No, the fact that a big box retailer — or any other seller of firearms — is complying with state and federal regulations governing firearms sales isn’t really breaking news. It happens every single day across the country, tens of thousands of times.
Unless, of course, you’re a coastal media type who takes only infrequent forays into the interior where the rest of America lives.
Take, for example, the recent experiences recounted by Business Insider retail reporter Hayley Peterson. As a follow-on to the non-controversy of some Walmart stores selling guns after El Paso, she thought chronicling the process of actually buying a firearm would make for a good story.
She probably had visions of reporting the scandalous ease with which any toothless yahoo can waltz into his local Wally World, make his way past the fishing lures and motor oil and walk out of the store with a weapon of war.
I went to Walmart to buy a gun as part of an investigation into the placement, selection, marketing, security, and sales of firearms in Walmart’s stores. https://t.co/zDdgZb5xVA
— Hayley Peterson (@hcpeterson) August 21, 2019
It didn’t go quite as she expected.
The selection of guns was limited compared with nearby gun stores, which offered dozens of different kinds of firearms, including handguns.
As anyone who’s been in a Walmart sporting goods department can tell you, there are no AK-47s, Desert Eagles or M249s on display there. All Peterson found after her journey to the store in Chesterfield, Virginia were a few hunting rifles and shotguns in a locked case.
And as for those federal regulations, Walmart’s corporate sales policy is far more strict that the law requires.
In prepared remarks last week, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined some other Walmart gun-sales policies that go beyond federal requirements.
For example, Walmart last year raised the minimum age to purchase a gun or ammunition to 21. Walmart also sells a firearm only after receiving a “green light” on a background check, while federal law requires only the absence of a “red light” after three business days, he said.
“We videotape the point of sale for firearms, only allow certain associates to sell firearms, and secure firearms in a locking case with individual locks, among other measures,” McMillon said.
So not only does Walmart comply with all of the applicable state and ufederal laws governing the sale of guns, its own polices are more restrictive than necessary, refusing to sell to anyone under 21. And if the FBI NICS system fails to come back with a decision in the required three days, they still won’t sell the firearm (as they’re allowed under the law).
But then . . .
…I had only just finished printing my name when she stopped me and asked whether the address on my license matched my home address. I had moved since I obtained my license, and the addresses didn’t match.
That was a problem, she said.
To pass the background check, I would need to bring in a government-issued document with my correct address, such as a bill from a state-owned utility or a car registration. (I have never bought a gun, so I wasn’t aware of this.)
She apologized, told me the rules were strict around background checks, and asked me to come back another time to finish the purchase.
And what did our intrepid scribe conclude from her expedition to Wally World to shine a light on their gun sales process?
Overall, the experience left me with the impression that buying a gun at Walmart is more complicated than I expected, and that Walmart takes gun sales and security pretty seriously.
Huh. That’s not going to do much to advance the narrative that our sieve-like background check system needs a radical reformation.
Peterson no doubt believed that buying a gun in America is all too easy…because all of the smartest people at the Washington Post and the Brady Campaign told her so.
Thank you Walmart employees for demanding action. Walmart should use its power to stop selling guns in its stores until politicians and gun manufacturers get their act together and raise the standard for gun ownership in this country. https://t.co/Bw6k2VAuoA
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 9, 2019
Senator Spartacus won’t be happy about Peterson’s report at all.
As she found, it’s almost as if there’s already a maze of very strict state and federal laws governing the sale of these tools. A series of hoops and hurdles that law-abiding individuals must navigate before they can exercise a constitutional right.
She also found that retailers who sell these highly regulated and heavily taxed items take the process — and their legal obligations — very seriously.
A Walmart spokesman said my experience supported what the company has said about the sales of firearms in its stores.
“In areas of the country where we sell firearms, we have a long-standing commitment to do so safely and in a compliant manner,” the spokesman, Randy Hargrove, said.
About the only person who seems to have been surprised by any of this was one Hayley Peterson. And maybe some gun control advocates and politicians, most of whom are blissfully ignorant of what it takes to actually buying a gun.