I noted yet another news story with questionable “facts.”
League of Women Voters Calls for Tighter Gun Control
The group is also helping to educate its members on firearm laws.
“We ask them to increase the background check system to expand it to cover commercial sales – that’s gun shows, online sales, anytime an individual is selling to a stranger,” says Goddard.
It’s a slow day, so this time, I wrote to the reporter and the guy who thinks PPYI background checks aren’t required for commercial sales.
The reporter’s reply:
Watch the video and hear it straight from his mouth
Yeah, Peter DeLuca knew “Legislative Director” Andrew Goddard was blowing smoke… somewhere. So he made sure to record it.
Andrew Goddard, legislative director for the Virginia Center for Public Safety replied to my first email (asking if the quote was accurate):
It was a quote from me given to the Charlottesville Channel29 station yesterday. It looks correct to me. – Andy
Oh boy. Now for some fun.
Moi: I wondered if it was accurate because all commercial sales — whether in-store, at a gun show, online, or in a newspaper ad — to individuals have required background checks for decades, and I’d expect a “legislative director” to know that.
I received a reply from his personal email address (which I won’t include here). I just had to reply to his ravings.
AG: In response to your recent email regarding background checks, I see that you are under the impression that all commercial sales of firearms are subject to background checks on the buyer.
Yeah, I know. I suppose I was misled by that pesky 18 U.S. Code § 922(a)(1) which says “It shall be unlawful for any person except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms”.
AG: So let’s look at the facts:
AG: In Virginia, and all other states, gun sellers who engage in the business of buying and selling Firearms must obtain a Federal Firearms License and all sales that they conduct are subject to a background check being performed on the buyer.
You did read 18 U.S. Code § 922.
AG: Almost all FFL’s follow this to the letter with just a tiny fraction of sales taking place “off the books” and without a background check. Some of these sales are later disguised as thefts.
If you have specific information on that, I do hope you shared it with the ATF. Tell me; exactly what percentage of VA FFLs do you have proof of indulging in this unlawful activity?
(He never answered that one.)
AG: In Virginia a person who does not have an FFL can buy and sell guns at gun shows and from their own homes. They can advertize the availability of guns via the internet at specialist site such as Armslist.com and many others. They can even advertize the availability of guns via local newspapers etc.
Yep, that’s been the case for a couple of centuries now.
AG: There are no laws that govern the number or type of firearms that each individual can sell or buy and there is no effort made to require a high volume seller without an FFL to obtain such a license.
That’s where federal law conflicts with federal regulation. 18 U.S. Code § 921 defines dealers in the business. But in 1994, President Clinton thought he could limit the availability of firearms by limiting FFLs. The ATF purged roughly 200,000 dealers — through revocations and nonrenewals — on the grounds that they weren’t really dealers, thus eliminating their future requirements to conduct background checks (better called “prior restraint on rights through preemptively proving your innocence (PPYI)”).
Gun owners called on the ATF to define “dealer”: X number of firearms in Y time frame; they refused.
Fast forward to the Obama administration which thought there weren’t enough “dealers” doing PPYI, and started busting unlicensed dealers. Again gun owners called for an actual definition. The administration refused, merely issuing the vague statement, “There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is ‘engaged in the business.’”
And still bogus. If they have indications that a person is an unlicensed trafficker, they can open an investigation and subpoena tax returns. If firearms transactions make up a large percentage of income, in the business. If they’ve documented large numbers of sales, but the income isn’t declared, tax evasion. You may recall that’s what Al Capone was finally busted for.
Your problem doesn’t seem to be a lack of laws, but federal incompetence.
AG: The law in Virginia allows these “private sellers” to sell in public venues yet still self determine that that are not “dealing” in firearms. I have plenty of video evidence of such sellers, who move from show to show exhibiting large numbers of guns and trading openly without an FFL.
Do share that evidence. But be careful how you do it. Then-NYC Mayor Bloomberg gathered such “evidence” by sending private detectives out to complete unlawful sales. Not only were gun owners and law enforcement calling for Bloomberg’s (and his stooges) arrest, the ATF was pissed because he blew multiple active investigations.
Let me tell you a related story: An individual was arrested by the ATF for engaging in the business of firearms sales without a license. Information I received certainly indicated that he was doing so, and knowingly doing so unlawfully. But suddenly he was back on the street, selling guns again, and no charges in sight. He showed up at my house uninvited and tried to sell me machineguns, which I rather forcefully rejected with a scattering of obscenities as I ran him off the property. I immediately made his actions known. Shortly after, another set of arrests was announced; prohibited persons purchasing firearms, mostly at gun shows.
Guess who the fed’s star witness — who sold those guns — was.
If you go to a gun show, see a guy clearly in the business, who states that he’s unlicensed, run away. He’s most likely an ATF or FBI CI.
AG: The law that is intended to prevent these sellers from selling a gun to a person that could not pass a firearms purchase background check is written such that there is only a penalty on the seller if it can be shown that the seller knew in advance that the buyer was prohibited from possessing a firearm.
That’s our pesky English common law heritage (and judicial precedent) that requires that a crime include intent; Mens rea. Look it up.
Just imagine if someone were to take your email as guidance for getting around laws against trafficking in Virginia, and you got arrested as an accessory. “But I didn’t intend to help someone break the law!” you’d exclaim reasonably. Maybe you should be required to run background checks on correspondents.
AG: This very weak law is skirted by sellers who deliberately avoid asking the prospective buyers for even the most basic information, such as name and state of residence. If you don’t ask anything about a buyer then you cannot be prosecuted for selling a handgun to the resident of another state, or to an individual that is under age etc.
And there you run up against another set of facts. Private individuals aren’t allowed to call in checks to NICS. To go through NICS, you have to go through an FFL, who has the hassle of logging the firearm and sale in his bound book.
An option that has been proposed that would allow private individuals to run checks is “BIDS;” “Blind Identification Database System”. The federal government has repeatedly rejected calls to implement BIDS because it doesn’t provide sales data to the government. I also suspect that it would be cheaper and more efficient than the NICS call center
has something to do with it: you wouldn’t need all those people answering phones and typing sales into computers.
And how useful are PPYI “background” checks? Over 90% of firearms murders are committed with stolen guns. Roughly 64% of murderers have prior felony convictions. HAYNES ruled that felons don’t have to comply anyway. A government study on the sources of firearms used in crimes found that most are obtained from friends and family (who could reasonably be expected to know the person is prohibited), or purely black market street sales. Gun shows accounted for .07% of crime guns; that’s seven one-hundredths of one percent. (On a personal note, while I was in law enforcement, several convicted felons informed me that they wanted more background checks and restrictions because it would not affect them, and made it more likely their chosen victims would be disarmed. Why do you propose assisting violent criminals?)
NICS denials are 93-96% false positives. That may be higher, because the ATF has a backlog of several tens of thousands of NICS denial appeals.
Tures et 2017 found that “In comparing our observations to a random model, we found that there was little to no difference in the results. We cannot conclude that states that regulate private gun sales have a higher, or lower, gun homicide rate.”
But… on the rare occasions that I’ve sold firearms, I sold only to friends, someone referred by a trusted friend, or an FFL. That’s what most gun owners do. Let me emphasize that:
PEOPLE WHO OWN GUNS FOR PROTECTION AGAINST BAD GUYS HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN NOT PROVIDING GUNS TO BAD GUYS.
AG: My statement was made because I believe that ALL of the transactions that I just described are indeed commercial sales and should be subject to the same level of scrutiny, by first being subject to a background check on the buyer.
Your belief is wishful thinking, which you should carefully distinguish from legal reality.
AG: Virginia is one of the most prolific exporters of guns that later are recovered from crime scenes in other states, and one of the lowest importers of crime guns due to the fact that our own criminals are so well furnished with weapons that they do not need to go out of state to obtain them.
18 U.S. Code § 922 again. It’s already illegal to traffick firearms. What new law do you need?
So… How does Virginia’s violent crime rate compare to those “other states?” I noticed that Massachusetts routinely blamed its crime on guns from New Hampshire, yet could never explain why those same guns weren’t causing crime in NH (which typically vies with constitutional carry Vermont for the lowest violent crime rates in the nation).
(No answer to that one, either.)
Estimates of American gun owners vary by significantly large amounts. The lowest I have seen is 55 million, or roughly 17% of the general population. The highest is 120 million, or approximately 37%. Murderers who were lawful gun owners are just 0.0022% of all gun owners; 22 ten-thousandths of 1 percent. At most.
Calling for new laws on gun owners is like a cancer researcher ignoring smoking or asbestos correlations to call for a ban on parakeet ownership.
Another analogy: Moron gets mad when his football team loses and throws his TV out the window injuring a passerby. You respond by calling for TV and TV owner registration, licensing and training, and background checks on TV sales. And who needs one of those “high capac… er, definition”
I prefer to think that you, and VACPS, are well-intentioned and wish to reduce violent crime. But to fix an existing problem, you have to understand existing conditions, including laws. You cannot confuse law with wishful thinking and base your decisions on that confusion. You have to be willing to target the problem and not the 99.9814% of gun owners who didn’t commit the crimes, or the 99.9693% of firearms that weren’t used in crimes.
I would prefer to persuade you than argue. But if you can’t focus on facts — whether willful or incapable — I have to question your intelligence, sanity… or agenda.
With bated breath, I awaited his response.
Bingo! The “bury my head in the sand” gambit.
AG: Thank you for taking so much time to point out all my “errors”, and provide me with so much evidence and unsourced statistics. Had you refrained from insulting and demeaning remarks, I would have spent an equal amount of time to counter every one of your “insights”. However, I have better things to do with my time and you are obviously in possession of some pretty powerful, yet alternative, facts.
Oh, no! “Alternative facts.” I think he mistook me for a CNN reporter.
Well, I can’t leave the guy hanging, bereft of basic facts on which to concoct his rights-violating plans. He might have to continue with his unicorn-based wishful thinking.
Moi: Hey, you’re the “legislative director” who should know this stuff, and has a whole nonprofit to draw on. I’m just one guy.
But I’ll help you out. Granted, some of these “alternative facts” come from disreputable organizations like the FBI, the Census Bureau, Cornell, the Supreme Court, and peer reviewed papers, but you might want to see what your pro-freedom opposition is thinking.
18 U.S. Code § 922
FBI Uniform Crime Reports
Presidents Clinton and Obama on FFLs
NICS not available to private individuals
What Percentage Of Murders Are Committed With Stolen Guns?
Prior felony convictions
Gun show crime guns
NICS false positives
Tures et al
Analysis and number crunching
Should Mr. Goddard reply again, I’ll update this post. But I expect he’ll either delete my email or stroke out.
Carl is an unpaid TZP volunteer. If you found this post useful, please consider dropping something in his tip jar.