How Easy Is It to Buy a Gun?

Is it easy to buy a gun? With the continuing debate over the second amendment, gun laws and the all out call by some politicians and citizen’s groups to ban guns and even take guns away from citizens, I have often wondered if it was really that easy to purchase a gun.

A quick Google search using the term “is it easy to buy a gun” bring up the following headlines on the first page of 351 million search results:

Here’s how easy it is to legally buy a semiautomatic gun in the US –

This is how easy it is to buy guns in America –

Buying a Gun Is So Easy ‘It Doesn’t Make Sense’ –

This is how easy it is to buy a gun in America –

From these articles, you would think buying a gun is about as difficult as picking up a quart of milk at the corner grocery store. Well, I just bought a gun and I am going to tell you about my experience. I understand that I bought the gun in Washington State, and I live in California, and that may have made things a little more complicated, and if you live in Tennessee some of the laws may be different, but my experience demonstrates that buying a gun is not the simple task many of these articles present it to be.

I was visiting my friend Bob in Washington State. He has a nice little cabin on a few acres of land on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle. When I arrived, Bob, his son and his son’s friends were shooting clay targets with shotguns. Bob is an outdoor enthusiast and a hunter. He even has one of those machines that shoots the clay targets into the air.

The first thing Bob did was to shove a shotgun into my hand, and say, “Okay Mike, let’s see what you can do.” I hadn’t shot a shotgun for years. When I was sixteen my dad gave me a Remington Wingmaster for my birthday, and my dad, my brother and I did a little grouse and duck hunting. My brother and I also visited a shooting range from time to time and shot clay targets. But I sold my guns when I moved to the United States in 1989 and haven’t picked up a shotgun in at least 35 years.

I am delighted to report that I was not only able to hit many of the targets, but I also actually had fun shooting. I told Bob that as soon as I got back to California, I was going to buy a shotgun. Bob said he would sell me one of his because he has about 20 of them, and he picked out a Browning Miroku Japanese made over under 12 gauge that Bob said was about 25 years old but was a good gun made with great Japanese steel and he would give me a very good price on it. I of course said yes.

The first step in my gun buying journey was to find a gun dealer in Washington State. Fortunately, Bob new a guy on Whidbey Island so off we went. The gentleman lived in a cute little cabin and was an avid antique gun collector. He looked at the shotgun admiringly then said I would need to complete a gun purchase form recording the purchase of the gun from Bob. I would then need to complete a gun export form so the gun could be shipped to a gun dealer in California. I also needed to purchase a gun shipping case. Finally, this gun dealer needed to report that I was purchasing the gun to the federal government (I am not sure of the exact department or agency, but understand it is a division of the FBI).

He reported me to the FBI by phone. He called a number, gave them all my personal information, and said that when they called him back and gave him permission, he could ship the gun to a dealer in California. I had chosen one at random that was close to my where I live. I paid the guy something like $300 for his services and the plastic shipping case and left for California.

A couple of weeks went by, and I had not heard anything from the gun dealer in Washington or from the gun dealer in California. I called to find out what was going on. he gun dealer in Washington told me that the FBI had not yet cleared me on the background check. Strange that a mortgage company can complete a background check in 24 hours, but the federal government was not able to complete the background check for many weeks. I was told this was not unusual.

Finally, the dealer in Washington called and said the FBI had cleared me on the background check and my gun was on the way. I contacted the dealer to whom the gun was being shipped. I was told that before the gun was released to me, I would have to pass a gun safety test, complete another background check, go through a waiting period (I think it was ten days) and receive instructions from one of the store employees on safe gun handling procedures. I also had to purchase a lock or a safe to keep the gun secure. I chose a lock as the gun safes were expensive, and typically hold many guns.

I did everything that was required. I passed the second background check (not sure if this was the same check, another check, or a rubber stamp of the previous check). I passed the gun safety test. I purchased a lock. I waited ten days. I listened as the store employee instructed me on safe gun handling procedures. And of course, all this cost me another $300 or so dollars.

Finally, I got my gun. Transferring the gun into my name and paying for all the tests, permits and handling fees cost me almost as much as I paid for the gun. From start to finish, it took close to two months.

I am not complaining. My observation was that the government’s background check took a long time and I wonder was it necessary to complete the background check twice? But my observation is that buying a gun, at least for me, was certainly a lengthy, costly, and highly regulated process. I relate this story for all of you who have never bought guns and are under the impression it is as simple as picking up a loaf of bread at the local grocery store. It isn’t.

As a final comment you have to wonder about those journalists who wrote those articles referenced above implying that buying a gun was just another trip to the grocery store. Bad journalists or hidden agenda? Probably both.