Guns and the web

I have been having a repeated conversation with Mrs. Ahab over the last couple of weeks. In a couple of different movies, you see the main characters or bad guys purchasing guns on the internet, which they have delivered directly to their homes.

She’s aware of the simple fact that, well, unless you’re in possession of the appropriate federal license, that it is all sorts of illegal. So, she asked around at work to see if people actually knew that you couldn’t order a firearm off the internet and have it delivered to your home, legally. By and large, most people that she worked with thought that you could.

Thus, you have today’s post. I know that most of my usual readers are familiar with firearms laws, and how they relate to the internet; however if you have a friend that’s curious or unaware of how it works you can point them here.

A person who is not legally barred from possession of firearms (not a felon, etc) may obtain firearms from a dealer in another state. From the ATF:

A person not licensed under the GCA and not prohibited from acquiring firearms may purchase a firearm from an out-of-State source and obtain the firearm if an arrangement is made with a licensed dealer in the purchaser’s State of residence for the purchaser to obtain the firearm from the dealer.

In the above, “Licensed under the GCA (Gun Control Act)” means a Federal Firearms License, which come in all sorts of flavors with different various levels of access accorded to them. This is the provision which applies to sales of guns over the internet.

What that means is that you can buy a gun off the internet; however it has to be sent to a Federal Firearms License. If you’re not an FFL holder, you have to make arrangements to have the gun sent there.

When you go that FFL to pick up your new CQB Tactical Destroyer, that FFL is required by law to run a NICS check on you – even though they’re not selling you the gun. The reason is because federal law requires all dealers to run a background check whenever they transfer a firearm to an individual.

So how do people buy guns on the web? I’m so glad you asked. Websites like Gunbroker and AuctionArms work sort of like an E-Bay for guns. You can go there, browse the different categories, and place bids on firearms you’re interested in. Most of the people that sell on Gunbroker and AuctionArms are federal dealers – since they don’t want to get reamed by the ATF they will only ship guns to other Federal Licensees.

If you win your bid, contact the seller (obviously) to find out how they’d like their form of payment. Additionally, they will require a faxed, mailed, or emailed copy of the Federal Firearms License of the licensee to whom you would to have your new blaster shipped.

As you can see, it you “can” order firearms off the internet; but it’s certainly not a loophole in federal law. In some cases, it’s actually more of a hassle to order a gun from the web, on the flipside of that equation is that the internet gives me access to the inventory of gunshops all over the country so I can often find things that I can’t find at my local (and oft poorly stocked) local stores.

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