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Battle Over Internet Gun Sales Heats Up On Beacon Hill

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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BOSTON (CBS) – Facebook drew a lot of attention recently when it placed restrictions on gun advertisements, but the real battle here in Massachusetts over internet gun sales is now heating up on Beacon Hill.

At the center of the issue are websites like Armslist.com, an online firearms supermarket selling handguns and rifles of all shapes and sizes.

“There’s a huge black market and gray market for guns on the internet through sites like Armslist.com,” says State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick). According to Linsky, the problem on these websites is “private party” sales, where he says background checks are not required.

How many guns are being sold this way by private parties? “We don’t know, and that’s part of the problem,” he says.

So Linsky has filed a bill requiring all gun sales take place at licensed gun dealers, where background checks are required. Linsky cites a 2011 study done by the City of New York which found 62 percent of private parties advertising online were willing to sell a gun to someone who could not legally get a license. “If you’re a person who wouldn’t otherwise lawfully be able to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer, you can go out and find a gun to buy tonight out of the trunk of a car,” Linsky says.

To Jim Wallace, head of the Gun Owners Action League, Linsky’s bill is just more government red tape. Why? Because gun licenses are already required to buy and sell guns legally and you can’t get a gun license in Massachusetts without getting a background check first. “If you’re properly licensed, you can do it. If you’re not properly licensed, you simply can’t, it’s illegal,” says Wallace. “So passing one more law is not going to stop people from doing it illegal in the first place.”

Ted Kempster bought a Glock .45 caliber pistol from a private party he found on a website. He too objects to Linsky’s bill. “All it would do is increase the burden upon law abiding citizens in Massachusetts who are simply trying to do the right thing,” he says. Kempster says he met with the man selling the Glock and they completed the state’s online form, which required they both have valid gun licenses. “There’s nothing in this proposal that would stop people or change the way people are unlawfully transacting firearms today,” Kempster says.

Representative Linsky’s bill is now in the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. It is expected to hit the House floor this spring for a full debate.

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