What The ATF Doesn’t Tell You About Gun Dealers.

Now that The New York Times has pronounced that gun dealers are getting away with murder because the ATF lets all these rogue dealers stay in business no matter how many crime guns they sell, and now that the oracle of gun violence prevention, our friend Daniel Webster from Johns Hopkins has further declared that this article is a ‘must read’ because, after all, the NRA makes sure that all gun regulations are weaker than they should be, perhaps we might take a few minutes to set the record straight.

shop             I’m not saying that the article by Ali Watkins is wrong. But the headline, which I’m sure was stuck on to her interesting reportage came out of whatever department tries to attract readers to the NYT site.  The headline says: ‘When Guns Are Sold Illegally, A.T.F. Is Lenient On Punishment.’  No wonder Webster says this is a ‘must read.’ After all, he has been a leading proponent of the need to strengthen licensing at the counter-top through extending background checks to secondary sales.

There’s only one problem with Webster’s promotion of this article. If you actually read the whole thing, Ms. Watkins is saying much more than just that the ATF is letting all these bad-guy gun dealers off the hook. In fact, the whole idea of leniency on the part of the how the ATF regulates gun shops has to be seen in a much broader context which is discussed by Ali Watkins in detail. Maybe Webster doesn’t read details.

The article is based on ATF gun-shop inspection reports which Brady received from the ATF. For obvious reasons, some of the fields in the reports are redacted out, nor does the report necessarily contain all the information that would allow someone to determine the degree to which the ATF is actually letting dealers stay in business whose behavior should really get them shut down. What really comes out from these reports, however, is that conducting an inspection of a gun shop under the rules and regulations of GCA68 (the federal law which set up the entire regulatory system and placed it under the purview of the ATF) often requires judgements to be made for which the law either gives vague guidelines on how to proceed or no guidelines at all.

Watkins gives an example of a gun shop which was cited for releasing several guns without conducting a background check, and even though the shop had evidently failed to conduct a background check on another transfer at some point in time, thus making the second failure a ‘willful’ violation of the law, what this means is that the 4473 background check form did not contain information about when the background check took place (the requisite field on the form was blank) hence, it is assumed that no background check actually occurred.

Under law, the FBI cannot retain NICS information for more than 24 hours after a background check occurs. But if the requisite data is missing from the form, the ATF inspector has to cite this as a violation because absent the data, it is assumed that the check didn’t occur. And you wonder how, at the review level, a dealer can remain in business after committing such a serious offense? Give me a break, okay?

There isn’t a retail gun dealer in the United States who doesn’t know how to build a nice stash of guns and sell them illegally without involving himself in regulatory procedures at all. Whenever someone sells you a gun, and most gun shops have at least 40% used guns, all the dealer has to do is neglect to enter the gun into his acquisition list, which means that from a regulatory perspective, the gun doesn’t exist at all.

The ATF would like you to believe that the only thing which stands between all those rogue dealers and safety and security throughout the United States is the inspections they perform, albeit without enough manpower to do a proper job. Anyone who actually buys that nonsense has never stood behind a counter and sold guns.

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When The NRA Talks About Gun Safety, It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.

With all the talk about how easy it is to get a gun through the internet, it figures that sooner or later gun dealers would start using wireless apps to spread the word about products, prices and where a gun nut should go if he wants to pick up another gun.  And the company that is kicking off this new venue is owned by a family now in its third generation of using media to promote guns.  The company, GunDealio, is the brainchild of Tom and Ryan Gresham, whose father and grandfather respectively was ‘Grits’ Gresham, who got into outdoor sports journalism and was host of the ABC television show, American Sportsman, from 1966 until 1979.

The new company is another offshoot of the Gresham media empire called GunTalk Media, which produces television and radio shows about guns and shooting and in particular is known for a radio show called GunTalk, which is syndicated nationally and usually plays Sunday afternoons on whatever AM talk-radio station captures the gun-owning crowd.

grits                The GunDealio app, which can be downloaded to iOS or Google, allows gun dealers to list whatever special deals will get customers into their stores.  As the number of app-holders grows, the plan is to let each gun shop push a notice or ad onto the mobile devices of everyone in the market area of that store, which means that as someone goes cruising down the street on the way to wherever they want to go, all of a sudden they’ll get a text or a pic which tells them to make a quick turn right in order to stop off and save thirty bucks on a new Glock.

It doesn’t surprise me that the Greshams or someone else would sooner or later come up with a mobile app that promotes the sale of guns.  Gun buyers are first and foremost hobbyists, they love to wander in and out of multiple stores and they’ll think nothing of taking off on a Saturday afternoon after they’ve finished the ‘honey-dos’ and driving fifty or a hundred miles to drop into two or three gun shops.

What I found interesting about the GunDealio story was not the use of mobile sales ‘push’ technology, which is becoming a standard part of sales and marketing strategies no matter what consumer product category is being discussed.  Rather, that I found interesting was the description of the mission of GunTalk Media which, according to the Greshams, produce shows that focus on “firearms, hunting and personal safety.”

Whoa!  Personal safety?  You mean media productions that explain the hows and whys of using guns in a safe way?  Just goes to show how little I really understand about an industry with which I have been involved for nearly forty years.  Because when the Greshams talk about ‘personal safety,’ they’re not talking about locking the guns or locking them away.  Actually, they get a fair share of advertising from companies that manufacture gun safes, but that has nothing to do with gun safety from their point of view.

What the Greshams mean when they use the term ‘gun safety’ is what the entire gun industry really means when they trot out that phrase, namely, how to use a gun to protect yourself from crime because –read the rest of this sentence closely – that’s the most important reason to own a gun.  I took a look at the last 10 podcasts listed on the show’s website, and half dealt primarily with products for self-defense.

Grandpa Gresham, who got the whole family into gun media in the first place, was an outspoken guy who wrote nine books on hunting and fishing and, as far as I can recall, never spoke about using guns for anything other than hunting and sport.  And that’s what the gun business was all about before the crazies took over the NRA and invented the stupid and cynical, but ultimately successful marketing strategy known as armed, self-defense.   Too bad the legacy of sportsmen like Grits Gresham is disappearing thanks to the efforts of people who bear his name.