Posts Tagged ‘firearms’

Disclaimer: The below article makes reference to federal laws related to gun purchases. Please note that state gun laws vary, and you are well advised to seek expert assistance from an attorney knowledgeable of your state’s statutes regarding the ownership, possession, and/or transfer of firearms if you have questions before buying or selling. The below is not legal advice.

Time Magazine ran a somewhat hyperbolic article this week about the ability of Facebook users to arrange firearm purchases through the site’s messaging features (gasp!). The article’s breathless hook was that it was easier to purchase a gun on Facebook than it was to understand the site’s privacy settings (oh, the horror!), which is  not only misleading, but a misstatement of fact to boot.

Facebook7

The implication was that nefarious individuals were using Facebook as a way to skirt gun laws, but the article provided scant evidence to support that assertion. And, as several commenters pointed out, it’s entirely legal to purchase guns from private citizens, as long as certain guidelines are followed.

None of those guidelines prohibit the use of online platforms to arrange a firearm sale.

According to the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms web site:

A person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of his State, if he does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law.

Federal law is silent regarding how the sale is arranged or whether those arrangements can be made online, and there is no requirement that a background check be completed by private sellers under federal law. According to the ATF, federal law only prohibits the sale or transfer of a firearm to an individual who:

  • Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution;
  • Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship;
  • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;or Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence Cannot lawfully receive, possess, ship, or transport a firearm.

There’s no restriction — that I could find, at least — barring the use of online platforms to discuss or arrange a gun purchase. To suggest otherwise, or to imply that people are somehow buying guns directly through Facebook (which the article noted doesn’t offer an e-commerce capability anyway) would be factually inaccurate and, frankly, a little dumb.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

The reality is that people all over the country frequently use the internet to search for and purchase firearms. A Google search for online gun stores returns millions of hits, including Armslist.com, which alone had 1.3 million unique visitors per month, as of August, 2012.

So, a more relevant and interesting point for debate might be the issue of universal background checks for all gun buyers, including those making a purchase from a private seller they met on a site like Facebook.

Gun control advocates argue that the lack of universal background checks allows unqualified or dangerous buyers to purchase firearms from private sellers. They argue that all purchases, whether through a licensed gun dealer or not, should be required to complete the same background process. They also note that:

…because federal law does not require universal background checks, “individuals prohibited by law from possessing guns can easily obtain them from private sellers and do so without any federal records of the transactions.”

The NRA, on the other hand, opposes such measures as an unnecessary restriction on the rights of law-abiding individuals to purchase weapons. They argue that most legal gun purchases are made through licensed dealers, who do background checks as a matter of course, or from family, friends, and acquaintances who should already know whether or not the buyer has some disqualifying characteristic.

In terms of how criminal offenders obtain guns, the NRA points to the problem of straw purchasers:

In 1985, the Department of Justice reported that only about one in five convicted felons obtained guns through legal channels such as retail stores. In 1991, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reported that 37% of armed career criminals obtained firearms from street sales, 34% from criminal acts and associates, 8% from relatives, and only 7% from dealers and 6% from flea markets and gun shows.  More recently, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of state prison inmates convicted of firearm crimes found that 79 percent acquired their firearms from “street/illegal sources” or “friends or family.” This includes theft of firearms, black market purchases of stolen firearms, and straw purchases. The survey also found that 12 percent obtained their firearms from firearm dealers (gun stores, pawn shops), while only 1.7 percent obtained firearms from anyone (dealer or non-dealer) at a gun show or flea market.  The FBI’s National Crime Information Center stolen firearm file contained over 2 million reports as of March 1995, and an annual average of 232,400 firearms were stolen between 2005 and 2010.  46.3% of firearms traced by the BATFE in relation to firearm trafficking investigations originate with straw purchasers.

Requiring private sellers, therefore, to conduct a background check would be needlessly burdensome and a waste of resources. The people least likely to comply with background checks are those who aren’t law-abiding in the first place. So, nothing is really gained by requiring such checks by private individuals conducting private sales.

Whether buyers and sellers connect on a social media site, through a web site designed specifically around firearms sales, or via some other online platform, hardly matters at all. If people are abiding by local, state, and federal laws, I can’t see why there’s concern about this happening on Facebook.

What are your thoughts?

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The US Constitution proclaims the right of the people to keep and bear firearms, but the reality for some law-abiding citizens has been quite the opposite. Last summer, the New York Times published an article about otherwise law-abiding folks from all walks of life being arrested and charged in New York City for violating local firearm statutes.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Their crime? Bringing a legally-owned firearm from their home state to New York City without first understanding New York’s draconian gun laws.

According to the above Times article:

The visitor arrives in New York and retrieves the gun. No problem there. They see the city, whether armed or with the gun locked away at the hotel, without incident. Trouble arrives upon their return to La Guardia Airport or Kennedy Airport to fly home. The visitors repeat the procedure practiced at their home airport, presenting the firearm to a gate agent to be checked. Only this time, the gate agent calls police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airports. The gun owners are then placed under arrest.

I wouldn’t argue against the fact that gun violence is a problem in our country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 14,000 homicides were perpetrated in 2011, and 9,900 of those involved a firearm (PDF).  Obviously, the government does have a compelling public safety interest in reducing violence of all types, including gun violence.

I also wouldn’t argue against the right of individual states to establish their own laws either — whether that be to regulate firearms or anything else — but the patchwork of legal standards that exist around the country is destined to make law-abiding citizens, who have no intent to violate any law, into felons simply due to a misunderstanding.

So, what’s a law-abiding gun owner to do?

Many people scour the internet for advice before traveling with their firearm to another state.  A very, very bad idea, and here’s why:

Reciprocal Carry - Minnesota

The above was found on a web site intended to provide information about state-by-state gun laws across the US. It claims that Minnesota (my home state) doesn’t recognize firearm carry permits from any other states. But the link it provides in support of that assertion takes you to:

Minnesota DPS Gun Laws

That’s right. This is the Minnesota Department of Public Safety page on permit reciprocity that correctly identifies the out-of-state permits that Minnesota will indeed recognize as valid.

Now, you may or may not care about permit reciprocity issues specifically, but my point is that the internet has a very high potential to be wrong about all kinds of things (shocking, I know). And if you rely on it exclusively for guidance on where you can bring your legally owned firearm, you’ll potentially suffer the consequences.

So, take this advice from the Minnesota DPS:

Minnesota permit holders who plan to visit another state, and who also wish to carry a concealed firearm while visiting that state, are urged to contact that state before traveling. This will allow Minnesota permit holders to determine all restrictions or prohibitions regarding the carrying of concealed firearms in those states, as well as their laws regarding firearms and weapons in general. Most of these states have web pages dedicated to this subject. State firearm laws and reciprocal agreements may change frequently, and are also subject to court interpretation. Information contained on this page is not to be considered legal advice.

You should always contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your state for any legal advice.

In fact, contact an attorney who is familiar with all of the jurisdictions involved, and ask questions until you fully understand the gun laws at your destination and everywhere in between. It’s worth the time and money to protect yourself from needlessly being arrested and prosecuted for a crime you had no intention of committing.

What are some thoughts on all this? Do you have any experiences dealing with gun laws in other states? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences below!

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A pair of stories in recent days pointed up the complexities of modern policing and the tremendous challenges faced by people who work in the field.

The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal recently published a long form article outlining their review of thousands of documents related to federal ATF agents’ duping mentally disabled informants and engaging in other troubling behavior.

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to the article, agents went so far as to encourage two teens – one who was mentally disabled – to get large tattoos on their necks promoting a fake store front that agents operated as part of an undercover gun sting.

And that was only one of a series of findings identified in the article. Others included:

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Unlike many people, I’m not angry with the jury in the Zimmerman case. I don’t agree with their decision, but I completely respect it. Being a juror is a tough gig: No matter the outcome, someone is going to be upset with whatever you decide. Making some type of universally “right” decision in that environment is not really a possibility.

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Photo courtesy of TopSoft

The jury did exactly what they were supposed to do: They heard all the evidence, received information about  applicable laws, and then made a considered decision. That’s the way the jury system works. We need to get past that.

To my mind, the more concerning issue is the state of the law in Florida. Here’s where the Zimmerman case has left us:

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