UPDATED: WashPost Pushes Faulty Anti-Gun Study, Fails to Print Blog Item Critical of It

August 6th, 2013 3:00 PM

Well, the Washington Post is back to their usual tricks in distorting the facts about guns and background checks.  On page A2 of today's print edition, staff writer Philip Rucker gave readers a story, which read pretty much like a press release for a left-wing pro-gun control group, calling itself Third Way.  Rucker harped on the misleading “gun show loophole” and how, according to Third Way, criminals are taking to the Internet to arm themselves for murder and mayhem.

That's far from the truth, as Rucker's colleague Brad Plumer noted in an August 5 Wonkblog post which cut against Rucker's Wild West narrative on online gun sales. Of course, Plumer's item didn't make it into print while Rucker's did, on page A2.

Folks who live on the Washington Post home page or frequent the Wonkblog might have seen and read Plumer, but editors clearly opted to highlight Rucker's positive press for Third Way.

Also, back in April, the Post’s Glenn Kessler also debunked the oft-repeated statistic that 40 percent of gun sales in the U.S. are done without background checks – and awarded the president with three Pinocchios for the claim.

At any rate, let’s get to the lies of Rucker’s piece.  He wrote:

The study focused on Armslist.com — a popular classified site similar to Craigslist.org that facilitates private sales of firearms and ammunition based on location — and analyzed listings in 10 states where senators voted against a background checks compromise this spring.

At any given time, more than 15,000 guns were for sale in those states, according to the study, and more than 5,000 of them were semi-automatic weapons. Nearly 2,000 ads were from prospective buyers asking to buy specifically from private sellers, where no background checks are required.

“At this point, this is the biggest loophole in the background check system,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics at Third Way.

Background checks — designed to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic violence perpetrators or the severely mentally ill — are mandatory for gun sales at retail stores, but not at gun shows or for private sales, such as between neighbors and family members.

On the contrary, Rucker’s colleague, Plumer, noted how online sales really go down.

1) First, if you try to buy a firearm over the Internet from one of the nation’s 130,000 or so* federal firearms license holders, then you have to go through a background check, period. They’ll ship the gun to your nearest licensed dealer. There’s no loophole there.

2) Likewise, if you want to buy a gun online from any seller in another state, they can’t just mail the gun to your doorstep. The Gun Control Act of 1968 strictly regulates direct mail of virtually all firearms across state lines, save for antiques. Again, the seller has to ship the gun to a federally licensed dealer. The buyer would then have to go to that dealer, fill out paperwork, and undergo a background check before picking up the gun.

3) But there’s also a third option. I can check out an ad posted online by a private seller and then meet up to buy the gun in person. (There may also be some situations in which the gun could be mailed within the same state, though not handguns.) That would be a private sale and federal law wouldn’t require a background check — although some states would. California and Rhode Island require background checks for all private sales, while 12 states mandate checks for private handgun sales.


No one really knows, however, how many guns bought online in the United States are acquired illegally or used in crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives doesn’t track this. The crime data are basically anecdotal — for example, Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones reported in February that “Weapons obtained through [Armslist.com] have been tied to the murders of four people and one suicide.” That’s not much to go on.

So, it seems that even some at the Post consider online gun sales to be safe, legal, and rare when it comes to acts of criminality.

As any person who’s attended a gun show, myself included, knows – a background check is conducted at these events.  You cannot buy certain firearms if you’re not a resident of the state in which the event is held.  Additionally, any federal firearms licensee -- any gun store or individual who makes his/her living selling guns -- needs to conduct a background check on all purchases, both in and out-of-state.  

The fact is that private sales aren’t subject to background checks, but remain a small proportion of all gun sales.  Most of them revolve around transactions among family members. Heaven forbid a father pass down a family firearm to his son, or daughter.

Another thing the Post wants to ignore is that while Virginia’s gun sales have gone through the roof, there's been a simultaneous decrease in gun crime.  The left's anti-gun narrative is becoming easier to debunk, and serves as a rather embarrassing example of liberal ignorance. 

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that Kessler walked back his Pinocchios on the claim that 40% of gun sales are conducted without background checks.  This is inaccurate.  Kessler's April post increased the numbers of Pinocchios from two to three.  This was an inexcusable error, and has been corrected.