You may have heard or read that there is a loophole that allows a person to purchase a gun online. Well that isn’t true. In the United States gun regulations are controlled by the Bureau of ATF. There are rules for purchasing a gun in person or online. As of 2019, there were 130,048 active federal firearms licensees (FFLs). While that may seem like a lot of gun shops, only 53,746 are Type 01 Dealers and 7,314 are Type 02 Pawnbrokers. The rest can sell guns, but they have a special license to conduct other types of business related to guns.
Do all guns shops sell guns online?
No. Some are still not accepting of the digital age because it is a few more steps that need to be complete to purchase a gun online. So what’s the process? You can go to any gun shop’s website and they will have a notice if they do in-person or ship out of state. Some will not ship out of state because once again it’s a few extras steps to complete.
How to buy a gun online
Here's a quick simple step by step of the online gun buying process
- Find out which gun you are interested in
A long gun like a shotgun to protect your home or a handgun to carry for protection
- Find a gun shop that will ship to your state
There are plenty of gun shops but very few that have online stores. Look for online reviews about the gun shop. If you use google to search it will show their website address, physical location and some reviews.
- Browse their website to find the gun you are interested in buying
1. Don't forget taxes and shipping will be added
2. Your local shop will charge you a transfer fee too
- Call or look the gun shop to see which gun shops they will ship to in the area you live in
1. If they don't find a new gun shop that will. If they do …
2. Make the purchase on their website
3. During the payment process choose the gun shop you want your gun shipped to
4. Contact the gun shop you are have your gun shipped to let them know you have a shipment coming
- When your gun arrives to your local shop
1. They will call you after they have inspected the gun and logged it into their system
2. Schedule a time to go to their shop to finalize your purchase
- At your local gun shop to get your gun
1. Make sure you have a valid driver's license or state license
2. If you have a valid gun carry permit make sure you have it
3. Be prepared to complete some paperwork, the ATF Form 4473
4. Read the form, complete it fully, sign and date it
5. If you don't have a valid gun carry permit the gun shop will run a background check (NICS)
6. All paperwork has to be signed and completed, and if needed the NICS background check passes
7. Make sure you inspect the gun and verify that it is the gun you ordered
8. If not then you will need to contact the guns hop you purchased it from to make arrangements to fix the mistake
- Pay your local gun shop their transfer fee
If you have questions call the gun shop you are buying from or having the gun shipped too. They will be more than willing to answer them. While this process may seem simple, which it kind of is, there is no loophole. Just to be clear, in the United States a gun can only be shipped from one valid licensed gun shop to another valid licensed gun shop. A gun can not be shipped to a person’s home. When the gun is being shipped, USPS, UPS and FedEx require tracking, adult signatures, an extra form to be completed and insurance to ship a gun.
So all in all the so called “Internet Gun Sale Loophole” myth doesn’t exist. Along with having to have a valid FFL, those ATF Form 4473’s have to be kept for 20 years. Also every person who has a valid gun carry permit has had a NICS background check. If the person doesn’t have one then before the gun is sold to them they will have a NICS background check run at that time. If a person doesn’t pass a NICS background check then they can not get a valid gun carry permit or purchase a gun. No exceptions to the law.
Why do people buy guns from a website?
Sometimes it’s easier to find the exact gun you want more times than not it’s cheaper. Other times the local gun shop doesn’t have that specific model and don’t do special orders. While the headlines may say there is a loophole in purchasing a gun online, as you just read one doesn’t exist.
Just to be a bit clearer, every gun has to be accounted for either by the manufacturer or a gun shop. One of the jobs of ATF is to enforce this process with rules and regulations. Every FFL dealer has to keep a daily record and count of every gun they are responsible for. So when you order that gun online, that gun shop has to record in their book which gun shop they sent that gun to, when it arrives at the receiving gun shop, they have to record it in their book. When the gun is shipped it is required to be shipped 2 day express. It has to be tracked and signed for also. This entire process is to ensure that the gun can be tracked and traced at all times.
Study to Expose Illegal Online Gun Sales Backfires
Take this for example … Fox News reported in 2018 that a Democrat-backed study meant to expose illicit online gun sales instead seemed to show the opposite — with hardly any sellers taking the bait when undercover investigators tried to set up dozens of illegal firearm transactions.
Here’s an excerpt from their article …
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, had commissioned the Government Accountability Office report to look into how online private dealers might be selling guns to people not allowed to have them.
Their efforts were based on a 2016 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which claimed that “anonymity of the internet makes it an ideal means for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.”
“Congressional requesters asked that GAO access the extent to which ATF is enforcing existing laws and investigate whether online private sellers sell firearms to be people who are not allowed or eligible to possess a firearm,” the GAO report said.
Over the course of the two-and-a-half year investigation, agents tried to buy firearms illegally on the “Surface Web” and the “Dark Web,” generally by sharing their status as “prohibited individuals” or trying to buy across state lines.
But the GAO revealed that their 72 attempts outside of the dark web were all “unsuccessful.”
According to the ATF report, “private sellers on Surface Web gun forums and in classified ads were unwilling to sell a firearm to our agents that self-identified as being prohibited from possessing a firearm,” the GAO reported, noting that in their “72 attempts … 56 sellers refused to complete a transaction once we revealed that either the shipping address was across state lines or that we were prohibited by law from owning firearms.” In the other cases, the report says investigators’ website was frozen or they encountered suspected scammers.
The report goes on to say that GAO agents successfully purchased two guns illegally on the dark web, as the serial numbers on the weapons were “obliterated” and “shipped across state lines.” But in the attempt to purchase, the GAO agents “did not disclose any information indicating they were prohibited from possessing a firearm.”
Based on the findings of the study, the GAO said it is “not making recommendations in this report.”
Again, from the article:
The National Rifle Association seized on the report to claim that online sales are in fact regulated, calling the study an “embarrassment” for the gun control lobby.
“GAO’s findings showed nothing so much as that private sellers advertising online are knowledgeable about the law, conscientious, and self-policing,” The National Rifle Association said, adding that online gun sales are “subject to the same federal laws that apply to any other commercial or private gun sales.”
And so the “Study to Expose Illegal Online Gun Sales Backfires” headline will not be shown as much as others that say the opposite.