The NYTimes has done yeoman work drilling down past the flag-wrapped-Second-Amendment-versus-mail-order-psycho rhetoric recently. After last month’s terrifying piece on the states where gun rights trump orders of protection, there’s a new examination of Armslist.com and its fellows where “Internet Gun Sites Ease Illegal Sales”:
… Seeking a glimpse into the largely hidden online gun market, The Times assembled a database and analyzed several months of ads from Armslist, which has become the dominant player in the arena, and examined numerous smaller sites.
Over the past three months, The Times identified more than 170,000 gun ads on Armslist. Some were for the same guns, making it difficult to calculate just how many guns were actually for sale. Even so, with more than 20,000 ads posted every week, the number is probably in the tens of thousands.
Notably, 94 percent of the ads were posted by “private parties,” who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.
Besides Mr. Roman-Martinez, the Times investigation led to Gerard Toolin, 46, of Walterboro, S.C., who is a fugitive from the Rhode Island police and has two outstanding felony warrants as well as a misdemeanor warrant. His legal status bars him from owning guns, but he was recently seeking to buy an AK-47 assault rifle on Armslist and was also trying to trade a Marlin rifle. He posted photos to his Facebook account of an AK-47 he had already purchased, along with a variety of other guns.
There was also Martin Fee, who has a domestic battery conviction in Florida and other arrests and convictions in Florida and New Jersey, including for drug possession, burglary and larceny. He was selling a Chinese SKS rifle on the classified section of another Web site, BudsGunShop.com.
The examination of Armslist raised questions about whether many sellers are essentially functioning as unlicensed firearms dealers, in contravention of federal law. The law says that people who “engage in the business” of selling firearms need to obtain a license and conduct background checks on customers. While the definition of engaging in business is vague, The Times found that more than two dozen people had posted more than 20 different guns for sale in a several-month span….
Then there was Ron Metz, 49, who has advertised more than 80 guns from Anderson, S.C., since February. Mr. Metz said in an interview he had needed money, so he started selling some guns and trading for others. He also bought other guns, which he turned around and sold as well. He said he had no real idea how many he had sold, guessing that it was more than a dozen. He never keeps any records and does not do any background checks, explaining: “I can just sort of read people.”
“You think I broke a law?” he asked…