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Hayley Peterson

If one pays anti-liberty-gun cracktivists—including the media—any attention, one would think it’s possible to walk into any gun store and walk out minutes later with weapons that would give any enemy of America pause on the battlefield. So easy is it to buy guns, no wonder America is awash in “gun violence.”  Law-abiding American gun owners know none of that is remotely true, and reporter Hayley Peterson of Business Insider.com recently discovered that, trying to buy a gun in of all places, WalMart.

I went to Walmart with the intention of buying a gun last week as part of an investigation into the placement, selection, marketing, and security of firearms in Walmart’s stores, and to learn more about the retailer’s processes governing gun sales.

My journey to bring a gun home from Walmart turned out to be far more complicated than I expected.

Walmart has said that about half of its 4,700 US stores sell guns.

Peterson spent considerable time trying to find a WalMart in her area that actually sold guns.  She finally found one in Chesterfield, VA:

The store was 30 minutes away. I got in my car and plugged the address for the Chesterfield Walmart into my phone. [skip]

A selection of about 20 rifles and shotguns was displayed in a locked glass case behind the sporting-goods counter. The guns ranged in price from $159 to $474.

The counter in front of the guns displayed pocket knives, binoculars, and digital night-vision monoculars inside a locked case.

The selection of guns was limited compared with nearby gun stores, which offered dozens of different kinds of firearms, including handguns.

Walmart stopped selling handguns in the 1990s and removed military-style semiautomatic rifles, such as the AR-15, from stores in 2015.

The display, and number of long guns on sale is more or less exactly what’s available in every WalMart that sells guns. They sell ammunition, but no handguns, and a limited number of long guns.  They manage to make money with reasonable prices by stocking only high volume guns like the Ruger 10-22, a small selection of bolt action and lever action rifles and common shotguns.  Their ammunition prices are often slightly lower than the prevailing local market.

In prepared remarks last week, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined some other Walmart gun-sales policies that go beyond federal requirements.

For example, Walmart last year raised the minimum age to purchase a gun or ammunition to 21. Walmart also sells a firearm only after receiving a ‘green light’ on a background check, while federal law requires only the absence of a ‘red light’ after three business days, he said.

‘We videotape the point of sale for firearms, only allow certain associates to sell firearms, and secure firearms in a locking case with individual locks, among other measures,’ McMillon said.

WalMart ammo shelves won’t be this full for long…

When Peterson arrived, she was not allowed to buy a gun, because only specially trained and qualified employees can sell them, and none were working that day.

She said I could come back to buy a gun on Thursday, two days later.

A Walmart spokesman later told me that to sell firearms, employees must pass both an enhanced criminal background check and annual online training, provided by Walmart, that includes a mock gun transaction.

Walmart also complies with state-specific requirements where applicable. Illinois, for example, requires people who sell guns to have a firearm-owner identification card, issued by state police.

When Peterson returned, she had to find an employee able to sell her a gun:

I told her I wanted to buy a gun. She said she was an authorized seller and that she could help me. We walked back to the gun display, where she picked up a phone and called someone.

‘Can you meet at the front to help me with a gun sale?’ she said into the phone. She turned to me and said she needed help to ensure the sale process was completed correctly.

She charged me $2 for a federal background check, then left the counter and returned a few minutes later with a form titled ‘Department of State Police Virginia Firearms Transaction Record.’

She told me to complete the form.

The form asked several obvious questions: my name, address, and Social Security number. It also asked about my race, gender, and US citizenship status.

Under a section called ‘certification of transferee,’ it asked about my criminal record — whether I had ever been convicted of a felony, subject to a restraining order, or prohibited from purchasing a firearm, among other specifics.

In red print, the form said that ‘an untruthful answer may subject you to criminal prosecution.’

Form 4473

This–form 4473–is the standard ATF form required for the over-the-counter sale of each individual firearm wherever firearms are sold at retail.  One can’t just walk into a store, fill out one form, and buy more than one gun.   Relevant federal firearm forms may be downloaded here. 

Peterson again ran into trouble because the address on her driver’s license wasn’t accurate; it was no longer her address, so she wasn’t allowed to buy the gun until she came back with a correct, government-issued ID.

At this point, I decided to give up on buying a gun at Walmart.

Reading Peterson’s entire article, it’s not possible to tell if she hoped to write an expose of how easy it is to buy a gun, like so many other reporters hoping to score points against Deplorables and their deplorable Second Amendment.  She plays it straight, which is rare enough these days.

The truth is simple: no one can walk into a gun store and walk out minutes later with a gun.  The process is lengthy and requires filling out the comprehensive form 4473 under penalty of perjury, and a federal background check. Any gun retailer who is, for any reason, suspicious of someone trying to buy a gun will refuse the sale.  The consequences for their business, and for themselves, are too serious to do anything less.  Some retailers still use the paper Federal form, other have it computerized, but there is no way around filling out that form, and having a background check performed.

The form requires the person seeking to buy a gun to affirm they are not only meet all lawful requirements for the purchase, but that they have none of the liabilities, such as felony convictions, having been adjudicated mentally incompetent, or being a drug user.  But what if someone lies on the form?  They might manage to buy a gun prohibited to them, but lying on the form is a federal felony, and the consequences are significant.

The media commonly lies about an additional matter: fully automatic weapons.  Most gun dealers are not licensed to sell such weapons, and since 1986, the sale of newly manufactured automatic weapons to other than law enforcement is illegal.

Only weapons manufactured before that date may be sold to individuals, which means it’s very much a seller’s market. They are rare and expensive.  To own one of those requires a far more extensive paperwork and background check burden than for the sale of other firearms, including the payment of a $200.00 non-transferable tax, storage requirements, etc.  The entire approval process, which normally takes minutes, or no more than three days for non-automatic firearms, takes many months.

While Ms. Peterson’s experience was more burdensome, that was due to her choice to buy from WalMart.  Had she chosen any gun store, she would almost certainly have made her purchase much more easily and rapidly.

It should not be unduly burdensome to exercise a fundamental, unalienable, express constitutional right, and for most people, it isn’t.  If one is lawfully eligible to buy a gun, and if the FBI’s background check system is working properly, it normally takes no more than 30 minutes, perhaps less time, to walk out of a store with a new gun after the decision to purchase has been made.  This is as it should be.

In any case, congratulations are due Ms. Peterson for her honesty.  That’s a rare media commodity these days.

AFTER NOTE:  This article was written prior to WalMart’s announcement removing handgun ammunition, and .223/5.56mm ammunition from their stores.