Tim York wrote:
Can you explain that to a naive European,Craig? Illegal to sell a private cellar??
Would it be illegal to sell off a collection of guns?
To understand this you have to understand the history of alcohol prohibition in the USA. There was an amendment to the US Constitution, and then subsequent federal legislation, prohibiting alcoholic beverages throughout the USA. I forget the exact dates, but Prohibition was in effect throughout the 1920s. As a social experiment, Prohibition was a disastrous failure. Its main legacy was to promote organized crime.
Eventually another constitutional amendment was passed repealing the prohibition amendment. But with a twist. There was no national consensus that Prohibition was a failure. In order to get the repeal amendment ratified, a compromise was made. Prohibition wasn't completely repealed. Instead, the new amendment gave the individual states control over the production, trafficking, and consumption of alcoholic beverages within their borders. This supplied an exemption to the part of the US Constitution called the "commerce clause", which prohibits states from erecting trade barriers against each other. Those states with a strong Prohibitionist movement were happy because they could now continue Prohibition, and the amendment was ratified.
So each of the States in the Union has the power to control traffic in alcoholic beverages within its borders.
Some states passed laws continuing the practice of prohibition; I don't know if there are any of those so-called "dry" states left.
In some states (I think Kentucky is one), the Prohibition decision is left up to individual counties. In New Hampshire, where I live, the State controls wholesale distribution of alcoholic beverages. Private retail establishments (such as supermarkets) are allowed to sell beer and wine, but "hard liquor" can only be sold at retail at liquor stores run by the State.
A lot of states operate on what is called a three-tier distribution system. You need a license from the state to produce alcoholic beverages. You need a different license to do wholesale distribution, including shipping booze in from outside the state. You need a third type of license to sell alcoholic beverages at retail.
Most, if not all, states prohibit the private sale of alcoholic beverages except to licensed wholesalers or auctioneers. Those state laws exist mainly so that the State collects its taxes on such transactions, but, in three-tier states, it also prevents wine commerce from cutting out the wholesale tier.
It's all very confusing, and each state has its own regulations and procedures.
And yes--it's a lot easier to sell or distribute firearms right now.