Everytown: Felons look to buy firearms online in New Mexico

Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety released a report this week to support its efforts for expanded background checks in New Mexico, contending that many criminals are turning to the internet to buy their guns.

The report, entitled “Danger in the Land of Enchantment,” claims that 1 in every 15 would-be online firearm purchasers in the state is prohibited from possessing guns, and that 64 percent of those prohibited buyers had warrants out for their arrest, were under open criminal charges, or were on parole or probation.

To get its estimate for guns available online from unlicensed dealers, Everytown reviewed ads found on Armslist.com and Backpage.com, which they claim many New Mexicans use to post classified ads for guns. Over a one-year period, the group recorded all firearm ads posted by New Mexican sellers on those sites, and then excluded duplicate ads, ads from licensed dealers, ads not pertaining to firearms, and ads for sales outside the state.

Everytown investigators then placed 27 of their own fake ads on the sites over a 36-day period. When individuals interested in the ads provided identifying information, the group’s investigators ran checks on court documents too see if the individuals should be prohibited from buying a gun.

Out of that methodology, Everytown estimated there to be 4,057 gun ads from unlicensed dealers posted on the two sites over a year.

For the 27 ads Everytown posted, 209 individuals gave identifying information, and 14 of those would-be buyers, or 6.7 percent, reportedly had criminal records that would have prohibited them from buying a gun. Of those who were found to have criminal records, nine of them (64 percent) were on probation or parole, were facing criminal charges, or had warrants out for their arrest at the time they responded to the ads.

“This investigation shines a light on the way dangerous criminals in New Mexico take advantage of the background check loophole,” said Sarah Tofte, Everytown for Gun Safety Research Director. “The findings are clear: New Mexico criminals — including people convicted of serious violent crimes like domestic violence, attempted kidnapping and armed robbery — turn to online, unlicensed gun sales to arm themselves.”

This is not the first time Everytown has issued such reports. In 2015, it issued a similar report in support of gun control legislation in Oregon and another for Washington state, which came under fire as gun rights advocates disputed the numbers found in the report.

This particular report was issued in support of current legislation Everytown says will do much to prevent criminals from buying guns from unlicensed dealers in New Mexico. The identical bills, Senate Bill 48 and House Bill 50, would require background checks for virtually all private gun sales and transfers within the state, and both bills have been approved in their respective committees.

The NRA-ILA has been very critical of the bills, arguing they would put a greater burden on law-abiding gun owners and that exemptions in the bills are very confusing and cause concern in regards to the their enforceability.