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Mayors Against Illegal Guns co-chairs Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino are the lamest of ducks. Both the New York and Boston mayors’ terms end in the next few weeks. Menino has accepeted a cushy do-nothing spot at Boston University. Mayor Mike will no doubt continue his anti-gun jihad by bankrolling people like Shannon Watts and shoveling money from his virtually bottomless wallet into MAIG. For a while now, armslist.com has been one MAIG’s favorite whipping boys. And now the civilian disarmament org is out with a breathless white paper claiming that the website is facilitating the sale of “tens of thousands” of firearms by “high-volume” sellers in a “dark corner of this vast private marketplace” without background checks (their press release after the jump). Where do we sign up? . . .

MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS RELEASES NEW INVESTIGATION SHOWING HIGH-VOLUME PRIVATE SELLERS ARE TRANSFERRING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF GUNS ONLINE WITH NO BACKGROUND CHECKS

More than 243,000 Guns Annually May be Illegally Transferred via Unregulated Private Sellers on a Single Website – Armslist.com

Nearly One-in-Three Gun Ads on Armslist.com Posted By Unlicensed Sellers Likely Engaged in Business of Selling Firearms – Many Likely in Violation of Federal Law

Full Report Available at www.DemandAction.org/OnlineGunSellers

The bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition today announced the results of a major investigation into online gun sellers, finding that hundreds of high-volume private sellers are undermining public safety by transferring tens of thousands of firearms every year over the Internet without conducting the background checks intended to ensure dangerous people cannot acquire firearms. In September, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released the first-ever national investigation into online gun buyers that found thousands of people already barred by existing Federal law from purchasing guns are flocking to the Internet to evade background checks and acquire guns illegally. This new report, which examines gun sellers, concludes that nearly one-in-three gun ads on a single website – Armslist.com – are posted by high-volume sellers, who are selling more than 34 firearms a year without a license, despite the fact that federal law requires anyone “engaged in the business” of selling guns to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). At this rate, these unlicensed sellers would transfer more than 243,800 guns each year, many in violation of federal law. The investigation – conducted between August 2013 and October 2013 – also found that in addition to posting numerous guns for sale, 58 percent of high-volume sellers contacted by investigators voluntarily provided at least one additional indicator that they were illegally “engaging in the business,” including selling guns new or in original packaging, selling guns for profit, and buying and reselling guns within a short period of time.

The full report – “In the Business, Outside the Law: How Unlicensed Sellers Flood the Internet with Guns” – is available at www.DemandAction.org/OnlineGunSellers. Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the findings in a press conference at City Hall.

“On December 14th, we will mark a very somber anniversary and pause to remember what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our report shows much more clearly needs to be done to prevent unlicensed sellers of firearms from illegally flooding the Internet with weapons and the result is a massive online, unregulated, second-hand firearms market that threatens public safety. These findings clearly tell us that law enforcement, legislators and web sites all need to take steps to choke off this potentially deadly stream of illegal firearms sales.”

“Unregulated Internet gun sales make it far too easy for an illegal gun to fall into the wrong hands,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington to stop ignoring the will of the people they represent. We must prioritize the safety of our communities by passing common-sense background check legislation that will help save lives.”

While licensed gun dealers are subject to certain public safety regulations – including conducting background checks of buyers and accepting periodic inspections by law enforcement – so-called “private sellers” are not held to these same standards. A private seller is considered anyone who makes occasional gun sales or sells from their personal collection. These individuals are not required to have a license and do not need to conduct criminal background checks on gun sales. With the Internet providing a host of websites for private sellers to conduct business, it is now easier than ever for criminals and other dangerous individuals to obtain guns through unregulated online sales.

This new investigation examines a dark corner of this vast private marketplace: unlicensed “private sellers” who are offering guns for sale in such volume that they are effectively acting as dealers – but not conducting the background checks that federal law and public safety require. The findings show that a small share of gun sellers are blurring the line between private sellers and licensed dealers, undermining the background check system, and putting guns in the hands of killers.

This report is the latest in a series of investigations led by Mayor Bloomberg and Mayors Against Illegal Guns into the potential dangers of online gun sales. In September 2013, the coalition released “Felon Seeks Firearm, No Strings Attached,” the first-ever national investigation into individual buyers with criminal records seeking to illegally acquire firearms via online gun sales. In December 2011, Mayor Bloomberg announced the first-of-its-kind undercover investigation of illegal online gun sales in the report “Point, Click, Fire,” which found that 62 percent of private sellers were willing to commit a felony by selling firearms to people who likely could not pass a background check.

The Investigation

Unlike storefronts or tables loaded with merchandise at gun shows, the Internet does not reveal the number of guns a seller is advertising for sale. It provides sellers with a sense of anonymity, and the ability to offer no more information than the model of the gun they are offering and the city or state where they are located.

Though countless websites facilitate gun sales, this investigation focused on just one – Armslist.com – because it is large, primarily serves self-identified “private sellers,” and hosts gun ads in all 50 states. But the web architecture of Armslist.com links all of the gun listings posted by any specific user – presumably to allow buyers to review a seller’s whole inventory. By observing these networks of linked postings over time, this investigation paints a first-of-its-kind picture of the volume of private sales taking place on Armslist.com, and the “private sellers” conducting this illegal business without background checks.

During an eight-week period between August 17, 2013 and October 10, 2013, investigators for Mayors Against Illegal Guns retrieved all 125,263 ads posted on Armslist.com by self-described private sellers. Each ad was assigned a seller identification number, and any ads posted by the same user were given a matching seller identification number, along with any ads linked to them. Over time, this data mapped out the contemporaneous gun ads listed by any given seller and the distribution of sales volume across the total population of sellers – from those who posted a single gun listing to those who posted tens or hundreds. This technique produces a conservative estimate of sellers’ total gun listings because it only links ads together that are online contemporaneously.

Federal law provides no definitive legal standard for a “high volume” of private sales. But, for the purpose of this investigation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns focused on sellers who listed five or more guns during the period of observation. Sellers who posted ads at this rate over a year would list more than 34 guns annually. In subsequent calls, investigators found that more than half of high-volume sellers voluntarily gave additional indications that they were indeed engaging in the business of selling guns without a license.

The Results

The investigation found that:

  • Nearly one-in-three gun ads (29 percent) on Armslist.com are posted by high-volume unlicensed sellers, many of whom are likely “engaged in the business” of selling firearms in violation of federal law. At that rate, these sellers would illegally transfer 243,800 guns each year.
  • In follow-up conversations with a subsample of high-volume sellers, more than half (58 percent) gave additional indications that they were illegally “engaging in the business” of selling guns. Indicators include selling guns new or in original packaging, selling guns for profit, and buying and reselling guns within a short period of time.
  • In the minority of states that go beyond federal law and require private sellers to conduct background checks, most sellers follow the law and gun sales are safer as a result. In states that require private sellers to conduct background checks for some or all gun sales, 73 percent of sellers told the would-be buyer they would need to comply with the state’s background check law.

Recommendations

Law enforcement, legislators, and websites that host gun ads all have a responsibility to ensure firearm commerce is conducted lawfully and safely. The following are recommendations for:

Law Enforcement

  • ATF should define and promulgate a clear standard explaining what it means to “engage in the business” of selling firearms, and federal prosecutors should consistently and forcefully police the boundary between licensed dealers and private sellers.
  • The online market presents unique opportunities for sellers to operate at a large scale and for purchasers to operate anonymously, and merits special attention from law enforcement. ATF should create an Internet unit to monitor online gun sales and crack down on high-volume, unlicensed sellers.

Congress

  • In 2012, 6.6 million guns were transferred through private sales without background checks, and dangerous people exploit this loophole to evade background checks and get armed. Congress should pass legislation requiring private sellers in commercial settings to uphold the same background check requirement that dealers already abide by.
  • Congress should also pass a federal gun trafficking statute so that private sellers who knowingly transfer a firearm to a prohibited person can be held fully accountable.

Websites Hosting Gun Ads

  • Armslist.com and other online gun marketplaces should take greater responsibility for the gun sales they facilitate. Some of the steps the sites should take include:
  • Monitoring high-volume sellers. Websites could issue direct warnings to sellers who appear to be engaging in the business of selling firearms without a license, and report repeat offenders to law enforcement.
  • Requiring greater transparency from buyers and sellers. Websites should require sellers to register with the website – including credit-card verified evidence of their identity – before they advertise guns, and should require buyers to do the same before they make purchase them.
  • Recommending and facilitating voluntary background checks for private sellers. Websites like GunBroker.com created an “FFL Holder Network” to conduct background checks for private sellers on the website, and 17,000 gun dealers have already joined voluntarily. Other websites should adopt a similar model.

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Since its creation in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 members to more than 1,000 mayors from across the country. The coalition has more than 1.5 million grassroots supporters, making it the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country. Co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has united the nation’s mayors around these common goals: protecting communities by holding gun offenders accountable; demanding access to crime gun trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns. Learn more at www.MayorsAgainstIllegalGuns.org.

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Contact:
Mayor Bloomberg’s Press Office (212) 788-2958
Mayor Menino’s Press Office (617) 635-4461

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54 Responses to MAIG: “Tens of Thousands” of Gun Sold Online – With No Background Checks

  1. So they are implying that;
    1: if you sell a new gun, or sell for profit you are clearly a dealer
    And
    2: these sellers are selling guns online and sending them to peoples houses without BG opposed to a FFL?
    Armslist local face to face sales sure, but certainly nothing sold online.
    So tired of this old bullshit misinformation
    As ive said before, its amazing how many people truely believe you can just order guns to your house

    • “Armslist local face to face sales sure, but certainly nothing sold online.
      So tired of this old bullshit misinformation
      As I’ve said before, its amazing how many people truly believe you can just order guns to your house.”

      YOU ARE WRONG! Please stop spreading misinformation.

      Shipped intrastate transfers are fine without using a FFL.

      • Although awkwardly phrased, I think this is what he meant. But some states–California for one–require background checks for ALL transfers, intra or interstate both. New Jersey requires you to get a permit to buy a particular gun before you can lawfully acquire it. I’m sure NY has onerous restrictions as well. DC’s regs are detailed by Ms. Miller–and are substantial, and require a purchaser to register the gun with the local PD and have a background check. And so forth and so on. And as you imply, even though many states allow FTF transactions at gun shows without a background check, it is still a felony to sell to someone the seller knew was prohibited or not a resident of that state.

      • Im referring to online gun sales from stores and interstate private sales….the very, very large majority of online gun sales.
        My point was its “investigations” like these that make most people who arent knowledgeable about guns believe you can go to online gun stores and just buy guns and have them shipoed to your house.

      • your a moron. any and all interstate transfers of firearms are done under a FFL. if you think any gun is going to be shipped through the mail to your house how about you call the atf and pull your head out of your ass

        • You are not paying attention to the SPELLING.

          What Kiw2sue, er Leonard is saying is that INTRAstate sales can be mailed anywhere in the state and is perfectly legal.

          What you are saying is that INTERstate sales can not be mailed to anyone but an FFL. This is the legal method of INTERstate FFL transactions.

          INTRAstate…..INTERstate. There is a difference.

          While I don’t support Leonard or anything he does what he said had no legal flaws.

        • For someone who clearly can’t either read or write properly you sure are quick to call people moron. I bet Leonard knows the gun laws intimately. Maybe even too intimately? 🙂

  2. Rawman already said it, this is just smoke and mirrors. For local (in state) face to face sales using the internet is the modern equivalent of running an add in the newspaper classifieds to sell an unwanted gun. For non face to face (or out of state) sales an FFL acts as a broker and the back ground check is performed.

    Never minding all that this simply isn’t how criminals acquire guns. Typically they steal them or buy them stolen from someone who’s niche in the criminal world is selling stolen property. Alternately they use straw buyers and thus render the BG check a moot point.

    This missive from the left has far more to do with free trade, personal liberty, property rights and the 2A than anything to do with crime prevention. Just as ‘gun control’ really means civilian disarmament in this case ‘crime control’ really means reduction of liberty. The thin disguise hardly covers the real intent.

    • Exactly this. IF the MAIG investigation had found any actual proof of illegal activity the correct response would be to turn the data over to the BATFE, since that is their supposed reason for existence. If MAIG has not done so then they are aiding and abetting these crimes, are they not?

      On the other hand, it would not be the first time Bloomberg has bee involved in a crime in his efforts to disarm civilians.

      • Seconded. If criminal activity was actually discovered and substantiated with physical evidence, then the information should be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency for criminal prosecution. Instead, we have this article.

  3. I have half a mind to call the numbers at the bottom of that PR and see if they can point me to those “high-volume unlicensed sellers”. I figure without the administrative and financial burdens of the ATF, they might be able to pass on some real bargains….

  4. “At this rate, these unlicensed sellers would transfer more than 243,800 guns each year, many in violation of federal law.”

    Since we admit that this legislation is worthless, unenforceable, and unpopular, perhaps we should all consider its repeal.

    “at least one additional indicator that they were illegally “engaging in the business,” including selling guns new or in original packaging, selling guns for profit, and buying and reselling guns within a short period of time.”

    Wow. This is basically the definition of a gun hobbyist right here. You know who you are! You are banned!

    I don’t know about you, but I keep the accessories and original box for my firearm for if and when I sell it.

  5. In other news, you can also buy heroin on the internet. And order a hit. We should crack down and make it harder for people to buy illegal drugs on the internet.

      • I don’t agree with the statement, but I do have to say that the government isn’t exactly known for abiding by the enumerated powers…

      • +1000! If people are going to stand for Liberty and a constitutionally restrained government, they need to understand freedom and how that the Constitution restrains government from interfering with individuals… even in areas that they might not personally approve.

  6. I buy, sell, and swap regularly on Armslist. The recent shortages of guns and ammo have skewed sales in ways that are not being acknowledged by the prince of darkness. Yes, there are a fair number of people selling new guns. In the main, these are people that bought these guns hoping to profit from shortages, but unlikely to have new guns for sale in normal times. There are also folks who panicked and bought Ill-considered, low quality arms out of fear of not being able to get ANYTHING later. They are now suffering buyers remorse, and trying to get out from under un-needed guns. Wait for a normal market, and I’d bet anything that numbers of new guns listed will go down substantially.

    The balance of “high volume” sellers on Armslist is largely made up of people like me: hobbyists on a budget. Generally speaking, the only way I can have the fun of familiarizing myself with a variety of interesting guns is to swap or sell something to finance the new one. I have a core collection of three or four handguns (and a rifle or two) that never leave, either for practical reasons or just because I love ’em dearly (1953 5-screw, almost mint Combat Masterpiece), but others come and go with some regularity.

    I do, however, require that a buyer of anything I sell with the potential of being misused have a Missouri CCW. So have other sellers I’ve bought from. Eliminates worries, is all.

    • Speaking of which, how many of these supposed transfers Bloomberg is claiming occurred without background checks were exactly that – sales to someone with a CCW? I know here in Washington even in a gun shop I only have to show my valid CPL and there is not background check.

      • You still are doing a background check, you still are filling out the 4473 and the blue WA pistol form. You just avoid the 3 day waiting period by showing a valid CPL.

    • The current outspoken and agtessive antis have created this strong market. Obama, Bloomberg, Feinstein, cuomo Watts, etc,etc,etc: Best gun salesmen America has ever had.

  7. I wonder If this report was generated by people on the NYC payroll….And why is it
    Bloomberg’s business as a local mayor to investigate what he claims to be are violations of federal law?

    • Because he sees himself as Ruler of the Universe? “Hey, I’m a multi-billionaire, what I want should be the law!”

  8. Back in February, I bought a handgun from a private dealer off armslist and he insisted that he’d only sell the gun to a person with a valid CCW permit because he didn’t want to sell his handgun to a prohibited possesor. That’s the only way he could “do a background check” (kinda) on the buyer.

    We could argue in circles all day about whether NICS should exist or putting private sales going through background checks, but the Libertarian in me says (with the current system we have in place) that if you are a private citizen and want to sell to anyone without the involvement of the state, that’s your right. If you, as a private citizen, wants to have access to NICS (which your taxes pay for), you should have that access. But it shouldn’t be required that we use it. Call it “pro-choice”.

  9. So either they don’t know that interstate sales have to go through an FFL and that local sales have to comply with local laws — in which case their “report” is based on poor research,

    Or,

    They know that and they are lying.

    Take your pick.

  10. so what, if anything, of this is illegal? ??????

    seems to me that the free market just wants to trade guns, but the government is interfering.

  11. A close very liberal friend insisted that guns were available without background checks on the internet. We live in IL where you need a FOID card just to handle a gun or ammunition. You also need a FOID card to handle, let alone buy, any gun at a gun show in IL. I offered him $100 plus the cost of any gun he could acquire without a background check and he still hasn’t collected several years later.
    As usual, liberals don’t let the facts sidetrack their opposition to gun ownership.

  12. They’re utterly convinced that illegal gun sales are happening. I look at the situation and their take on it which seems to me to beg the question: “Why can the sale of a legal tool between two non-prohibited persons be deemed to be a crime?”

  13. What unmigated gall of the gun grabbers! They are either the most ignorant people OR purposely intending to “sucker” the truly stupid. Face to face interstate is perfectly legal. Sold my Bersa Thunder .22 to my sister-in law, who lves 30 miles from me. I’m happy, she is happy. Have purchased a number of guns on Gunbrkoker.com, have been pleased with each & every transaction. Goes from their FFL to my FFL, my guy opens the box so I can make sure it’s the gun I purchased, then runs BR check on me, pay the fee and watlz out the door. Last purchase was a gently used S & W .22 Model 63, 8 round revolver. The guy at the counter said “if you ever decide to sell that gun, would you call me first” If I sell it outside the family, will call you, but I have a lot of girl cousins who like guns so chances of it going outside the family are slime to none. All perfectly legal and should stay that way!!!

  14. What the jist of this article is implying.
    If I sell my collection on a legal web site. Sales between individuals which is perfectly legal in most states, for profit.
    Im an illegal arms dealer??
    Well then I guess I might just become one according to the author at some point in the future.
    I do indeed intend to thin out my collection of unused rifles and some hand guns in the near future……..

  15. It would give Bloomberg a coronary to know I bought my first shotgun out of a coworkers trunk in the parking lot of the local softball field…..

    • That’s what I’M talkin’ about! To my horror, Bloombottom as a guest on Jimmy Fallon last night. Damn TV went off in a jiffy.

      • Our plant is a self-imposed “gun free” zone. The softball field is next door off of company property. And, we’re not the first, nor would I wager the last, to head over there for said purpose….

  16. Read the key words…..likely & may. And therein tells the tale. These sites should band together and move towards a lawsuit unless they print a retraction.

  17. Don’t care what these idiots say. The private sale of used goods within a state’s borders, between two citizens of said state, does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, and we aren’t giving them that authority, period.

  18. I bet a part of this is true. I bet there are people out there buying up guns and then selling them for profit. I haven’t been able to buy ammo at Walmart for a year. The line still forms at 4-5 a.m. for sale at 8a.m every day and the same group of people are there and gobble up all the ammo. I work so I cant be in line. These same people, who are probably on extended unemployment and not working, where do they get the money to buy up the ammo…. they sell it for a profit. It was the same thing for certain types of firearms before the manufactures started catching up with demand.

    I’ve bought firearms online. If ‘out-of-state’ the dealer (most of them are, and legal, this article assumes that every online seller is a private seller) has to ship to an FFL WHO DOES A BACKGROUND CHECK ON ME BEFORE I CAN TAKE POSSESSION OF THE GUN. Plus, the study assumes that every ad placed is a gun sold.

    three types of lies: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

  19. Just look at those numbers! I mean what exactly are these criminals doing with all those guns?? The number of “gun crimes” committed yearly dose not begin to match the number of supposedly illegal transactions they claim to have found. So what dose that mean? Could it be that these sellers and buyers even IF they are violating the law with their transactions are not in fact putting these firearms to criminal use??

    Even at the very worst what they have discovered is exactly the same as a guy who buys and sells cars on CL with out a dealer licence to make some bucks.

  20. Smells like utter bullshit to me. We’ve all seen anti-gun nuts outright lie time and time again – this appears to be no different…

    1) They said some sellers were selling as many as 34 guns per year.
    2) They only monitored armslist.com for 8 weeks.

    Total guns / 52 weeks year * 8 weeks studied = 5.23 guns actually seen sold by one seller.

    How does somebody sell 0.23 (23%) of a gun?

    Just because somebody sells 5 guns from their collection across an 8 week period, does not mean that any extrapolations (to 52 weeks) would be accurate to the slightest!

    Somebody may be having financial troubles and need to sell their collection or part of it … that cannot be interpreted into meaning they are an unlicensed dealer except in the minds of idiots.

    It’s more nonsense and junk-science by MAIG.

    • Of course they have to lie. We have all of the actual facts and the Constitution on our side. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to still be vigilant for those criminals and fight their evil wherever it crops up!

      Free Will is Good. Opposition to Free Will is Evil.

  21. Ok

    I admit it.

    I was one of the high volume gun sellers on armslist a few years ago.
    My uncle died and left behind a semi large collection of low to mid range firearms.
    his children could not sell them (one from California the other living outside the US)
    his ex-wife could not sell them( her DL said she was a masshole)
    as I was the only person involved with the process with a TX DL only I could sell them.
    Gun shop would not give me crap for them.
    So i posted many MANY ads on armslist to offload them. sold 21 out of 25 FTF with only a photocopy of the DL of the person buying it.

    take me to jail. I am a illegal gun seller. oh how my life has been turned upside down by this.

    /.sarcasm off.

    BTW true story.

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