Should your political leanings stand in the way of being able to purchase a firearm? What if the issue isn’t a prohibition by the government, but a decision by the gun store owner?
These questions are at the heart of a controversy in Florence, Oregon, where one would-be gun buyer says his Second Amendment rights are being violated after store management became aware of his support for Antifa. Mark Iannicelli says he actually purchased the gun online when he was living in Colorado, but can’t take possession of the firearm until Florence Gun Shop completes the federal background check on him. Iannicelli isn’t prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, but says the sale is stuck in limbo because the store refuses to move forward with the NICS check.
“It’s because I had given him this business card, and he said he didn’t feel good about it because he didn’t support Antifa, and I explained to him it’s more like a movement,” Iannicelli said, referring to a card he had presented to the gun store owner that included links to several websites about self defense, including one operated by a Portland-based Antifa group. “You know I have never actually gone up there and marched with Antifa, but he was adamant he wasn’t going to sell me the firearm.”
Iannicelli feels his second amendment right to bear arms has been violated by the Florence Gun Shop making him unable to complete his gun purchase. Iannicelli felt the shop denied his background check because of his personal business card that included a link to a website affiliated with Antifa. In addition, Iannicelli said a gun store should not be able decide whether or not to give a background check based on political affiliation.
“A person’s ethnicity, their race, their political belief, their religion, like that…the guy’s job is to sell guns,” Iannicelli said. “You give a name card you know and it has some type of political group he doesn’t like… he can simply throw the card away.”
There are two sides to every story, of course, and according to KEZI-TV the management of the Florence Gun Shop is out of town and unavailable to share their point of view until next week.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Iannicelli’s version of events is what actually transpired. Does the store have the right to refuse to complete the background check on Iannicelli’s purchase and allow the gun to be transferred? Generally speaking, yes. Store owners not only have the right, but some would argue the obligation to refuse a sale if they believe the purchaser raises red flags, whether it’s a suspicion that the gun buy is actually a straw purchase or a belief that the buyer intends to use the gun in criminal activity. If the management of Florence Guns believes that anyone associated or affiliated with Antifa poses a threat to the community, I’d say they’re within their rights to refuse to conduct the background check.
Whether or not a store should take that step is another question entirely. Most of us wouldn’t be okay with a shop run by liberals refusing to do background checks or complete sales for customers who walked in wearing a MAGA hat or a t-shirt that read “Free the J6 defendants”, and for good reason. Our right to keep and bear arms isn’t a right of the right, or the left, or the muddy middle. It’s a right of We the People, and in my view that necessarily includes people who don’t look like me, think like me, act like me, or vote like me.
The Second Amendment movement may be the last real “big tent” in American politics, and it would be bad news for all of us if that tent starts to shrink. I don’t have to agree with someone’s views on politics or the value of Antifa to at least recognize their right to keep and bear arms, and unless Iannicelli was demonstrating specific behavior that caused the store management alarm, I think it would have been best to simply proceed with the NICS check and let him get on with his day.
Again, though, for the moment we only have Iannicelli’s version of events. I’ll be reaching out to Florence Gun Shop’s management next week to invite them on Cam & Co to share their side of the story. I’m reserving final judgment on their decision until I can learn more about what actually transpired, and I hope that they’ll weigh in once they’re back behind the counter.