Photo credit: Marc Langsam
An article posted on NYTimes.com attempts to convince readers of the reasons that universal background checks should pass. Instead, it demonstrates what the NRA and gun rights activists have said all along – criminals don’t follow the law.
Yesterday, The New York Times website posted an investigation into an internet firearms classifieds site in order to make the case that universal background checks are a necessity. Using several conversations with a felon, the reporter shows just how criminals get guns and then makes the case that, by some miracle, universal background checks would fix it.
The intentions and background of the prospective buyer were hidden, as is customary on such sites. The person posting these ads, however, left a phone number, enabling The New York Times to trace them to their source: Omar Roman-Martinez, 29, of Colorado Springs, who has a pair of felony convictions for burglary and another for motor vehicle theft, as well as a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction — all of which bar him from having guns
The mere fact that Mr. Roman-Martinez was seeking to buy and sell guns on Armslist underscores why extending background checks to the growing world of online sales has become a centerpiece of new gun legislation being taken up in the Senate this week.
First, if the New York reporter were to engage in selling a gun to the Colorado Springs felon, the transfer is already required to go through a licensed gun dealer (FFL) which would, in all cases, result in a background check. Federal law requires that gun transfers across state lines require a background check and transfer through a licensed dealer. The problem demonstrated by the Times article is that oddly, criminals don’t follow laws – SHOCK!
Assuming both parties lived in the same state, federal law does not require a background check. Even if it did, it is a fair assumption that Mr. Roman-Martinez would find someone else either ignorant or irreverent of existing law. The only ones that would be left following the law are law-abiding citizens engaged in the exchange of personal property or the handing-down of family treasures.
The naivety presented in the article is typical of politicians and journalists more interested in confiscating guns than protecting the public. The author goes on to incorrectly state how the current gun laws work:
Notably, 94 percent of the ads were posted by “private parties,” who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.
Only if the trade is conducted within their own state, and then only if their state has no additional laws requiring permits or checks, is this true. In many cases, background checks are already required, but are not being performed. By omitting these caveats until much later in the article, the author makes it seem like these transactions are taking place only because universal background checks aren’t in place. Requiring more situations in which a background is supposed to be performed will most certainly not prevent those bent on skirting the law from doing so.
As if to further accentuate the point that more laws don’t make better citizens, the article shows that many people are already illegally engaged in the gun trade.
The examination of Armslist raised questions about whether many sellers are essentially functioning as unlicensed firearms dealers, in contravention of federal law. The law says that people who “engage in the business” of selling firearms need to obtain a license and conduct background checks on customers. While the definition of engaging in business is vague, The Times found that more than two dozen people had posted more than 20 different guns for sale in a several-month span.
By law, buying and selling this many guns already requires a Federal Firearms License (FFL). It doesn’t appear that the subjects of the Times investigation are following that law either.
If somewhat direct proof that liberal gun control won’t do anything – how about direct proof?
A 2011 undercover investigation by the City of New York examined private party gun sellers on a range of Web sites, including Armslist, to see if they would sell guns to someone who said that they probably could not pass a background check. (Federal law bars sales to any person the seller has reason to believe is prohibited from purchasing firearms). Investigators found seventy-seven of 125 online sellers agreed to sell the weapons anyway.
Almost 80% are willing to sell a gun to someone who they believe would not pass a background check – against federal law. That means, already illegal… So making it illegal to sell a gun without a universal background check will have the same law-abiding citizens performing the same checks they already are and criminals skirting the system the same way they do today.