Today President Obama convened a press conference to announce his new plan to reduce gun violence. Before announcing his plan, the President grudgingly prefaced how difficult the gun control debate can be: “There is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do. I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. […] But I also think we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”
In this preface before discussing the executive action, the President was clearly frustrated about how many “twist his words” on this subject. We intend to do no such thing, but there are some key issues that were misrepresented in the press conference today, and as with any issue, it’s important to get the facts straight.
“You Can Buy A Gun Online Without A Background Check”
Today’s press conference began with this argument voiced by the President: “The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon (that otherwise would require a background check in a gun store) over the internet with no background check, no questions asked.”
This is simply not true. Online firearm retailers have to play by the same set of “rules” as the gun store owner. Let’s outline the process so there is no misunderstanding:
When an individual chooses to purchase a firearm online, they have to apply for an FFL (Federal Firearms License) transfer. The online retailer is licensed with their own FFL, and this process requires cooperation and permitting with the ATF. The online firearms retailer is not operating “off the grid” or anything similar to that, but in fact working with the ATF and the FBI to properly handle a firearm sale just like any physical gun store would do. Now here is the key thing that was misrepresented in the President’s speech: An FFL transfer requires a background check of the individual purchasing a firearm. A violent felon cannot in fact purchase a firearm on the web “no questions asked” because an unsuccessful background check would prevent the sale.
Before we move on, let’s dispel one other notion that some may have about online firearm sales. An online firearm purchase is not shipped directly to your door. In fact it is shipped to another licensed FFL dealer from a the online retailer ( who is a FFL holder as well). The person buying the firearm can then pick it up from an authorized FFL dealer only when a background check has been approved.
Everyone would agree that proper research and knowledge of an issue you’re holding a press conference over is vitally important, but in the case of today’s executive order on gun control, this was not the case. Hopefully these inconsistencies are brought to light during Thursday’s town hall meeting.
“The Gun Show Loophole”
While the process of online firearm purchases was misrepresented in the speech, this arguably more important issue was not given the focus it deserves. Most have heard of the “gun show loophole” by now, but to clarify what it exactly means:
The only time a FFL transfer (which includes a background check) is not required is when an individual sells or trades a gun to another individual, even at a gun show. This does not count for any retailer who attends a gun show as they are required to perform a background check before completing any transaction. These transactions should have been the focus of the press conference and the first thing the President spoke about. If background checks were made mandatory for every transaction, even individual to individual sales and trades, this would close the “gun show loophole.”
You can watch the full video here courtesy of Whitehouse.gov:
The Problem With Smart Guns
One last thing to clarify about today’s speech regards “smart guns.” Developing better “smart gun” technology is an easy idea to pitch, but one that hasn’t moved near as far as most realize. Let’s think about this for a moment. If reliable and proven “smart gun” technology existed and passed rigorous tests, the company that developed it would be scrambling to sell it to all interested parties including the government, law enforcement and private users. The fact of that matter is there hasn’t been a suitable prototype developed yet. We’ve all seen smart guns in science fiction and the concept sounds easy, but deploying it in an effective manner just hasn’t happened yet.
The two primary development paths of a “smart gun” still have their problems. Fingerprint or biometric technology is the most popular, but there are issues with powering a biometric sensor and they aren’t particularly durable yet. More importantly biometric sensors do not work 100% of the time, and there is a chance that when the proper owner grips the gun that it will not activate. Many hunters, target shooters and law enforcement officers operate guns with gloves on to protect from the cold or debris, and a biometric sensor would prevent anyone from wearing gloves while handling a gun. The alternative smart gun technology consists of a ring or bracelet that only allows the wearer to fire the corresponding gun. The problem here is obvious. You can wrestle away a bracelet or ring, and you can’t consider this option as 100% effective either.
Asking to “boost gun safety technology” is a noble idea, but it is a mistake to think this technology is going to make an immediate impact. There is still many years of testing and development ahead. Even whitehouse.gov acknowledges that this initiative will take time: “The President has also directed the departments (Defense, Justice and Homeland Security) to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis.” These departments wouldn’t have to “review” this technology periodically if there was a suitable option available right now.
We (and our sister site Webyshops.com) support an initiative to create more FFL licensees, and we have always maintained a proper FFL because we care about safe and proper firearm purchases. Even when we have attended gun shows, we have required a background check for anyone who purchases a firearm from us. However, it is disheartening to see an important issue misrepresented to millions of Americans who deserve the facts.