August 14, 2013

Gun-control groups organizing against online sales

By Heidi Przybyla / Bloomberg News

(Continued from page 1)

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Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords greets members of the Manchester, N.H., Police Patrolman Association last month. Three years after being shot in the head, Giffords is calling on New Hampshire's political leaders to have courage in the fight to expand background checks on gun purchases.

The Associated Press

Advocates are raising money for another legislative push. Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and Giffords's husband, predicted that the seven-month-old, Washington-based Americans for Responsible Solutions, which has taken in more than $11 million, will raise more than the average $18 million to $20 million that the National Rifle Association spends per election cycle. The NRA is the nation's biggest gun lobby.

"This is an area where a lot of people can coalesce, even if they say they're opposed to gun-violence prevention," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who's joined with Newtown families in pushing legislation. "There is a core group of senators, including myself, that is determined to seek another vote."

The 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act sought to require background checks for most firearm purchases by mandating screenings for all commercial sales at gun stores.

The new data on gun buyers evading background checks over the Internet is fueling the advocates' efforts.

"The center of activity for prohibited purchasers has clearly shifted to the Internet, for obvious reasons," said Mark Glaze, director of the mayors' group. "No background check, no questions asked, no paper trail – all in the dark."

The Third Way study found 15,768 sale ads listed by private sellers on Armslist.com. Of these ads, 5,136 postings were for semi-automatic weapons, including assault weapons, and 1,928 of the ads were from prospective buyers looking to purchase firearms from private sellers, the report said.

"It's really scary when you look through the online want-ads seeking private sellers," said Lanae Erickson, a policy director at Third Way. "Why would you need to buy it from a private seller unless you are trying to get around the background check?"

The Third Way analysis covered gun sales in 10 states during June and July. These are states represented by senators who had been sought by anti-gun violence advocates as potential supporters of expanded background checks, including Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Democrats Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska.

This week's report by Giffords's group documents the case of a man with Asperger's syndrome from Nevada who ended up purchasing a gun from Reno police Sergeant Laura Conklin on Armslist.com. According to the man's mother, Jill Schaller, who reported the transfer, it "put her family in danger and could have ended her son's life," the report said.

A sampling of Armslist.com postings shows the ease with which weapons are obtained.

Trades occur with the click of a mouse and then a meeting. One listing for an M44 carbine bolt action rifle highlighted by Third Way advertised: "You can avoid the background check and taxes by taking this rifle off my hands for $250."

Perry Tarrant, a police captain in Tucson, Ariz., who has worked in law enforcement for 33 years, said the Internet has compounded the gun violence in his state.

"Historically, we've always thought of Arizona as being the Wild West and a very strong gun culture," he said in an interview. "The Internet is an even wilder West. Behind a computer, the origin of a seller can be anywhere around the world."

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