guns for a lower price, but this  
is entirely because they often have guns that are worth less.   
Commercially, handguns always carry a hefty premium.  Basically the  
market breaks down like this:

-Premium Handguns: $1000+.  Something "special" about them (very high  
accuracy, hand made, etc.)
-Standard Hangunds: $350-$900.  Ruger automatics at the bottom, Sigs  
at the top.
-Cheap Crap: $200-300.  Jennings, crap like that.  Very low quality  
guns, generally with zinc slides.  Inaccurate, and prone to failure.   
Largest caliber is ~.380 (because anything larger requires better metal)
-Odd balls: <200.  Basically strange things.  The cheapest handgun I  
ever purchased was ~$120.  It was a .22 revolver, from the mid  
sixties with an 8 inch barrel.  Fun toy, but completely useless for  
defensive purposes, etc.

All those prices are essentially fixed between pawn shops and "gun  
shops".  The pawn shops know what a gun is worth- why would they sell  
it for less?  It's pretty rare for a gun to actually wear out, so  
"used" only reduces the price slightly (say $50).  I shopped at pawn  
shops because I'm mostly into "unusual" guns, and the pawnshops  
generally had more oddities around.  If someone was very familiar  
with gun pricing it is possible to find deals, but in my experience  
it was far more common to see guns priced for _more_ than they were  
worth, not less.

> Also, the background check will only show if you have a record, right?
> So if you're an uncaught criminal, or if you know somebody with a
> clean record, you won't have any trouble.

*shrug*.  If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound?  In  
terms of restricting peoples right to purchase, I have a hard time  
imagining any system better than "check if they have a record".   
Anything more restrictive seems either blatantly unfair or   
impossible to administer.

> How do they know if you're
> buying a gun for someone else anyway?

All they can do is look for signs.  In the case I witnessed, it was  
clear that one of the guys was the guy "picking" the gun.  When it  
came time to purchase, the other person said "Oh no, I'm buying the  
gun".  They said "We're sorry, but this looks like a straw purchase,  
and unless the guy who is the intended recipient agrees to be the  
purchaser of record (and get background checked) we can't sell the  
gun to either of you.".  Inadvertently I once tripped over this- my  
ex-wife was "buying me a gun" as a christmas gift, and I was there to  
chose it.  It wasn't a problem of course (I just did the background  
check), but all the gun stores I've dealt with have been aware of the  
technique and watching for it.

> I was kind of thinking "If I were a gang member and wanted to buy a
> gun for the new guy, and didn't want to pay full price, how would I do
> it"  :)   Perhaps I don't have sufficient imagination, or I've been
> sheltered all my life...

If I knew an easy way to avoid paying full price for guns, I would  
buy all guns that way.  No luck so far...


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