Would you be surprised to learn that half of the guns sold in Wisconsin involve no background check on the buyer? And that it's perfectly legal?
And we're not just talking about gun shows, which get a lot of attention as a problem. We're talking about people who sell guns across the kitchen table, through classified ads, out of the trunk of a car, or on the Internet.
Unless the sale is by a licensed gun dealer, no background check is required. It's Wisconsin's deadly version of "don't ask, don't tell."
There is a federal law that makes it a felony to knowingly sell a gun to someone the seller believes to be prohibited from purchasing a gun, such as a minor, a criminal or anyone declared mentally unstable by a court.
You probably won't be shocked to hear that it's another law that is largely ignored and frequently broken, as a recent investigation by New York city officials disclosed. The focus was on Internet gun sales, which looked at 125 online advertisers in 14 states, including Wisconsin, where four of six sellers were willing to sell to people they thought couldn't pass a background check. Overall, 62% of the 125 sellers were willing to make the illegal sales. Here's the full report.
This is what an illegal online gun sale sounds like:
Investigator: “No background checks?”
Seller: “No, I just take cash, and there you go!”
Investigator: “…That’s good because I probably couldn’t pass one of those things.”
Like many other gun-related issues, the public is overwhelmingly in support of requiring background checks on all gun sales, while legislators at the state and federal level toe the National Rifle Assn. line and are unwilling to act. A national poll done in 2011 for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found 86% of respondents supported requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from, with 13% opposed. Among households with guns, it was 81% in favor and 17% against.
But while the vast majority of Americans continue to support sensible gun laws to protect the public, the laws are moving in the opposite direction.
Concealed carry is now legal in 49 states, since Wisconsin joined the list this year. Now Wisconsin is a "Castle Doctrine" state, too, which means people with guns can shoot trespassers with impunity.
The solution to the illegal gun sales, whether online or on the street corner, is obvious -- require background checks. But given the gun lobby's extreme position that there's a constitutional right to carry a weapon, with no permit or background check required, don't expect a common sense solution any time soon.
[This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts. ]