A few days ago on MSNBC Chris Matthews cited statistics that 40% of gun sales were made via the internet without any background checks. I can't confirm or deny the 40% figure, but the internet is the main way to trade used firearms via an auction site like Gunbroker.com). Many retailers also sell firearms via the internet. Matthews' statement regarding the lack of safeguards is completely false however.
All shipments and sales of firearms via the Internet must go through intermediaries who hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Individuals cannot legally ship firearms to anyone other than an FFL holder, and in most cases, an FFL will only accept shipments from another FFL. If you buy a firearm over the Internet, it is shipped to an FFL, and you are required to pick it up in person. At that time the FFL will have you fill out a Federal form called a 4473, in which you answer a list of questions, and swear under oath that you are qualified to receive the firearm.
The FFL checks this information against your personal identification, and calls NICS (National Instant Background Check System), which approves or disapproves the sale. NICS is a national database which lists any convictions or other information which would disqualify you. The FFL also checks for any state or local requirements, like a FOID card (Firearms Owner Identification) in Illinois, and holds the firearm for the mandated waiting period, if any. In Illinois, you must wait 3 days (72 hours) for a handgun or 1 day (24 hours) for a rifle or shotgun.
People use the Internet to buy and sell firearms because it is a much larger market than available locally. The seller usually gets more than he would selling or consigning the firearm to a local dealer. The buyer usually pays less than he would at a dealer, and has a much wider variety to choose from.
The Internet also minimizes security concerns. In a face-to-face (FTF) sale, the buyer must trust the seller to turn over the weapon after receiving payment, particularly if there is a waiting period. The seller must trust that the prospective buyer is not coming to rob him (and vice versa).
Sales between non-licensed individuals can be made face-to-face (FTF) between residents of that state, consistent with state law. Illinois requires both parties to have an FOID card, and the seller must keep a record of the transaction for 10 years. Other states vary.
The so-called "Gun Show Loophole" is really a sub-set of FTF sales. At present, it is not necessary to complete a 4473 form (unless the seller holds an FFL, even selling a private firearm), nor is there a reasonable way to do this at present. One possible solution would be to require all transactions to proceed through an FFL, complete with all the paperwork. A gun show could have a booth with one or more FFLs and a telephone for this service. The typical fee for this service is $25 to $35, including the background check, so it wouldn't be hard to find FFLs willing to participate. A private individual can easily find a local FFL by searching the Internet for a directory.
Most of the complaints about internet and gun show sales come from cities and organizations that object to private citizens from owning firearms of any sort.
Any Illinois resident with a FOID card can buy a firearm from any legal seller in the state, even if the buyer is from Chicago. The courts have found these sales to be legal, and that cities can't control sales outside of their boundaries. Chicago can only regulate sale and possession of firearms in the city itself.
The organization, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC, take particular umbrage with this situation. The conundrum is that their efforts to control illegal guns consist largely of making legal sales and possession difficult or impossible. That, of course, is Bloomberg's real goal - to make all guns illegal (except his). Some of the barriers erected by anti-gun politicians can be very frustrating to law-abiding citizens (but apparently not to criminals).
When forced to allow handgun possession by the Heller decision, Washington DC required all sales be conducted through an FFL in the city. At that time, there was only one FFL, and he left town when the city required he move operations from his residence to a store front (but refused to issue a zoning permit for that business).
Chicago has a proficiency requirement for firearm possession, but does not have any facilities for that purpose in the City. Under HR 218, the so-called Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act ( LEOSA), retired police officers are allowed to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States. Chicago requires these officers to undergo annual proficiency qualification, but no such qualification is available. New York City simply ignores the existence of LEOSA altogether.
The conversation is going to get much more heated in the ensuing months.The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons, and gives the state six months to come up with an acceptable (to the court) statute. It comes at a time when Americans on both sides of the gun control issues are debating how best to prevent another mass shooting from taking place again.
Chicago has one of the most violent crime rates in the U.S, yet remains firmly opposed to citizens arming themselves in self defense. The usual argument is that shootings will become commonplace, like the "OK Corral," or some other wild west scenario. This ignores the fact that crime has actually decreased in these states. The violent crime rate in the most permissive states, like Utah and Arizona, is half that of New York City, where virtually nobody can legally own a gun, and one-third that of Chicago. The rates of aggravated assault (i.e., weapons involved) and armed robbery have decreased 50% faster in Florida than in the country as a whole since concealed carry was instituted Florida.
Facts cannot be denied, yet they are conveniently overlooked in Chicago, because the facts do not advance the long-sought political agenda of the ruling Left where a crisis is being used to advance its political agenda to target and ban guns.
First published at Illinois Review on Friday, December 21.