The two horrendous shooting in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH reopened the debate on how much the government should infringe on our 2nd Amendment right. Common narratives with little factual backing have been circulating both the internet and mainstream media for many weeks. One of which is that firearms are readily available and easy to acquire for any person who walks into their local gun shop.
In an act of due diligence, one reporter for Business Insider attempted to test this commonly held theory. Hayley Peterson traveled to her local Walmart, the largest firearm distributor in the United States, and tried to purchase her first gun… but things don’t always go according to plan.
Peterson lives in Virginia, a state with relatively lax gun laws compared to the rest of the country.
With over 138,000 people signing a petition requesting Walmart to stop selling guns, Peterson “went to Walmart with the intention of buying a gun last week as part of an investigation into the placement, selection, marketing, and security of firearms in Walmart’s stores, and to learn more about the retailer’s processes governing gun sales.” However, her simple plan “turned out to be far more complicated than [she] expected.”
According to Peterson, it is very difficult to actually figure out which Walmart actually sells firearms. After calling 10 stores and the general customer service line, no answers on availability could be found.
Upon arrival, for some reason she seemed annoyed that the guns were stored 100 steps from the entrance, or about 100 yards. And though the images featured show the firearms securely locked away and inaccessible to unauthorized personnel, keeping the items near school supplies is also an issue to her.
As the title suggests, her plan to simply walk in and walk out with a gun didn’t go as planned:
After a few minutes [of waiting], a Walmart manager arrived at the gun-sales counter. She said I could not buy a gun that day because no authorized firearm sellers were scheduled to work.
When Peterson returned two days later, she initiated a run-of-the-mill federal background check. The same background check required by every federal firearms dealer.
Ironically, in an attempt to prove how easy it was to buy a firearm, she failed the universal background check already required by federal law.
I had only just finished printing my name when she stopped me and asked whether the address on my license matched my home address. I had moved since I obtained my license, and the addresses didn’t match.
That was a problem, she said.
To pass the background check, I would need to bring in a government-issued document with my correct address, such as a bill from a state-owned utility or a car registration. (I have never bought a gun, so I wasn’t aware of this.)
She apologized, told me the rules were strict around background checks, and asked me to come back another time to finish the purchase.
After failing to buy a firearm twice, she was left “with the impression that buying a gun at Walmart is more complicated than I expected, and that Walmart takes gun sales and security pretty seriously.” The only error with that conclusion is that the rule which caused her to fail the background check is a universally applied rule. Current background checks are extremely strict across the board. More than 2 million people have failed background checks for gun purchases since 1998.
What we should all take away from Peterson’s experiment is that buying a firearm, regardless of the media narrative, is not a simple task. There are many checks in the process, even for upstanding citizens.