Guns and the Internet

One of the comments on this article stood out at me, and necessitated a reply.
The comment was:

Nut in Green Bay
He sold the guns used in two recent massares, over the net. He wants to make up for it by selling guns at cost so everyone can protect themselves.
Believe it or not, they featured him on the local news here with no comment, stating his case. As if he were a hero.
Mind boggling. There is no limit to the insanity of humans or the gullibility of mass media.
Did the bushies make it legal to sell guns over the net? How is this possible?

With very few exceptions (e.g. antique firearms), a non-FFL-holding individual cannot directly buy guns from the internet and have them shipped directly to them. This has been the case since 1968, and has not changed since then. Bush and his supporters have changed nothing.
One may purchase a gun from an online vendor like TGSCOM or a private seller on an auction site like GunBroker and have it shipped to their local Federal Firearms License holder (i.e. a gun shop). Next, the purchaser must go through the normal procedure of buying the gun from the dealer: filling out an ATF Form 4473 and undergoing a NICS background check. All state and local laws must also be obeyed.
There are several advantages to buying guns online:

  • Oftentimes online vendors have better pricing than a local shop.
  • Online vendors can often stock a larger variety of guns, often including unusual or uncommon guns, than a local shop.
  • Interstate purchases do not incur the cost of state sales tax.

Even taking into account the cost of shipping and the local dealer’s transfer fees, the lack of sales tax and better online pricing often results in a net savings of money for the purchaser.
In practice, this is absolutely no different than having the local gun shop special order a gun from a distributor, except that the buyer (rather than the dealer) initiates the transaction and has a greater choice of vendors than does the local gun shop.
Eric Thompson (proprietor of TGSCOM, who runs and other online gun shops) did not sell the guns used in two recent massacres. Rather, he sold a single gun to one of the shooters, and some non-regulated parts (magazines) to another. He complied with all applicable laws: once paid, he shipped the gun to the buyer’s local FFL. The dealer complied with the law, ensured the appropriate forms and background check were completed, and sold the gun to the buyer. Everything was conducted in accordance with the law. The fact that the buyer later used the gun to commit a heinous crime is not the fault of Mr. Thompson or the local dealer. The fault lies solely with the murderer.
Mr. Thompson’s offer to sell guns at cost so that law-abiding citizens can afford to protect themselves is an honorable act, and I applaud him for doing so.

5 thoughts on “Guns and the Internet”

  1. So generally speaking, do most states require that guns sold online be shipped to a dealer? What about a collector selling guns from his collection?

  2. Michelle,
    If the guns are crossing state lines, then the guns *must* be transferred through a dealer.
    As for intra-state transfers, I’m not 100% sure. You would be prudent to examine the ATF’s listing of various state firearm laws, which is available here.
    If you have any questions, try contacting the ATF directly. You might also want to contact your state/local agencies responsible for regulating firearm sales within their boundaries.
    Firearms laws are byzantine and confusing. Even simple, unintentional violations may result in strict penalties. In many cases, it may simply be more prudent to transfer a firearm via a dealer, even for sales taking place inside the same state. This way you’re sure that all your bases are covered.
    Be safe!

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