Now Why Would The ATF Be Asking About Internet Sales?

The gun prohibitionists are always in a tizzy about “the Internet sale of guns”. Everytown Moms for Illegal Mayors is making a big deal about “Internet sales” in the campaign for the Washington State universal background check initiative I-594. That initiative, if passed, would mandate universal background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms. Of course, they are being helped by their allies in the Seattle media with articles like this giving the impression that Facebook is just one big gun exchange.

Here is what the Brady Campaign sent out to their true believers in their Toolkit 2014 which provides suggestions for contacting legislators and letters to the editor along with their general campaign strategy.

Unfortunately, when the bill (Brady Law) was created legislators could not have dreamed of the booming internet
and rising gun shows as a means for gun sales. Current law does not require a background
check through these venues
, meaning that a dangerous person could order a firearm online, meet
someone in a parking lot to pick it up, and commit a crime that same day. In fact, there are several
instances of this exact tragedy happening.

Gabby Giffords and the Space Cowboy are not to be outdone. Their “in-depth” report purportedly shows how the Internet is being used to circumvent laws banning firearm possession by the mentally ill. They are also pushing background checks as an issue in the race for Giffords’ former Congressional set in their ads against Col. Martha McSally.

The Violence Policy Center has been on this bandwagon since the late 1990s as have anti-gun politicians such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

You and I realize that companies like CDNN, Bud’s Gun Shop, Cheaper Than Dirt, and Kentucky Gun Company among others are not shipping firearms willy-nilly across the country like they are living in some pre-GCA 68 world where anyone could mail order a gun and get it delivered to their home. Moreover, as traditional classified advertising is dying in newspapers due to the cost and declining readership, it is being replaced with online venues ranging from the general to the specific. Many gun forums maintain their own classifieds.

It is within this context that I was surprised by a new question on the ATF Form 8 ((5320.11) Part II. This form is for the renewal of a Federal Firearms License I have circled it in the photo below. Having had my Curios & Relics FFL for going on 18 years, this will make my sixth renewal of my collector’s license. My last renewal was in 2011 and it did not have this question on it.

It asks, “Have you conducted or do you intend to conduct internet sales of firearms? If yes, list the websites from which you conduct your internet business.” If you go to this link, you can see that the prior version of ATF Form 8 did not have this question on it.

As best as I can determine, this is a recent change. The Federal Register contains a notice from ATF dated January 30, 2014 stating that they were submitting a request for review and approval of Form 8 (5310.11) and that the public had 60 days to comment. No draft of the form was shown. A subsequent notice extended this comment period to May 2, 2014.

The final revision was approved on June 26, 2014 according to this OMB database. (If you click on the form name in the link above, it will pull up a PDF of this form.) Reading the justification letter for this revision of Form 8, much ado was made about why they changed this or that question to make it more readable or easily understood. That said, there was absolutely no mention of Q. 8 and the inquiry about Internet sales of firearms. None.

So the question remains: why this question and why now? Is this a prelude to some future restrictions on the advertising for sale of firearms on the Internet? Why is this question not asked on initial applications for either a FFL or a Collector’s License? I don’t know because the ATF slipped it by OMB without any justification of it and they haven’t said anything publicly about Internet sales that I am aware.

As with all things ATF, this bears keeping a watchful eye on them and this issue.

BATFE – We Aren’t Saying It Is Illegal Or Wrong But…

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives released a new “informational” YouTube video this past Thursday on private and Internet sales. The video was narrated by Rich Marianos, Assistant Director for Professional and Governmental Affairs.

The ostensible purpose of the video is to provide “guidance” regarding private and Internet sales. While noting that firearms are a legal commodity and that private sales without a background check are perfectly legal between residents of a state under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (note – state laws may vary), he then alludes to criminals obtaining firearms without going through a background check. He then makes the strong suggestion that private sellers “protect” themselves by having the transaction handled by a FFL who must perform a NICS check.

I almost laughed out loud when Marianos said that AFT respects the Second Amendment rights of “our citizens who own firearms” and that they are only concerned with “traffickers”. I’m sure that explains the visit that gun blogger Andrew Tuohy of the Vuurwapen Blog received from ATF agents last year asking about his firearms purchases.

After listening to the deadpan delivery of Marianos which makes Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet seem animated and his announcement that ATF has established an Internet Firearms Trafficking Unit, I am left to wonder who is jerking ATF’s chain about private and/or Internet sales. Is it new Director B. Todd Jones, the White House, or Mayor Bloomberg and his Illegal Mayors? Someone surely is doing it because getting a new unit approved is not an everyday occurrence.

Private Sale Loophole?

First there was the oxymoronic “gun show loophole”. Now thanks to America’s richest mayor we have the equally moronic “private sale loophole.”

In a press conference held today to announce a new “report” entitled “Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal Online Gun Sales”, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a full frontal attack on private gun sales and Internet classified sites. In a scene reminiscent from his earlier “investigations” involving gun shows, Bloomberg’s private investigators trolled 10 websites and called 125 private sellers. The sites included Craigslist (which doesn’t allow firearms classifieds),, and Supposedly, 77 out of 125 sellers agreed to sell a firearm to someone who self-identified as a prohibited person.

The Investigation

The City hired licensed private investigators supervised by the global investigative firm Kroll to conduct a series of online purchases. Investigators captured audio of telephone calls with private sellers who advertise on websites, and used concealed cameras during in-person interactions. The investigative team placed telephone calls to 125 private sellers who posted online gun advertisements on 10 websites in 14 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Results

A clear majority of the sellers – 77 of 125 private sellers – failed the integrity test by agreeing to sell to a purchaser who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.

Private sellers on Craigslist failed the integrity test at the highest rate, despite the fact that the site says that it prohibits the listing of weapons on its server. On the five websites where investigators contacted the most sellers, an illegal sale was agreed to: 82 percent of the time 78 percent 77 percent 67 percent 54 percent

Given these were private detectives and not commissioned police officers, I wonder about the legality of recording either the phone calls as well as the face-to-face transactions. Many states – and I don’t know if the states in question were chosen to avoid this – forbid the recording of conversations unless both parties are aware of it and this goes double for videotaping. These are the same laws being used against the public when they record police encounters that go wrong.

Bloomberg’s report is pushing the following recommendations:

• Federal law should require a background check for every gun sale. Legislation now pending in both chambers of Congress – The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 (S.436/H.R.1781 (112th Congress)) – would enact this reform.

• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives(ATF) should improve enforcement of existing laws. ATF should conduct undercover investigations on a variety of websites, track whether guns recovered in crimes were originally sold online and offer online tutorials to train sellers and buyers on federal gun laws governing online sales.

• Websites should adopt tougher protocols to deter crime. Websites that permit gun sales should demand transparency from sellers and buyers, facilitate reporting
of suspicious behavior by site users and swiftly remove prohibited listings.

The report also brings in the shootings on the campuses of Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. As has been reported before, the shooter at Virginia Tech purchased one of his pistols over the Internet. However, and this report downplays it, the pistol was shipped to a FFL in Virginia, the shooter then filled out an ATF Form 4473, and then a NICS check was run.

As unfortunately is to be expected, the mainstream media is lapping this up. The story was aired on ABC News as the number two story of the day. It was introduced by Diane Sawyer with her most concerned look and was uncritically reported by Pierre Thomas who hung on Mayor Bloomberg’s every word.

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While I don’t expect the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 to go anywhere in this Congress, any move made by Mayor Bloomberg and his Illegal Mayors is to be watched. Unlike the rest of the gun prohibitionists, Bloomberg has the money and the business acumen needed to have an impact on gun rights and firearm ownership.