A Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group is reaching out to supporters for donations with a message asserting “the federal government is making it as easy as possible for people to panic-buy firearms and ammunition by allowing drive-through gun sales,” but is this a carefully-crafted myth?
The billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility declares in its message, “Right now, for every one drive-through COVID-19 testing site in the U.S., there are 100 gun dealers that can now offer drive-through pick-up. As our communities face the dual threat of gun violence and coronavirus it should not be easier to get a gun than a COVID test. Period.”
Well, it’s not easier, say gun rights advocates and they are fighting back.
According to an April 10 guideline letter to firearms retailers from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), no laws have been relaxed and nobody can just drive up to a gun shop, conduct a quick transaction and drive away with a gun. Background checks are still required (more than 3 million were conducted in March, setting a record). If there is a waiting period, it remains in effect and buyers must return later to pick up their firearm. All other requirements must be met.
The letter, signed by Curtis W. Gilbert Acting Assistant Director Enforcement Programs and Services, explains, “…pursuant to the Gun Control Act (GCA) and its implementing regulations, a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer may engage in the firearms or ammunition business for which the business is licensed on any part of its business premises, provided that the activity otherwise complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations, and any sale, delivery, or disposition would not violate any State law or published ordinance applicable at the place of sale, delivery, or other disposition.”
Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation—the firearms industry umbrella group—claims of “drive-through gun shopping” are nonsense, and are driven by fear of losing support. He said as much in a recent blog.
“The guidance from ATF, which was issued at NSSF’s urging, simply clarifies the scope of the term ‘business premises’ of a retailer’s license,” Keane said. “No laws or regulations, federal or otherwise, were loosened or suspended. A Form 4473 and a background check is still required for every firearm transferred. Record keeping remains unchanged, as do any state-imposed waiting periods. The ATF letter is being misrepresented in a deceptive fundraising effort by antigun zealots who have just watch hundreds of thousands of fence sitters rejected the rhetoric of the gun control community and embrace their own liberty and freedom.”
Back on April 20, the head of a national gun rights organization weighed in after anti-gunners intimated it was easier to buy a gun than fast food.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms—coincidentally headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., just across Lake Washington from Seattle—said at the time gun control advocates were “misrepresenting the facts.”
With tongue only partly pressed into cheek, Gottlieb issued a statement asserting, “I’d tell anybody who really believes it’s easier to buy a gun than a cheeseburger that his ‘fries aren’t cooked,’ and I’m not talking about food.”
Pointing to Gilbert’s guidance letter, Gottlieb added, “What that means is no firearms can be sold without full compliance with federal and state laws. Suggesting that a transaction conducted outside of a business is any different or easier than one conducted inside the door is deliberately misleading. Anybody who believes such nonsense probably thinks a chili-dog and chocolate shake is health food.”
He contended the gun prohibition lobby intentionally misrepresents the guidelines that allow gun retailers to set up a table or counter outside of their brick-and-mortar building, but on their property. This is the way firearms dealers can serve their customers, but it does not constitute “drive-through gun sales.” Gottlieb said this is a false characterization, “and they know it.”
“For years,” he observed, “anti-gunners have perpetuated a myth about ‘easy access to guns,’ but lately, as many first-time gun buyers have learned, it’s not at all easy to buy a firearm, especially a handgun or semi-auto rifle…You simply cannot walk into a gun store, give a clerk some money and walk out with a firearm. Thanks to the coronavirus scare, a lot of people have learned they’ve been lied to. It’s like being promised a three course dinner and getting a box lunch and a soda.”
American Handgunner’s “Insider Online” column recently dug into the issue, speaking to Washington State-based gun dealers. They reported several instances when would-be first-time gun buyers were stunned when they couldn’t simply take their new gun home.
One of those retailers was Melissa Denny, owner of Pistol Annie’s Jewelry & Pawn in Bonney Lake.
“When they’re told they can’t just go home with a (hand)gun, they look at me like I have three heads,” Denny told American Handgunner. “They wonder ‘Why can’t I leave with my new gun?’”
She estimated at least 40 percent of her customers in the weeks stretching from late February into mid-April, were first timers, including many who had previously supported gun control measures, such as Initiatives 594 and 1639, both passed by Evergreen State voters.
Denny said they “thought they were supporting better background checks. They didn’t think this would prevent them from defending their families.”
But the Alliance, and other gun control groups, have been alarmed by the spike in gun sales at the outbreak of the “pandemic panic.” Prevailing estimates say at least 2.5 million guns were sold in just the month of March. NSSF’s Keane explained why the anti-gun lobby was upset.
“The reason the gun control community is freaking out is because they know they have lost a generation of fence sitters,” he said.
Translation: People previously convinced to support all sorts of gun control restrictions, believing the rhetoric about the “easy availability of guns” discovered firsthand the claims were bogus.
In early April, CCRKBA’s Gottlieb welcomed all of these new gun owners to the firearms community, counseling them to seek competent instruction.
“We are encouraged that so many citizens have re-discovered the Second Amendment,” Gottlieb said at the time. “The irony is that these good people have suddenly discovered how cumbersome the laws have become. We’re confident they’ll learn from the experience. In some states, where gun shops have been closed, would-be gun owners are figuring out that restricting gun ownership doesn’t cure a deadly virus.”
But it might just change some minds about supporting the next gun control effort, and believing everything anti-gunners say.