Comment On The Upcoming Senate Gun Vote.

pulse           In preparation for the Senate vote on Monday which may or may not involve extending background checks to private transactions, I thought I would take a look at Armslist, a national website that allows, indeed encourages private sales of guns. And when you go to the website, the first thing that greets you is a ‘disclaimer’ which says that anyone using the site should follow all laws regarding the sale and transfer of firearms.  But what if there are no laws? What if you happen to live in one of the 40 states that does not require a background check except at the initial point of sale?

Here are some examples of what you can do.

  • A resident of Birmingham, AL, wants to buy a Glock 27, which holds 10 rounds of S&W 40 ammo and is less than 6 ½ inches long. So it’s a very concealable gun, the ammunition is extremely lethal, and if you want to ‘load up’ as we say in the gun business, you can get magazines that hold 13, 15 or 22 rounds!  Imagine that – a handgun that hold 22 rounds.  Slip into a club some night with this gun and 4 extended mags and you can equal the body count that was registered at the Pulse. The guy who wants to buy such a gun is named Josh and he says that he’s “not a paranoid gun owner” and will give someone $450 for the gun but doesn’t require a ‘bill of sale’ or a ‘photo ID.’ But we know he’s a law-abiding citizen because at the end of the notice he makes sure to add: “God Bless America!” and that takes care of that.
  • There’s a fellow who lives in Broward. FL, who wants to sell or trade his Bushmaster ACR. This gun happens to be a look-alike for the Sig MCX, except it has more design options and can be ‘adapted’ to more shooting environments, hence the acronym ‘ACR’ which means ‘Adaptive Combat Rifle.’ So if you’re ready to go into combat in a nightclub, or a schoolyard, or anywhere else where terrorists are running amok, just shoulder your Bushmaster ACR and you’re ready to go.  The seller of this gun says it “has never been fired” and he has “no practical use for it.”  Well at least he’s admitting that there’s no real reason for anyone to shell out $1,400 for this gun.
  • Maybe rather than an AR-15 or the ACR I’d rather like to go with a Yugo SKS.  I was always partial to the SKS because most AR-15 rifles shoot the .223 shell but the SKS takes a 30-caliber round which basically means more tissue damage for each pop.  And if I happened to live in Nebraska, there’s a guy in Central Nebraska who’s got a Yugo with a folding stock for $600 bucks.  And what makes this gun really neat is it also comes with a real bayonet, so if I run out of ammo I can still defend myself with this sharp, metal stick. The seller, incidentally, says that the buyer has to pay ‘shipping,’ and while the Feds say he can’t ship the gun directly to me if I live in another state, ho-hum, ho-hum, ho-hum.

Now don’t get wrong.  I’m not saying that anyone who buys or sells a gun on Armslist is trying to evade the law. Because the truth is that I have purchased 4 or 5 guns that were listed on Armslist and in every, single case the transaction not only occurred in a completely legal way, but the sellers all insisted that we fill out an online gun transfer form that is required for private sales in my state.

What I am saying is that requiring background checks for transfers of such lethal weapons as 22-round Glocks or AR and AK-style guns is in no way, shape or form a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights. Tell that to Senator Grassley. Yea, right.pulse

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Can You Still Buy A Gun On Facebook? Yup, You Sure Can.

            Matt Drange has just published an article that should be required reading for everyone in GVP.  Because basically what Matt did was the follow up on Facebook’s decision to ban private gun sales from the perspective of wanting to see whether, in effect, the ban has made any difference at all.  And while it is virtually impossible to quantify how many Facebook pages were devoted to gun sales either pre or post the January ban, it is clear that many of the Facebook sellers have managed to continue selling internet guns either explicitly on Facebook or through other, somewhat disguised means.

 ar           I happen to be a member of a private Facebook gun group which I joined not because I wanted to buy or sell guns, but as one of many resources I use to check the ups and downs of the gun market as a whole.  I never felt all that comfortable using the monthly FBI-NICS numbers as a guide to overall gun sales, in particular because NICS obviously doesn’t catch many private transactions, plus the 4473 NICS form doesn’t distinguish between the sale of new and used guns.  But I find that a much more sensitive barometer for the ebb and flow of gun commerce (true of all commerce) is price, so when the selling price of AR-15 rifles dropped by more than 30% between 2013 and 2015 I knew that the tactical gun craze had come to an end.

            What Drange discovered by joining more than two dozen Facebook gun groups was that most of the groups are still doing business as usual simply by making it more difficult for Facebook viewers who aren’t members of the particular group to identify the group’s page.  And the easiest way to do this is to change the page’s name so that a search for pages using terms like ‘guns’ or ‘AR’ or something else relevant to Gun Nation won’t come up.  The administrator of my group simply took the name, replaced every other letter with a symbol and that was the end of that.

            The truth is that the only way internet gun sales can be effectively ended is by making it illegal to sell guns on the net.  But that creates a whole bunch of other issues because most internet gun sales are conducted on legitimate, online websites like Bud’s Gun Shop or Impact Guns, which ship to licensed dealers and do not offer space for private sales.  And even the notorious Armslist which encourages listings by private sellers, is actually utilized more by licensed-dealers who want to avoid the hassle of administering their own site. I can’t imagine any piece of legislation could be crafted that would satisfy all the different issues raised by pro-gun and anti-gun groups.

            But the bigger problem is the degree to which any legislation restricting legal commerce in guns will be effective given the fact that just about everyone in America can legally own a gun.  In that respect, a new study has just been published which evaluates the degree to which state-level laws impact levels of gun violence (homicide and suicide) and the resulting conclusions are somewhat confusing, to say the least.  On the one hand, there appears to be an association between lower gun violence rates and universal background checks both on guns and ammunition sales, but the state laws which appear to have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence are laws requiring ballistic fingerprinting or microstamping, otherwise known as firearms identification. 

            There’s only one little problem. The two states where firearm identification reduced gun violence rates, Florida and Alaska, have no firearm identification laws at all.  Which makes me wonder about any attempt to use regression analysis between laws and behavioral outcomes unless the law in question regulates the behavior itself.  And since the behavior that leads to gun violence is basically the ownership of guns, what difference will gun laws really make?

Is There An Internet ‘Loophole’ For Gun Sales?

Now that the President has moved the issue of an internet ‘loophole’ for gun sales onto the front burner, perhaps it’s time to really figure out what and whether such a loophole actually exists.  As of this morning we have, as usual, John Lott talking for Gun Nation and telling us there is no loophole; on the other hand, The Trace claims there is an internet ‘loophole’ if you live in one of the 32 states that does not regulate private sales. But in fact, of the 18 states that require background checks for private gun transfers, only 8 states mandate background checks for every type of gun; the other 10 states allow for unregulated transfers of long guns which, the last time I pulled out one of my Colt H-BARs, looks like a pretty lethal weapon to me.

bomber              Actually, the ability to use the internet for legal, in-state gun transactions is more an issue of the extent to which the internet and websites like Armslist allow sellers to reach a much wider potential audience than would be the case if we were back in the pre-digital age when selling any personally-owned item was usually done by running a print ad in the local classified news. My state happens to regulate private sales, but there are no private sale regulations in four of the six contiguous states that border the state in which I live.

The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that if I drive to one of those states and buy a gun from a private seller, I give him the money, he gives me the gun, I drive back home and that’s the end of that. And that’s the end of that because those states do not regulate private gun transfers which, in the case of long guns, happens to be true in more than 40 states. Will the seller of an out-of-state gun ask me to prove that I am also a resident of his state?  He might, but then again he might not.  Remember, if he lives in a state that doesn’t regulate private sales, he’s not breaking any law by selling me that gun.  And since he’s not a licensed dealer, he is under no requirement to ascertain whether I am legally able to own that gun, or even keep a record of the sale.  I’m breaking the law because I can’t bring an unliensed gun back to my home state.  But I didn’t want to submit to a background check anyway, remember?

The situation gets a little trickier with handguns because such transfers tend to be more strictly regulated in many states and folks who sell handguns are generally aware that handguns have a funny way of winding up in the ‘wrong hands.’ So if I want to buy a handgun without submitting to a background check, I probably will stay within my own state, assuming that my state doesn’t regulate private handgun sales.  Which is the real impact of the internet as regards the flow of private guns, because I can drive from one end of my state to the other within 3 hours, but could I know of the desire of some seller in another town within my state to get rid of a gun without going online?  Of course not.

When the internet first started up, you could find gun listings on Craiglist, other online classifieds including eBay, and you could pay for guns if you had a Paypal account. Those sites quickly banned guns because they decided the liability far outweighed the returns.  But I can’t imagine that websites like Armslist or GunsAmerica would voluntarily ban private sales, since that’s their reason for being in business in the first place.  As long as the internet operates as a giant flea market and guns are legal commerce, guns are going to be sold online, it’s as simple as that.

It Hasn’t Been A Good Month For The NRA And Things Might Get Worse.

All of a sudden it seems like the pro-gun gang is taking it on the chin.  I am referring to a spate of lawsuits that have pushed back gun ‘rights’ in favor of gun ‘controls.’  And while I don’t want to assume that the trend will continue, it’s a basic shift in the legal landscape involving guns and may foreshadow more gun-control victories to come.  It certainly promises that there will be more legal battles and here is why:

  1. Last week the 2nd Circuit upheld the Connecticut and New York laws that were passed after Sandy Hook, laws which effectively gave both states the right to closely regulate assault-style guns.  The plaintiffs (NRA, etc.) of course argued the same old, same old; namely, that the little ol’ AR-15s were just like any other kind of semi-automatic hunting gun, even though I don’t believe anybody ever went into the woods looking to pop Bambi with a rifle that could shoot 60 rounds in three minutes or less.  Which is basically how the Court saw the case, noting that taking this type of weapon out of civilian hands did not deprive consumers from buying any other type of semi-automatic gun.  The Court agreed that the 2nd Amendment protected the right of gun owners to have semi-automatic rifles but didn’t protect any particular sub-group of same.  Bye bye modern sporting gun.
  2. A jury in Milwaukee found a local gun shop guilty of aiding and abetting a straw sale which eventually led to two police officers being shot with the illegally-sold gun. The gun shop argued that they had no way of knowing that the buyer was actually fronting for someone else; the jury had trouble swallowing that cock-and-bull story when they were told that the jerk who bought the gun mistakenly wrote down his buddy’s address on the 4473.
  3. Another lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee, this one against Armslist, the website that allows unlicensed individuals to advertise, buy, sell and trade guns. In this case someone sold a 40-caliber handgun to a dope who promptly walked into a health spa, shot seven women and killed three of them including his own wife, and then went down in a blaze of glory by putting the gun against his own head.  Last year another liability suit against Armslist was dismissed in Illinois because the owners of the website claimed that they required all users to agree to follow relevant gun laws.  But the suit filed in Milwaukee sidesteps the issue of user responsibility entirely, arguing instead that the website’s user terms are “a ruse and a fraud intended to create the illusion of legal compliance” with the laws covering gun sales.
  4. Then the big news is out of Connecticut, where the District Court sent the suit by the Sandy Hook parents against Bushmaster back to state court. In this case the defendant – Bushmaster – had originally moved the case from state to federal court, evidently hoping that the suit would then bump up against the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act and get thrown out.  The case might eventually wind up in the federal courts on appeal, but as of today it must first be heard in the state where the massacre took place.

lapierre                All in all it’s been a rough month for the guns, made even more difficult by the fact that after the Republicans decided the 2nd Amendment trumped Benghazi as a campaign issue, Hillary shot right back and said that she was ready, willing and able to take on the NRA.  So the question has to be asked: How come, as Brady’s Dan Gross says, we seem to have reached a “tipping point” in the debate over guns?

Here it is short and sweet.  Everyone’s sick of the NRA.  Sick of the killings, sick of the loss of life, sick of the blind devotion to the 2nd Amendment and sick of all those sacred gun ‘rights.’ Wayne-o is going online today to remind his members that Obama wants to take away their guns.  It’s a hollow argument falling on increasingly deaf ears.