Gun shows are NOT trade shows for bad guys and criminals. It is law abiding citizens that attend to basically shop a swap meet that is focused around the Second Amendment of the Constitution of United States. You can not only buy guns and ammo at gun shows, but also RC helicopters, Egyptian Cotton Sheets, flatware with Dale Earnhart Jr's face and number on it, to tupperware. Hopefully you are getting the swap meet picture a bit more clearly.
In order to be a retailer of firearms one must possess a Federal Firearms License (FFL). This is what you gun shops and sporting good stores possess. It is also possessed by local gun smiths and anyone who buys and sells guns as a business both full and part time. This includes those who sell at gun shows. If you have an FFL and you do NOT do a background check on a buyer you will go to prison. The ATF is very strict about auditing all FFL buying and selling transactions, almost as intense as the IRS in auditing your finances.
However for a private citizen to sell THEIR OWN GUNS an FFL is not required and as a result neither is a background check. It is perfectly legal to sell your guns to another person without doing a background check. There are some smart practices that vary state to state on how civilians should do this, but again it is legal to do so.
Now that we got the legalities out of the way how you buy a firearm at a gun show without having to go through a background check is you buy the personal firearm from the guy who sells RC Helicopters or NasCar flatware. These are civilians selling their own personal collection and it is completely legal as long as they are abiding by the best practices their state requires.
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