Legal gun sellers say stop the illegal trade
Firearms retailers report that they often turn away shady customers, even as they're losing ground to less scrupulous online competitors.
A recent survey of gun-shop owners keeps that line intact but doesn't touch the online competitors routinely hurdling it. According to the University of California at Davis' Violence Prevention Research Program, as reported by The Huffington Post, about 55% of gun retailers had someone try to illegally buy a gun from them in 2011. In those cases, law enforcement was contacted about the attempted illegal purchases 75% of the time.
Those surveyed said they were largely against illegal gun sales and would support laws that clamped down on such transactions. If the survey is any indication, legislators should consider "straw purchases" -- where someone with a clean record attempts to buy a gun for someone barred from owning one -- their primary target.
Such purchases tend to be a favored ploy for folks shopping at pawnbrokers, 78.1% of whom reported at least one attempted illegal gun purchase in 2011. That's pretty steep compared to the 10% of the 1,600 retailers surveyed who reported buyers attempting illegal purchases at their stores at least once a month. But many of those incidents also involve customers who don't have or refuse to provide proper documentation.
The folks who conducted the survey say they aren't concerned that sellers are underreporting incidents, noting that sellers in general largely considered such transactions serious crimes worthy of expanded regulation and lengthy prison sentences.
That's more than can be said for their counterparts on Craigslist, 82% of whom admitted to New York City investigators that they agreed to sell guns to people they knew couldn't pass a background check. That pretty much nullifies the site's claim that it bans firearm sales.
The gun retailers surveyed by UC Davis are now competing with the more than 4,000 websites that sell guns in the U.S., according to the Department of Justice. For the retailers, passage of a gun-trafficking bill that would make straw purchases a federal crime and bump up penalties to $25,000 would not only reward sellers who play by the rules, but possibly eliminate their shadier competitors.
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