ASSIGNMENT 13: Armed & dangerous, the world of internet gun sales

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ORIGINAL AIRDATE: February 2012

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It’s the loophole in the law that allows weapons to be sold on the internet.

There are several websites out there where you can set up a meeting with a private seller to buy a gun.

No paperwork, no background checks, no questions asked.

And it’s all legal.

In a special Assignment 13 report, WEAU 13 News goes inside the world of online gun sales.

Armslist.com, Craigslist.org, Glocktalk.com and Gunlistings.org are just four websites among many others where you can shop for guns online.

WEAU took a closer look at Armslist.com.

The ads for private gun transactions on the website number in the hundreds, including dozens of weapons for sale in the Chippewa Valley.

The site has it all, handguns, shotguns, rifles and accessories.

Once you pick your weapon of choice, it’s up to you to contact the seller.

While some sellers leave e-mail addresses, some post their phone number for speedier transactions.

WEAU tracked down local Armslist user Paul Fankhauser of Chippewa Falls to get an inside look of how it works.

“I've traded and sold a couple of rifles on there and it's always been a good experience, I've never gotten burned on anything,” Fankhauser said.

He said all it took to set up a meeting was a short string of conversations.

“Usually about 3 or 4 emails, a couple text messages or a phone call. Usually you can set up a meeting on the next day or the same day,” Fankhauser said.

Fankhauser said he’s made his sales in public places.

But was there any kind of background check?

“Nope, a lot of times you just write up a bill of sale. There are dishonest people out there, they may lie and say they aren't a felon but if you have it in writing that they say they aren’t it won't fall against you because it's a private party,” Fankhauser said.

And he’s right.

Local attorney and NRA member Steve Gibbs said gun sales between private citizens without any kind of background check or proof of license are protected under U.S. law.

“Congress specifically exempted person to person transactions; they haven't enacted any regulations on person to person. They’re doing nothing wrong under federal law,” Gibbs said.

An active NRA member, Gibbs said there’s a certain freedom element to online gun sales, because some may not want the government to know how many guns they own.

“I guess it's a personal preference of how much you want someone to know about you and how much you want the government in your business,” Gibbs said.

With online gun sales allowed in 38 states, Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said these types of private transactions create a sticky situation for law enforcement.

“It somewhat protects that criminal element. Some people just don't feel comfortable going on any type of website, in fear that they could sell it to someone who shouldn't possess a weapon,” Cramer said.

NBC News says 34 people are murdered every day in gun violence, with many of the weapons traced back to private gun sales.

“We’re starting to see more and more weapons being taken in burglaries, which is a concern. Where are the weapons going? That’s the concern a lot of people have,” Cramer said.

Daniel Marcon, the owner of Marc-On Shooting School in Eau Claire said he’s avoided buying guns online.

“The online gun business is pretty iffy. You don't know what it was used in; it could have been used in a crime. It could have been stolen,” Marcon said.

Our Armslist user said he’s mindful of that and does what he can to protect himself.

“If you write up a bill of sale, that's where you're protecting yourself. There are dishonest people in this world that if they're not allowed to own them, they'll find always to get them. It’s unavoidable so all you can do is protect your own self in that event,” Fankhauser said.

But Sheriff Cramer said you can never go wrong with a certified gun retailer.

“We have so many reputable people that are selling guns. You go to those reputable people and get that best deal. That way there's no question and you can sleep well,” Cramer said.

So what’s the government doing about it?

NBC News reports there’s currently a bill proposed that would require background checks for online gun sales.

But that’s been stuck in a congressional committee for a year.

The NRA said it opposes the bill, saying it has “many serious flaws,” but wouldn’t comment about online gun sales.

Gibbs said if a felon is caught illegally buying a weapon, they could be charged with a Class G felony and could be fined $25,000 or get 10 years in jail.



 
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