Bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns is going after firearms classifieds site Armslist.com in
a new reportthat says the website is creating a massive, unregulated Internet weapons market.
“The Internet is a vast and growing marketplace for illegal guns,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino said in a press conference Thursday. “Because it’s in the shadows, it seems to clearly be a place where criminals flock, where sellers who want to evade the law flock, and where there’s a marketplace of illegal activity.”
Tens of thousands of guns are sold on Armslist.
People who sell guns on Armslist classify themselves as “private sellers,” meaning they’re not subject to the same regulations as gun dealers because they only make “occasional” gun sales. Private sellers aren’t required to have a licence or conduct criminal background checks on their customers.
The problem is that some of these “private sellers” are selling guns in high volume and essentially acting as dealers, according to the report. And some of the guns are being sold to criminals.
During the coalition’s investigation from August to October of this year, investigators found that 29% of guns advertised on Armslist were posted by “high-volume” sellers, said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Some of these guns are being sold in their original packaging, suggesting that they don’t in fact come from a person’s private collection.
The report claims that thousands of people legally excluded from buying guns are “flocking to the Internet to evade background checks and acquire guns illegally.”
Investigators contacted some of the high-volume sellers who advertise on Armslist, and one explained why it’s much easier to operate as a private seller rather than get a licence to be a dealer:
“Another seller in Atlanta, Georgia who posted at least 14 guns described weighing the costs and benefits of getting a federal firearms licence. He had decided that given the current law, it made more sense for him to sell without one. ‘I don’t have an FFL, and […] I was going back and forth about whether I should take that leap. But the way it stands now with the current laws, if I’m not a dealer I don’t have to do background checks. If I did get my FFL, I’d be required to do background checks, but right now as long as Obama will let me sell face-to-face without doing that, then that’s probably the way it’s gonna stay for a while.'”
Bloomberg and Menino said they want Congress to pass a law that would hold private sellers more accountable and require them to run background checks.
Armslist was the subject of another investigation in 2011. And in 2012, gun control advocacy group the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence sued on behalf of the family of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, an elementary school teacher who was killed by a stalker. The killer allegedly purchased the gun from Armslist, and the Brady Center wanted the website to be held accountable.
Mother Jones published an article about Armslist earlier this year that pointed out that transactions on the website are often more anonymous than those at a gun show and lack a paper trail, making it ideal for criminals.
Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser John Feinblatt told Mother Jones: “People who want to go undetected go to places where they can be anonymous and there are no background checks. [Without background checks for Internet sales], we’re basically giving a free pass to criminals.”
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