One of the most frequently-used talking points for gun control activists is something often referred to as the “Internet Gun Sale Loophole,” which may or may not be somehow related to the “Gun Show Loophole” in their minds. It’s all part of their argument for “universal background checks.” There’s only one problem. Both of these supposed loopholes and their effect on “gun violence” can be classified as pure bunk. Well mostly.
The online gun sale loophole does, however, contain a tiny kernel of truth, in that it is possible for a person to buy a gun without a background check, but only in very limited circumstances. The Huffington Post, the Washington Post and the New York Times won’t actually tell anyone that, because
that would require journalistic integrity it would undermine the “we need more gun control” narrative.
Context, though, is important, as are the details. A lightning bug, after all, isn’t the same thing as lightning.
Any gun sale is, by its nature, either private or commercial. In other words, you either buy a gun from some…person…who is selling their privately-owned firearm or you buy one from a retail gun seller, be it a gun store, sporting goods store, outdoor store, pawn shop, whatever.
Most people buy from one of the latter. Any dealer that sells firearms has to hold a Federal Firearms License to do so. Any entity holding an FFL is required, by law, to conduct a background check on any person who purchases a gun from them. An FFL that doesn’t conduct a background check for a gun sale is subject to prosecution and the loss of the license. They’re also required to keep those Form 4473s – the firearms transaction record – on file for no less than 20 years.
In short, any person or business that sells guns for a living has to run a background check on anyone to whom they transfer a firearm. Period.
Furthermore, there’s a law governing the transfer of firearms over state lines. It’s only permitted to transfer a gun across state lines between FFL holders. In other words, a gun can only be shipped from one FFL holder to another.
So, if you want to buy a gun over the internet, and you find the one you want at, say, Cheaper Than Dirt or Gun Broker or Buds Gun Shop, it can’t be shipped directly to your door. You pay for the gun, and then they ship it to a gun store with an FFL that will then transfer the gun to you. After performing the required background check.
In some states, the background check is waived if you already hold a concealed carry permit, but you had to have a background check to get the permit in the first place. And you still have to complete a 4473, no matter what. In short, the online gun sale loophole simply doesn’t exist for anyone who buys a firearm from an online gun seller.
So where is there a “loophole?” Potentially, there’s one in online classifieds. Hypothetically, a private seller can advertise a gun for sale and a private buyer responds. If the two are in close enough proximity that they’re willing to meet, then and only then could a no-background-check sale take place.
Of course, that would only be legal if the two reside within the same state. If one crosses a state line to meet the other and the gun is sold, that would be a violation of the law.
As far as background checks go, let’s not mince words. They aren’t as effective as many people think. They do work; felons and other prohibited people are often prevented from buying firearms because of NICS checks. But there are some holes in that net.
Lapses in the background check system have allowed some mass shooters to gain access to firearms when they shouldn’t have (Dylan Roof, Devin Patrick Kelley). No system is foolproof.
And the ability of those willing to break the law to get their hands on a firearm isn’t impacted by the background check system at all. Criminals never seem to mind going around the system in order to get the their hands on a firearm. All the gun laws in the world won’t change that.
Still, despite the number of civlian-owned firearms increasing by more than 50%, violent rate been falling precipitously since the early 1990s. So all the arguments about increased access to firearms resulting in an epidemic of gun violence are inventions of civilian disarmament advocates and their willing accomplices in the media.
Regardless, eliminating the ability of private sellers and private buyers to find each other online is still a priority for gun control advocates, who never seem to let facts get in the way of making an argument. Whether or not “universal background checks” would do anything to reduce “gun violence” is at least debatable and, more likely, extremely doubtful.
What do you think, though? Do you think the supposed “loophole” is actually a problem? Or are the gun-grabbers missing the point again?