Following the Orlando terror attack, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg, convinced that the attack wouldn’t have occurred if only we had sufficient gun regulations, decided to demonstrate how easy it would to obtain an AR-15 in Illinois. [This was already a bad start to his investigative reporting, since Steinberg didn’t investigate the gun used in Orlando: it wasn’t an AR-15. Then again, since anti-gun zealots don’t care about such details (“All guns BAD”) and low-information citizens still trust the news media not to misinform them, this didn’t matter to the reporter. But I digress…)
A background check was triggered by Steinberg’s application for the weapon, and he was rejected. It seems the reporter had an “admitted history of alcohol abuse,” and there was a charge for domestic battery on his record.
Isn’t that wonderful?
Children: here is the meaning of “to be hoisted by your own petard.” Say thank you to Mr. Steinberg!
Then the owner of the store decided to publicize the gotcha! by sending the account of the failed purchase to a rival newspaper. This forced Steinberg into writing a column about the event (although I’m sure he would say that he is so brimming with integrity that he would have written one anyway, and maybe that would be true, but I am as inclined to believe that he typed his column with his nose) which also meant outing himself as an accused spouse abuser and a periodic drunk. Still, Steinberg decided not to allow this experience to teach him anything about the problems with background checks, or about being denied basic rights because of a disability (alcoholism) or being denied a civil right because he was merely accused of a crime without being convicted (the wife-beating charge). In his column, Steinberg’s spin is that Maxon Shooter’s Supplies, in Des Plaines, Illinois., rejected his application only because he’s in the media.
He doesn’t connect the dots here, either. Why is a member of the media, which I would suspect of being inherently untrustworthy, more worthy of exercising his Second Amendment rights than a “suspected terrorist’? Both are innocent in the eyes of the law. Both are law-abiding citizens who may say or write something that could get them put on a list. The difference is that another Bill of Rights tenet, the First Amendment, protects Steinberg from any government sanctions should he write in a column that he hopes someone takes an AR-15 to the Republican House.
The owner of the gun store says that Steinberg’s suspicious status as a lefty journalist notwithstanding, his history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence raised sufficient red flags for a responsible owner to refuse to sell him a gun. Apparently no penalty will be levied on the owner for revealing the results of the check to the world at large. That also seems ominous. What stops a gun store owner from getting a gun applicant fired from his job, or just publicly embarrassed for private information that blocks a gun purchase?
I told you this was a great story.
Wait, what’s this? Not a single mainstream media news source thinks it’s a great story? Only conservative new organizations are reporting it?
What possible explanation is there for that?
It’s a mystery!
Pointer: Tim Levier
25 thoughts on “I LOVE This Story! If You Don’t Love This Story, Something’s Wrong With You…Or You’re A Mainstream Media Journalist”
Brought a smile to my face. “Can you say ‘schadenfreude’ children? Sure you can.”
My second favorite was the journalist who fired a gun and briefly got PTSD (in his own words) from it… I’ve seen a couple of picture memes with him contrasted with a little girl firing a rifle at a range under close supervision.
While I agree with the overall take on the incident, it is not exactly true to say that Steinberg was ‘outed’ by the background check. He is the author of an earlier book titled Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life, and presumably someone sympathetic to the gun store’s situation figured that out during the 24-hour waiting period and let them know about that. It is unknown whether the background check would have turned up that info as he was not convicted on the domestic abuse charges.
Thanks for that, though my rebuttal would be that the revelation let a lot of people know about the reporter’s problems who would not have otherwise. (Like me.) Was the owner aware of the book? If not, then his intent was to “out” Steinberg, making his action as wrong as it would have been without the book.
The revelation wasn’t in the background check, since the clerk is only told “proceed” or “deny”. One of the clerks remembered reading the admission in Steinberg’s past columns and showed it to his boss during the waiting period.
Source? That doesn’t comport with a lot of the accounts. Why did Steinberg blame the gun shop for denying him, then?
Steinberg’s article says that he was contacted by the store and told he was denied, and that the gun store didn’t need to tell him why (which at least is true: Gun stores don’t need to tell you why you’re being refused), and then the gun shop contacted the newspaper with the reasons why after.
I see no justification for not being told why you were denied. It ought to be mandatory.
This is one of those things that I’m not understanding: by adding “no buy” to “no fly,” aren’t we just adding one more way of telling suspected terrorists that they’re being watched, so that, you know, they should carry out their plans very carefully?
Sure. As Steve Martin says in “All of Me”: Good plan!
This was the main benefit to the Republican proposal as I saw it. Their proposal was to alert the FBI during the standard waiting period if anyone on the no fly list was attempting to purchase a gun. Then the FBI could do with that information whatever it liked. I can see three likely scenarios play out.
1) The person is actively under investigation and there is already enough evidence to bring an indictment. No sale goes through and the FBI/Justice department moves up it’s time frame.
2) The person was rightly placed on the list, but was considered a low risk and was not under active investigation due to resources. The attempt to purchase a gun goes through as there is not enough evidence to prosecute a crime and deny the purchase of the gun, but now the FBI uses the knowledge that this person is arming themselves to upgrade the person to an active investigation. With the likely outcome that they begin surveillance of the suspect and can intervene/arrest prior to the suspect committing a crime.
3) The person was wrongly on the list, and their attempt to purchase the gun forces this error to be corrected. Gun sale goes through.
Just denying all people on the list does in fact alert potential terrorists that they are known and suspected by the government. They can use that information to their benefit. Additionally, it did not require an alert to go to investigators of the increased threat anyone on the list poses by their putting an attack into motion.
But to read the main stream media was to think Democrats offered up a common sense plan while the Republicans just obstructed. In reality, the Democrats plan was ill-conceived from both a constitutional perspective and from anti-terror law enforcement prospective, while the Republicans plan took both into account and attempted to leverage the information gained by a request to purchase a gun into usable law enforcement information while not running afoul of due process. Given these facts, I just can’t see what the Democrats did as anything but grandstanding, of course with the media cheering them along.
I’m not agreeing with the rule, but it is the rule. It did strike me as odd that no one on the left was making nearly the fuss on denied sales of guns as they were for say… denied sales of sweet sweet bigot cakes. I would be genuinely surprised if salesmen hadn’t tied sales based on nothing but middle eastern skin tones. Come on lefties, where are the cries of -phobia or -ism here. People’s rights are being denied! You care about that right? Oh… What’s that? GUNS BAD?
Isn’t it even clearer than ever that the likelihood is that under any regime that hasn’t decreed that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorist, “Muslim” would equal “Suspected Terrorist”?
They contacted the paper after our intrepid reporter made his “they only denied me because I’m a journalist” claim.
Right, but I’m still kind of uncomfortable with how this worked out… Schadenfreude aside… Have we considered the ethics of leaking what should really be confidential information tot he media?
There’s no confidentiality involved, and if he hadn’t made his bogus claim I suspect the gun shop wouldn’t have said or done anything.
He lied, and got called out for it. I have no issue with it.
“At 5:13 Sarah from Maxon called. They were canceling my sale and refunding my money. No gun for you. I called back. Why? “I don’t have to tell you,” she said. I knew that, but was curious. I wasn’t rejected by the government? No. So what is it? “I’m not at liberty,” she said.
Gun dealers do have the right to refuse sales to anyone, usually exercised for people who seem to be straw purchasers. I told her I assume they wouldn’t sell me a gun because I’m a reporter. She denied it. But hating the media is right behind hating the government as a pastime for many gun owners. They damn you for being ignorant then hide when you try to find out.
A few hours later, Maxon sent the newspaper a lengthy statement, the key part being: “it was uncovered that Mr. Steinberg has an admitted history of alcohol abuse, and a charge for domestic battery involving his wife.”
Well, didn’t see that coming.”
I had many problems with Steinberg’s column, not the least of which is him “honoring” the store owner’s request to not be quoted by telling what he said but not putting it in quotes. Yech.
Regarding their refusal of service, (I wonder what the reaction would be if he was gay, but I digress) Illinois issues FOID (firearm owner’s identification cards) which function as a pre-background check. You can’t get one if you don’t pass background check criteria and you can’t buy a gun without one. So, presumably he passed a standard background check by virtue of possessing a FOID card. He has been incredibly honest about his problems with/recovery from alcohol dependence; writing about it in his columns and even writing a book about his experiences. I recommend it, by the way. If you know anything about him, you would likely know about his alcoholism. Given this, it seems likely that someone at the shop knew of it and used it as the reason to deny the purchase. I think they probably just didn’t want to be used as a prop in his “experiment”.
That’s a long way from his conclusion that the retail gun business wants to “make money in the dark”, however, and I particularly resent his implication that legal gun owners, of which I am one, are fear crazed paranoids grasping at guns to offset their failure to fully embrace the progressive world view.
Here’s what I am not sure of: can status as a recovering alcoholic make someone unfit to own a gun according to background check criteria? (If not, you and I know it will take just one, ONE, relapsing depressive shooting up a workplace or a bar to make it so.)
Here’s a link to the eligibility requirements:
I don’t see anything about alcoholism, just addiction to illegal substances. I wouldn’t be surprised if they seized on addiction recovery status next either. Once you throw the Constitution out the window, anything is fair game.
I believe the mental health/addiction stuff comes into play only if you have been institutionalized. With that said, I would not sell a gun to a recovering addict of any substance, the high concordance of addiction and depression alone would lead me to deny the sale. This coming from someone who would like to own a gun, but absolutely will not because I live with someone who suffers, and is recovering, from both.
Addiction to alcohol does not make one unfit under the Form 4473 that is filled out when the gun is purchased.
However, all gun stores are allowed to unilaterally decline a sale for just about any reason that makes sense to them. These are often described the by the gun store as a “bad feeling” or “gut reaction”. So, if you go in the store and pass the instant background check, and then while you are waiting for the clerk to bag up your new gun, you get on the phone and start talking trash about some crime you are thinking of committing, the clerk can decline the sale and you have no recourse.
Something like this happened to Omar Mateen at the first store he tried to buy a gun from. He began talking on his cell phone in Arabic and the store owner got a bad feel from it, and then declined the sale.
My main source is personal experience with NICS and being familiar with federal and some state gun laws. In this guy’s case, he showed up with a valid Firearms Owners Identification Card, which every IL gun owner needs to buy a gun or ammunition. Steinberg filled out the ATF form 4473 and the clerk called the NICS center. Since there was no DV conviction, the clerk was told “proceed”. Under IL law, there is a 24 hour waiting period on long guns and 72 hours for handguns. The time starts when the NICS check is completed. Steinberg is correct that the gun shop, not IL or federal government, denied the sale and offered to refund his money. Why the differing accounts? Ignorance and laziness on the part of reporters and bloggers that basically copied and pasted. How the clerk found out? It was a print source that I haven’t found online.
Thanks, that’s very helpful. This also convinces me even more than before that the reporter is an A-1 jerk, and however good his book might be, a lousy writer. The piece is almost intentionally confusing. For example, the column begins with him sounding like a complete gun naif, who would never own a gun except for this stunt. We’re in the show, and suddenly we get “He immediately asked for my FOID card — Firearm Owner’s Identification Card — no gun purchase without it.” Wait—what’s that? Why does he have one? How did he get one? How long did it take? The reporter doesn’t actually say he had one, either, or that he handed it to the owner. At best, crummy writing. Or deceptive, manipulative writing.
Then, when teh store calls back and says the transaction is cancelled, he doesn’t explain that the reason weren’t included in the background check, just that the government didn’t block the sale. Wait—did the government NOT have the domestic abuse charge? Did they have it but not use the info to ding him? What about the alcohol? Are all readers supposed to KNOW that he wrote an obscure book? Isn’t that—“The gun store owner knew about my book and the fact that I had a drinking problem”—rather essential information to figure out why the owners rejected him?
And why isn’t this a GOOD result? Gun owners should use discretion—or maybe they shouldn’t, and be treated like a bakery. I haven’t read the book. Was he a mean drunk? A violent drunk? That makes a big difference…no mention of the issue at all.
He writes; “it was uncovered that Mr. Steinberg has an admitted history of alcohol abuse, and a charge for domestic battery involving his wife.”
“Well, didn’t see that coming. Were that same standard applied to the American public, there would be a whole lot fewer guns sold.” Aaaaand…what? Is he saying that would be good, or bad? His payoff is inexcusable: “Would-be terrorists can buy guns. Insane people can buy guns. But reporters . . . that’s a different story.”
Wait—what’s a “would-be terrorist”? How does the gun store owner know that Steinberg isn’t insane (or ready to go on a bender that makes him act insane) or about to shoot-up battered women’s convention? well, he at least has some clues. What clues, short of mind-reading, are there that a “would-be terrorist” would be? Real clues, like writing a book about wanting to be a terrorist. Not “being on a secret list.”
And what the hell does buying a gun in Illinois have to do with buying a gun in Florida?
The column is the work of a biased journalist and an asshole.
Maybe he was drunk when he wrote it.
My husband got his Federal Firearms License in Illinois. (That’s the license that permits you to sell guns or transfer them. He’s a gunsmith, so needed it to be able to possess weapons that did not belong to him.) ATF sent an agent to our home (which is where he did his work) — a 1.5 hour drive away from their nearest office — to give us a full briefing on his responsibilities as FFL holder. It was an excellent briefing that covered many details and the agent spent all the time necessary to answer all of our questions.
Most importantly (and germane to this post), we asked if he was **obligated** to sell a weapon to someone who passed the background check but still made us uncomfortable. The agent’s answer is that we could deny a weapon sale to anyone, for any reason.
We called the ATF twice after that: once regarding a weapons with a filed-off serial number (they picked it up the next day – remember, we lived 1.5 hours away) and once regarding a person (return phone call the same day). The ATF folks in Peoria take their work very seriously.
As for publicly disclosing the reason for the refusal, I support the gun shop in this particular case. The reporter made it clear that he was going to write an article about the transaction. The gun shop did not go to a rival paper; they went over the journalist’s head to his editors at the paper to give their side of the story. Perhaps they did not believe that Steinberg would be objective in his report.