Gun Control Groups Target Online Firearms Sales in Push for New Background Check Bill

Gun control proponents are pushing the Senate to re-introduce the failed universal background check bill as soon as this fall, but that's not likely, says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

In an Aug. 1 meeting in Washington, D.C., with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Reid said that Congress has so many pressing, complex issues on its agenda, another vote on background checks won't happen any "sooner than 2014," but could occur before midterm elections.

"I think sometime next year we'll revisit that issue," Reid said. "I'm almost certain of it."

Gun control advocates, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, are regrouping 15 months before the 2014 congressional elections with ad campaigns across the nation.

Their primary target: Senators who voted against the universal background check bill. The "Manchin-Toomey" amendment, which would have extended federal background check requirements to private gun show and Internet sales, was defeated in a 54-46 vote on April 17. Reid is among five Democrat senators who voted against the bill.

Proponents say the bill would have addressed the "largely unregulated private firearms market on the Internet," which they say provides an easy way to purchase firearms with little or no federal and state scrutiny.

Firearms sales across state lines must go through a federally licensed dealer but many states allow private firearms sales to occur within their state's borders without such checks. Many of these sales are transacted at gun shows or on the Internet.

"It's a loophole so large you could drive a Mack truck through it," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told Heidi Przybyla of Bloomberg News on Aug. 13, noting online gun sales websites represent "a way to get around" existing state and federal firearms laws.

According to the Brady Center, the proverbial poster boy -- in cyber-speak -- of "wild, wild West" Internet firearms sales is Oklahoma-based Armslist.com.

Established in 2009, Armslist has been the target of lawsuits -- a U.S. District Judge in Illinois last week dismissed a wrongful death claim against Armslist by the Brady Center -- and probes, including one by New York City and another recently by the New York Times.

In an April 17 article, The Times said during the first three months of 2013, it identified more than 170,000 gun ads on Armslist, with more than 20,000 ads posted every week; 94 percent of the ads were posted by "private parties," who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.

The quandary is that "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."

According to Pennsylvania attorney Jon Gibbon, he created Armslist.com with Brian Mancini when they were both cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy after learning Craigslist.org was no longer accepting ads for firearms in 2007.

"When I heard them say that they decided to ban all gun-related ads because a few users cried out for it, it inspired me to create a place for law-abiding gun owners to buy and sell online without all of the hassles of auctions and shipping," he told Human Events in 2010.