The Truth About "Internet" Gun Sales

Posted on January 11, 2013

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The Internet has had an immeasurable impact on how we communicate.

That has included how goods and services are advertised and made available to consumers. For gun owners, it has meant more easily available information about firearms and accessories, but unlike almost all other products and contrary to claims made by anti-gun politicians, how firearms are bought and sold has not changed.

Anti-gun efforts to “ban” internet firearms sales often present the issue in a manner that would lead people to think firearms are being sold online in the same way people buy books or clothes.  Simply click on the “Add to Cart” button, enter your credit card number, and in a few days the gun shows up on your doorstep.

But that is not true. All interstate gun sales must go through a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL) in the home state of the buyer. No firearm, regardless of how it is advertised, can be legally shipped interstate directly to the buyer. 

Additionally, all guns shipped by any of the common carriers must go to an FFL, except in a few limited cases involving the return of a firearm after repair.

The reality is that the Internet does not provide any legal opportunity to simply buy a firearm as if it were a pair of jeans.  Instead, the Internet simply provides an advertising medium through which a buyer can locate a firearm available for sale and arrange for it to be shipped to an in-state dealer. The dealer can then complete the transaction, including all federal, state and local background check and recordkeeping requirements.

The real purpose of legislative proposals to ban Internet sales is to ban the advertising of firearms on the Internet, which is a direct attack on both the First and Second Amendments. For much the same reason that anti-gun forces want to eliminate gun shows, they want to prohibit the free exchange of information about firearms on the Internet, and in doing so restrict the avenues law-abiding people have to find and obtain the firearms of their choice.

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