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Online guns sales pose larger threat than gun shows - study

Published time: August 06, 2013 00:57
AFP Photo / Scott Olson

AFP Photo / Scott Olson

Gun control advocates may now face tougher opposition online than at the free-market gun shows they have struggled against for years after researchers found thousands of firearms of all sorts advertised for sale on Internet classified pages.

A new study conducted in 10 states over the past two months has found that, at any given time, 15,000 guns were for sale online without requiring a background check. Approximately one-third of the weapons were semi-automatic, according to researchers at Third Way, which bills itself as the “vital center” of politics but reportedly has close ties to the Obama administration. 

Pro-gun control lawmakers and advocates have long sought to close the so-called gun show loophole in gun laws, which allow buyers to purchase weapons from private gun dealers without first going through a background check or waiting period. 

The study focused on Armslist.com, a site similar to Craigslist but one that deals exclusively in weapons, in ten states where senators voted against a background check compromise law supported by US President Barack Obama. That bill, which would have mandated criminal and mental health background checks at gun shows and in online sales, fell short of blocking a Senate filibuster by a mere five votes in April but is scheduled to be taken into consideration again later this year. 

At this point, this is the biggest loophole in the background check system,” Lana Erickson Hatalsky, the director of social policy and politics at Third Way, told the Washington Post. 

Gun sales between friends, family, and all other private transactions are exempt from background checks by the 1993 Brady Law. The architects of the law, gun control advocates say, never could have predicted the rise of the online marketplace. 

Regarding online sales, Hatalsky noted, “Nobody’s monitoring this. Nobody has any ability to stop these people who are looking for private sellers – and the only reason to do that is to evade the background check system.” 

In the two months examined by the researchers, 1,960 guns were for sale in Georgia, 6,192 for sale in Ohio and 124 for sale in Alaska. Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Tennessee were also analyzed, while 5,136 of the 15,768 ads listed semi-automatic assault weapons.