How hard is it to buy an AR-15 assault rifle in America? A lot easier than you might think.
Guns and common-sense firearm regulations are part of the national debate again in the wake of this week’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas.
As CNN reported today, “Fifty-nine people were killed and at least 527 were hurt Sunday night when Stephen Paddock rained gunfire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.”
Last summer, 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Cody Davis set out to see how hard it would be to buy an AR-15 in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, which left 49 people dead and 58 others wounded – the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001, up until this week.
Davis described how terrifyingly easy it was for him to purchase an AR-15 with an expired driver’s license in an article published by Virginia Tech’s website The Tab.
Writing that “I’m 20 and my ID is expired,” Davis began his story, writing: “Two days after the worst mass shooting in American history, and my local gun shop in Virginia showed no hesitation in selling me an AR-15. In fact, they really wanted me to buy it. And I was only there for five minutes.”
I walked into the store and told them I was interested in something for home protection and target practice. The woman behind the counter smiled and asked, “Rifle or shotgun?”
Continuing, Davis writes that after finding out that he was only 20-years-old, the store manager “simply took a shoulder stock from a cabinet and set it right beside the gun.”
“Wait,” I said. “Just adding a butt to the rifle lowers the buying age from 21 to 18?”
The two sellers smiled and nodded. They then informed me that I couldn’t purchase a handgun, but I could buy a shotgun or rifle as long as it had a stock.
But Davis’ recounting gets even worse. As Davis explains, the salesperson asked: “Now do you want to take a look at the AR-15s?”
I was taken by surprise a bit. This is the AR-15, the same weapon the gunman in Orlando used to kill 50 people; the same weapon used in the terrorist attack that occurred two days ago. It was also the weapon used in the massacres at Sandy Hook, the Aurora movie theatre, Umpqua Community College, and San Bernardino.
I never had to ask to see it, I was offered to check it out. I walked over to an employee who was no older than myself. He began to show me an AR-15 which cost $669, and told me it was popular due to the control and grip. He even told me he had one and really liked it.
After exchanging conversation for about five minutes, I asked, “Can I buy this today?” The seller replied, “Yeah, sure. I just need to see your driver’s license and have you fill out the paperwork.”
Continuing his narrative, Davis next explains that the gun shop was willing to sell him the gun even though his license was expired:
I gave him my license, then reached for my receipt showing I renewed it the week before. Before I even got it out of my pocket, the employee told me I was good and I just needed my vehicle registration for verification. He didn’t notice that my license had expired recently.
When I came back from my car with the vehicle registration, he was sitting at the front desk with the paperwork and weapon ready.
“Just fill this out and you’re good to go.”
Clearly shocked from the experience, Davis concluded his article writing:
Seconds. It took seconds for the salesman to take an AR-15 off the shelf and begin selling it to me. If I had stayed for maybe three minutes longer to fill out less paperwork than I did for the hiring process at my school’s bookstore, I would’ve driven home with an AR-15.
No delay. No extensive background check. Just my recently expired driver’s license, my vehicle registration, and filling out some paperwork.
Ultimately these are the laws we have, this shop hasn’t done anything wrong. But if a 20-year-old college student can walk into a gun shop and be out in minutes with an AR-15, and you believe nothing needs to be changed, you need help.
And for any cynics lurking out there, Liberals United reported last year that:
A producer from CBS News did the same experiment in the same state that same week and came to exactly the same conclusion, though she reports it took a bit longer,; and she would have had to pay more for her AR-15.
All told, it took 38 minutes and $1,030 for her to walk out of the store legally armed with a rifle, 100 rounds of ammunition and a 30-round magazine.
How is this even possible? Because Virginia is among the 41 states — 41 states! — that does not require waiting periods for buying guns. It should also be noted that the inventor of the AR-15 never intended it for civilian use, never owned one. His family says he would have been “horrified” to see how the weapon he invented is being used today. So why do we allow potential mass murders to buy deadly, automatically-repeating, military grade rifles with lax background checks and no waiting periods? Ask the NRA’s pro-gun lobby: Nine Senators alone, who’ve repeatedly blocked gun safety bills, received over $22 million from the NRA.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to take a vote later this year on a new NRA-friendly law that would legalize the purchase of silencers and armor-piercing bullets by civilians. That law would also make concealed carry permits universal – like driver’s licenses. That means that if a person has a license in one state, they can carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states with no regard for local regulations.
The Republican-controlled House has yet to schedule a vote on the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, a wide-ranging bill that includes the silencer provision, but opponents had feared it could come up for a vote as soon as this week.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill this month and took several steps to fast-track the legislation, including requesting a rushed analysis from the Congressional Budget Office and asking other committees to waive their jurisdiction, Democrats on the committee say.