According to his sidebar bio on BloombergView, Francis Wilkinson, “…writes editorials on politics and domestic policy. He was previously executive editor of the Week. He was also national affairs writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.”
He should also probably add that he’s either grossly incompetent or deeply dishonest… and maybe both.
Wilkinson’s latest rant for Bloomberg is entitled Liberal Vermont Goes Gun Crazy, and it is an interesting study in reader deception.
Railing against Vermont’s lack of oppressive gun control laws—and skipping over the state’s near complete lack of firearms-related crime—Wilkinson dishonestly states:
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, believes that the federal law requiring gun dealers to conduct background checks on gun purchasers “makes sense.” But Shumlin isn’t supporting a bill in the Vermont Senate that would require similar checks on sales at gun shows and on the Internet. “The laws that we have in place in Vermont serve us well,” Shumlin said at a news conference in late January.
In effect, Shumlin’s position is that background checks are a sensible safety policy at gun shops, and an unnecessary intrusion at gun shows; that if Shumlin walks into a federally licensed shop his gun purchase should be preceded by a background check, but if he buys the exact same gun at a gun show or via Facebook, the purchase requires no oversight. Logically, this is absurd. Legally, it’s the law in much of the U.S.
What is “absurd” here isn’t Governor Shumlin’s quite logical opposition to passing laws that aren’t needed, but Winkinson’s blatant disregard for reality.
In this dishonest lede, Wilkinson is going out of his way to convince Bloomberg readers that background checks aren’t conducted at gun shows, and that you can buy a firearm on the Internet and on Facebook.
None of these statements is true.
The vast majority of firearm transactions at gun shows are conducted by FFLs (Federal Firearms Licensees), who have federal licenses to buy, sell, or trade firearms, and who must conduct a NICS background check with every customer transfer. These gun dealers must perform federal NICS background checks whether they are selling out of a storefront, their homes, or at gun shows. Wilkinson’s assertion that there aren’t background checks at gun shows is either dangerously ignorant, or intentionally dishonest.
Likewise, there are no such thing as “Internet gun sales,” at least not as Wilkinson misrepresents it.
If you go to an online firearms market such as Gunbroker or Armslist, you are merely setting up communications and perhaps making payment; all firearms transfers must take place in person.
For example, if you see a rifle on Gunbroker advertised by a dealer, you can completely payment via the web site to the dealer, but that is all you can accomplish online. The firearm itself is transferred from the selling gun dealer to another FFL whom the purchaser specifies. The purchaser must then go to the receiving dealer to complete a NICS background check before they take possession of the firearm. There is no sale without an in-person background check.
Facebook? You can’t purchase anything on Facebook, as everyone is well aware. You can talk about products, show their pictures, and even provide contact information, but you cannot complete any sort of a transaction on the social media platform. Gun dealers showing their wares on Facebook still have to perform background checks before collecting funds or transferring a firearm to another dealer to conduct an in-person background check before transferring the firearm to a customer.
The only exception to background checks at any time or any place via any medium or technology are for in-person private sales between individuals. These do sometimes take place at gun shows, but more typically take place at homes, and between family members or friends.
Why does Francis Wilkinson feel compelled to misrepresent reality to push for a law that isn’t needed or wanted, which Democrats and Republicans alike and Vermont have rejected?
That’s the one question for which I don’t have an easy answer.