CORRECTION: A previous version of this story published on Dec. 14, 2012 contained factual errors regarding the sale of guns via the Internet. The National Memo regrets the errors and apologizes to readers.
While the nation is processing yet another deadly mass shooting, this time involving children at an elementary school in Connecticut (at least 20 students were killed out of 27 total dead, including the shooter), the question will be whether this will be the wakeup call the United States needs to have a serious conversation about gun control and the gun culture fueled by the National Rifle Association.
Will we demand our political leaders take action to get at the root of the problem — America’s lax gun control laws? Or will we let the NRA and its followers continue to dominate the discussion by dismissing guns as the problem or even arguing that every private citizen should own a gun? Should the children have been packing?
Shopping malls. Houses of worship. Schools. Cinemas. A mass shooting every other week. Will we become numb to what should be shocking? Is this the price our society has to pay for the Second Amendment?
Last week it was an Oregon shopping mall shooting. This week it is a Connecticut elementary school in the line of fire. Where will the next mass shooting take place as a consequence of American gun violence? Organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence are fighting the good fight against the NRA and for stricter gun control measures.
While federally licensed firearms (FLF) dealers are required to conduct background checks on all buyers via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), unlicensed private gun dealers are not required to conduct background checks in 33 states if the sale is conducted within the state — and 40 percent of guns are sold through private sellers.
There are federal rules against private sellers repeatedly engaging in selling guns for a profit, which is why many call this loophole the “casual sales exception.” There are also federal rules against unlicensed dealers selling guns to someone they suspect couldn’t pass a background check, although this is often ignored, as an investigation by the City of New York into private online gun sales found that 62 percent of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said they couldn’t pass a background check. The in-state transactions generally occur either via mail or face-to-face in a parking lot after arranging to meet via email or phone.
The NYC Fix Gun Checks Report recommends a federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales, making sure the ATF enforces existing gun laws, and encouraging websites to take self-policing steps to stop illegal gun sales.
Here are five of the most dangerous firearms advertised online:
Photo: gunsnews2012 via Flickr