Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks
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These classified advertisements for semi-automatic weapons were listed this week on Armslist, a website where anyone can advertise a firearm they’d like to sell, and anyone can contact a seller with an offer to buy. The site is legal. But there’s no way to know whether buyers and sellers who meet through Armslist are following federal, state or local background check rules. Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks.
We wanted to see how many semi-automatic firearms — defined here as handguns and rifles able to rapidly fire a large number of bullets, one shot per trigger pull, without having to reload — can be currently found on Armslist, and how quickly new listings appear. This provides a window into the difficulty of regulating access to a type of weapon frequently used in mass shootings.
Omar Mateen, the Orlando mass shooter, used semi-automatic weapons. So did the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, the San Bernardino killers, and at least 70 percent of shooters listed in a database of all mass shootings in America since 1982 compiled by Mother Jones.
Our data analysis shows that semiautomatic weapons comprised at least 1 in 4 firearms listed on Armslist in the days following the Orlando shootings.
Those shooters acquired their firearms in a variety of ways, and there’s no evidence that any of them used Armslist. But this site, and others like it, are coming under increased scrutiny by law enforcement, gun control advocates, and researchers as the debate over access to these kinds of weapons heats up.
In October, New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs subpoenaed Armslist for transaction and advertising records. “Through this investigation into Armslist, DCA is stepping up and doing its part to keep our city safer for every New Yorker — civilians and officers alike,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time.