Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

About those private sellers at gun shows.....

As I was saying before I was interrupted by a bunch of news about accidental shootings, teen-agers with guns and domestic abuse, there should be background checks on all gun sales at gun shows. The gun used to kill a Seattle police officer in 2009 was traced to a private seller who frequented gun shows with his wares. We know that in most states, private sellers are not required to run background checks on buyers. Mr. Devenny didn't care a whit to whom he was selling a gun. From the article: "In a February visit, one of the confidential informants tried to explain to Devenny that he was prohibited from owning a gun because of a domestic-violence restraining order. According to the complaint, Devenny responded: "I don't want to hear about it, I am not supposed to know about it, and I don't ask that question. Just as long as you forget where it [the firearm] comes from." Devenny is accused of selling the informant a Glock .40-caliber pistol and a Norinco SKS rifle for $875." Great. Wasn't I just talking about domestic abusers and guns? No matter. Sell a gun to the guy anyway. Who cares what he does with the gun as long as the sale happens?

Common sense tells us that this is likely just one example of many more. From all of the undercover videos I have linked on my blog in previous posts and other articles, we know that some private sellers don't even ask for I.D. of any kind, let alone a background check. This, of course, is not legal. At the least, an I.D. is required. Beyond that though, it is legal to sell guns without a background check if you are a private seller. You just don't always know to whom you are selling. Erring on the side of caution is only common sense when a deadly weapon is the article for sale. 


  1. From the article-

    "At the time of Devenny's arrest, federal agents recovered 42 guns and $32,000 in cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office."

    It sounds like he was an illegal dealer, rather than a private individual selling a rifle or two. This is an important distinction. Even the ATF doesn't think he was a private seller since he was obviously doing it as a business and making a profit.

  2. Monfort, 42, is not named in Devenny's criminal complaint. Monfort did not have a criminal record when he purchased the rifle and so was not prohibited from buying or owning firearms.

    So a firearm was legally sold and you want to do what?

    Stop all private sales?
    And I say it that way because if there is a federal licensed dealer involved doing the background check, it isn't a private sale any more, is it?

  3. Yes- true. But he was operating as a private seller, for all intents and purposes.

  4. "Illegally" operating as a private seller. Congratulations to the ATF for actually enforcing the law! I hope this sends a strong message about those who would choose to break the law!

  5. What that is saying is that Monfort could have passed a background check if he had purchased from an FFL because he did not have a criminal record. That one was legal but Devenny wouldn't have known that anyway because he was operating as a private seller and so not doing background checks.
    That's the problem with private sellers and why we need to have background checks. I realize that Monfort could have purchased legally and then still shot someone. I have written a lot about "law abiding" citizens purchasing guns and then becoming criminals the moment they pull the trigger. The larger point is stopping prohibited purchasers which, if the informants were not working for the law, they would have been and would still have been able to purcahse from this guy. How many others like Devenny are there? How many guns are they selling to people who should not have them?

  6. Joan,

    You keep talking about 'stopping prohibited purchasers' as if the only place they can get firearms is from legal owners.

    What a joke.

    Exactly -- in small words please because I'm easily confused -- exactly how would requiring a background check stop a prohibited person from buying a firearm?

  7. Nope.

    Tell me how it will stop them.

  8. Open up the NICS to public. That way when private sellers don't conduct background checks, you have an actual crime to charge them with. Problem solved.

    Of course opening the NICS to the public opens the door for all sorts of abuse and infringements, but that's the price we pay for gun control.

  9. If he was breaking the law by engaging in the business of buying and selling firearms without a license, then he will be punished for that. A better question is why do we need to have a license to engage in a business?

    It's time to repeal the Gun Control Act of 1968. We have too many laws. First it is illegal for a felon to own guns. Because of that law, you have to have a license to sell and you have to run "background checks" and keep records. Maybe a better solution is to adopt the very basic premise that if a person cannot be trusted with a gun then they cannot be trusted outside a jail.

    If we just assume that everyone who lives outside a jail cell is a citizen and is entitled to all the privileges of citizenship, this problem solves itself. That'd be much more efficient than trying to turn the whole country into a low grade prison, with everyone required to show ID and get a government permission slip before exercising their Constitutional Rights.

  10. Devenny was not a lawful p"rivate seller." He was an illegal unlicensed dealer. He was breaking the law by selling anything to anyone, and the buyer was breaking the law by buying. Devenny was also under a domestic violence restraining order so he was breaking the law just be possessing a gun.

    If Devenny had been selling guns to non-prohibited persons it would still be illegal. If you're making a private sale you can't do it for profit and you can't be in the "business."

    What Devenny was doing is already illegal under current law. Given that he was willing to commit multiple crimes (possessing while prohibited, unlicensed dealing, tax evasion, selling to people who could "reasonably" be thought to be prohibited persons, possibly even more), what makes you think that he wouldn't flaunt a law requiring background checks?

    Chris from AK

  11. So your idea is that we just let everyone out there purchase guns and then let the chips fall until someone is shot and then we put these guys in prison for life. And they we wait until the next person is shot to death and put that person in jail and then....,.. Wow!! This reasoning is so bizarre that I can hardly wrap my head around it. And you don't have to come back at me with any comments about me. It's about you. I doubt that you would find very many people who would agree with this twisted reasoning.

  12. I just can't believe that you all keep saying that Devenny and others like him are illegally selling guns. They are legally selling their guns to anyone because they can. There are no laws in most states and certainly not at the national level that prevent them from selling guns to criminals without a background check.

  13. "So your idea is that we just let everyone out there purchase guns and then let the chips fall until someone is shot and then we put these guys in prison for life."

    Since murder is rarely the first criminal act a person commits, I would think that putting them in jail before they get to that stage would make more sense. Unfortunately, DA's seem to enjoy not prosecuting people.

    Philly doesn't prosecute

    Maybe the gun nuts are right.

  14. "In a February visit, one of the confidential informants tried to explain to Devenny that he was prohibited from owning a gun because of a domestic-violence restraining order. According to the complaint, Devenny responded: "I don't want to hear about it, I am not supposed to know about it, and I don't ask that question. Just as long as you forget where it [the firearm] comes from." Devenny is accused of selling the informant a Glock .40-caliber pistol and a Norinco SKS rifle for $875."

    As soon as he uttered those words, and then proceeded with the sale, he was committing a felony whether he was engaged in the business of selling guns without an FFL or not. It's unlawful to sell a firearm to someone you know to be prohibited. Doesn't matter who you are.

    You might have arguments for ending private transfers, but this guy isn't it. He was already breaking the law that exists now, and properly got busted for it.

  15. How do you put someone in jail before he/she commits a crime??

  16. Sorry- I forgot to comment on the first part- for many murder is actually their first crime. It was for my now ex deceased brother-in-law as well as many other gun murders of which I am aware. So you can't assume what you just said.

  17. How many guns did he sell to criminals, adjudicated mentally ill people or domestic abusers before he was caught? That's the point that, again, you all are missing. This goes on all the time at gun shows- legal or not. That's why we must have background checks on all sales!!

  18. How about keeping people who are known to be violent in jail rather than let the walk the streets to begin with. Solves a hell of a lot more than making the illegal more illegaller or something.

    If you *KNOW* a person cannot own a gun because he or she has proven to be violent, why are they on the streets to begin with?

  19. "How do you put someone in jail before he/she commits a crime??"

    You don't read the comments before you argue with them, do you?

    Murder is RARELY the first crime a person commits.

    Putting people in jail before they get to the murdering people stage would make more sense than the revolving door criminal justice system.

    "for my now ex deceased brother-in-law"

    You already said he had "undiagnosed mental issues" I will take you at your word that you are correct that he never had ANY criminal issues before he suddenly snapped, no police calls for domestic disturbances, no criminal acts that he got out of because of who his parents were, that sort of thing.

    Still, someone should have seen to it that he got some mental help. Maybe his family. He was rich, so there would not have been any issue about paying for the best care.

    It is hard to believe that there were no warning signs. It isn't hard to believe that they weren't taken as warning signs until later, but totally out of the blue he picks up a gun and starts shooting? I'm not sure that's all that common.

  20. Well, Sean. You must not know many victims of shootings then, as do I. What about the 15 year old in Wisconsin who held a classroom hostage? No one suspected he would snap. That happens very often- way too often. The details of my brother-in-law's mental health are not out there for your discussion. Suffice it to say, he was exhibiting quircky behaviors and anger over a divorce and should have had some treatment for depression. That is the case with a lot of people who don't go for help or whose family don't think it's bad enough to require help or who are in denial. But I don't have to explain these things to you. You will have to believe me. It's my story and not yours to criticize.

  21. Some felons have been released. Some domestic abusers are not charged or have had orders for protection dropped by the abused. Some adjudicated mentally ill people are actually not committed or choose not to go to treatment- Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, for instance. Not all prohibited purchasers are felons. And then, of course, they can just go to gun shows where there are a lot of private sellers who don't require background checks. Or they steal guns or buy them on the illegal market. So they are not in jail for a variety of reasons- or not in a mental health facility. You know that, I'm sure. Some people are not locked up forever.

  22. You're making an argument for total prohibition, which is off the table. And even then, total prohibition won't work either, because guns aren't that hard to smuggle or manufacture. We've had the technology for over half a millennium, and modern firearms are 100 year old technology by this point.

  23. It's a fascinating distinction which one of the commenters said is an important one. Some guys make private occasional transfers. Other guys sell guns for a profit at gun shows and elsewhere and pretend to be private sellers.

    The problem is both can hand guns directly into criminal hands because no background check is required. The solution is obvious.

  24. An Anonymous commenter said, "You keep talking about 'stopping prohibited purchasers' as if the only place they can get firearms is from legal owners."

    Unless the prohibited purchasers are buying zip-guns, every single weapon starts out legally produced and owned.

    So, yes criminals get their guns from legal owners.

  25. "No one suspected he would snap. That happens very often- way too often."

    the thing is, you have to play the percentages here. What happened to your family is relatively rare compared to the "normal" murder. Most of your regular murders are gang and drug related, and it makes more sense to me to develop policy based on the more common murder scenarios rather than the less common ones like your sister.

    Where I think you are wrong on this is that you are looking specifically at your tragedy and trying to figure out ways to prevent it from happening again. This is understandable. The problem is that your solutions would not have had any effect on the situation your sister faced, nor would they have had any effect on similar situations.

    If someone is not already a criminal, or so mentally insane as to require hospitalization, they can pretty much do as they please in this society. It has to remain this way or else people like you and me will get our rights taken away simply because people do not like us or what we stand for.

    "So they are not in jail for a variety of reasons- or not in a mental health facility. You know that, I'm sure. Some people are not locked up forever."

    That is how things work today. The problem is, why do we let known dangerous people out on the street? I would like the standard for release from prison or mental institution to be, "would I feel comfortable handing this person a gun?" If yes, let them go. Otherwise they get to stay.

    You continually propose to limit my rights based on the behavior of other people. These people's behavior is largely predictible; they've done it before, they'll probably do it again. Maybe it's them that needs their rights infringed upon, not me.

  26. Sean- we've been around the block and back again about who is committing most of the gun murders. You are wrong. It's not worth going around another block about. If you can find somewhere that I want to limit your rights, good luck. You are wrong again. It's just not worth arguing about this same stuff. Give me a new argument. I will continue blogging about these things. That is my point of view. I know you don't agree with my point of view. So quit harassing me with your constant comments about the same thing.If you have something new to add, go for it.

  27. Ssebastian- you know that is not what I'm saying. Why do you guys keep putting words in my mouth? My words are in writing right here for all to see. You just want to argue.

  28. Joan, there is no way that you can have 100% effective laws at PREVENTING anything.

    You CANNOT predict out of a hundred thousand people which ones will commit murder.

    BUT you can predict that there will be at least one murderer in a hundred thousand people. First off you know that there are VASTLY more law abiding citizens in that group than murderers. So you don't take away access to guns for everyone in that group just because every time a gun is sold their is a .0001% chance that the person buying the gun may commit a murder (that is just the chance that only one person in the group, multiply by X to get the percentage chance for whatever number you like).

    I like to use statistics because it tells the story of true risk. The "gunshow loophole" isn't a statistically significant source of crime guns. The DOJ traced only 0.7% of crime guns to gunshows. The bigger issue is straw purchases.

    Prosecuting straw purchasers as accessories to the crimes committed by the criminal would do much more to affect the crime rate than any new laws. And we already have laws on the books to prosecute straw purchasers.

    Would you rather set your sights on 40% of all crime guns put into the system by a straw purchase, or do you want to continue to focus on the 0.7% of crime guns bought at gunshows? Common sense tells me that going after straw purchasers is the right thing to do.

  29. I would like both, actually. I know about the small percentage of crime guns that come from gun shows. Why not stop that small percentage if it will help and won't harm anyone else? We have to do a multi faceted approach to stopping felons, domestic abusers, adjudicated mentally ill folks, etc. from getting guns in the first place. This is one measure.

  30. "Why not stop that small percentage if it will help and won't harm anyone else?"

    Every bill offered so far, that might have reduced that small percentage, would have inflicted significant harm on a great many people.

  31. Shutting down gun shows, would be one harm. (And every bill offered up before Congress would have done so.)

    But making handguns more expensive and/or more difficult to obtain is the greater harm - to every individual with limited resources who is at risk of violent crime.

  32. The proposed background check bills will NOT shut down gun shows. That is hyperbole on your part. As to the cost, that is possibly a harm to some people but also, there is not a cost to requiring background checks over and above what licensed dealers already charge. I don't see these as harms or taking anyone's rights away.

  33. I'll try to be more concise this time as my last comment got RD'd. You ask how Devenny's sales constituted a crime. Answer: He was an unlicensed dealer. According to the GCA of 1968, if you are "in the business" of selling firearms with a motive of pecuniary (financial) gain, then you need to hold a Federal Firearms License to do so. If you trade in firearms on a regular basis and/or for monetary gain without a license like Devenny did, then you are an illegal dealer. My previous post in your email queue has the quote from the US Code with precise definitions.

    Moreover, as Sebastian pointed out, selling to someone who one can reasonably determine is a prohibited person is also a crime whether you're a dealer or not.

    And as I mentioned, I think tax evasion is also very likely here. I really doubt that he properly reported the substantial income he received from his illegal business activities to the IRS.

    If it were also illegal for individuals to make a private sale without a background check, what makes you think that Devenny would suddenly choose to follow that law when he willfully flaunted many others which carry serious consequences? As you and I both agree, criminals don't follow laws. If you passed such a law, then it probably would not impact illegal dealers like Devenny.

    Devenny is not a very good subject to use for evidence to support your proposed law. Finding examples of private sellers who in good faith sell a firearm without expectation of intent of financial gain to someone who they think is legit but actually is a prohibited person would be more compelling, in my opinion. Those are the sorts of sales that might be stopped by banning private sales without a Brady check.

  34. I think Cris is on to something, japete. There are criminals and there are the law abiding. It's black and white, you're one or the other. But the law abiding group contains a subset which I'd call, "those not yet caught at committing crimes" or simply, "hidden criminals."

  35. "the law abiding group contains a subset which I'd call..'hidden criminals.'"

    That's right, Mike, but it's also independent of gun ownership. That means you or Japete might be a proto-criminal just as easily as one of us gun owners. What do you propose to do about that population? And it doesn't feel so good to be lumped into the possibly-a-criminal class, does it? This isn't the world of "Minority Report" after all, and I think you'll run into some pretty significant Constitutional hurdles if you want to start addressing "pre-crime."