Gun retailers report tens of thousands of attempted illegal purchases


An AR-15 style rifle in a sporting goods store. Americans purchased a record number of guns in 2012 and gun makers have reported a record high in demand.


Scott Olson

More than half of US gun retailers reported turning away a potential customer who was attempting an illegal purchase, but the incident was not always reported to police, a new study found.

Retailers experienced 30,000 to 40,000 attempted illegal purchases in 2011, reports NBC News.

Often, the person trying to purchase the gun would try to convince sellers to keep the transaction off the books and would use a "straw man" as a stand in to fill out the forms and undergo required background checks, according to the survey by the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis.

"These events are fairly very common and occur tens of thousands of times a year," survey conductor Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program told the Huffington Post.

"We know that illegal purchases are important ways to supplying guns into the criminal market."

The survey authors calculated the number of "straw man" purchases based on a figure reported by retailers themselves.

The numbers reflect only instances where the retailer knew the buyer was attempting to purchase the gun for someone who was not legally allowed to buy one, so the actual figure is likely far higher, reports NBC.

"The key word there is 'attempt'" Andy Molchan, director of the 1,000-member National Association of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers said.

"You know, 10 16-year-olds probably go into one liquor store during each year and attempt to buy a bottle of whiskey. But if they only attempted (and were denied), they didn’t buy it."

Molchan does admit that "straw-man buying for people is a problem. There are two big sources for criminal guns — No. 1 is theft from private homes and the other is straw-man purchases: they buy a gun for somebody who is a felon and they sell it to the other person for a mark up. It’s been a problem for a long time."

Most gun retailers said they refused to sell to "straw man" buyers, only 12 percent of those dealers said they notified law enforcement, according to US News & World Report.