ARS Report: The Anatomy of an Internet Gun Sale

WASHINGTON – Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, today released an in-depth look at implications of the boom in online gun sales. The report dissects a Nevada incident that garnered national attention in which a mentally ill young man, despite having been previously committed and legally prohibited from purchasing a weapon, was able to buy a handgun online without undergoing a background check.

“The Anatomy of an Internet Sale” explores how a 19-year-old man, who had been committed to a mental institution in 2012 after he was deemed a threat to himself and others, bought a gun on Armslist.com from a police sergeant in Reno, Nev. – with no background check. The young man’s mother, Jill Schaller, called police after confronting her son about the gun purchase.

“It’s truly mind-boggling that anyone can buy a gun online, no questions asked, regardless of whether they’re a criminal or dangerously mentally ill. This incident shows the dire need for expanded background checks. We were lucky no one was hurt,” said Schaller, who shared her family’s story with ARS. “It’s common sense for all gun purchases to be subject to a background check. Our elected officials, particularly in Nevada, should be alarmed at how easy it is for people who shouldn’t have guns to obtain them legally on the Internet.”

Since the law requiring background checks on gun purchases from federally licensed gun dealers was first enacted in 1993, the Internet has changed the way many guns are bought and sold. Now, at the click of a mouse, anyone can visit vast online marketplaces where buyers and sellers complete transactions with no background checks and no records whatsoever. Between 1994 and 2010, nearly 2.1 million applicants were denied during a gun background check, but there is nothing to prevent these people from going online and purchasing the same gun.

While several states have passed legislation that extends background check requirements to include gun show and Internet purchases, Nevada and the U.S. Congress have failed to do so. In April, members of the U.S. Senate filibustered bipartisan legislation to close the Internet sales loophole, and, in June, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada vetoed legislation that would have required background checks on virtually all sales in that state.

“This report is a deep dive into a dangerous loophole – protected by the powerful gun lobby – that provides criminals and the dangerously mentally ill with a quick and easy way to buy guns,” said ARS Executive Director Pia Carusone. “By calling attention to a real-life example in which someone who shouldn’t have been able to purchase a gun was able to do so legally, we hope to continue the conversation about the need for expanded background checks.”

The report concludes with a brief exercise encouraging readers to see how long it takes them to find a no-background check gun on Armslist.com, and then to tweet the results at their U.S. Senators. The report is online.

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