Activists Criticize Gun Sales Through Classifieds

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Gun-control activists in 16 states are beginning to call on newspapers with a blunt message: Be a patriot — stop taking classified ads for gun sales between private parties.

The anti-gun coalition said its survey of 282 papers in 16 states found 77% of them accepted some classified ads for guns. Nearly half — 46% — refuse to accept ads for handguns. The ones that do run gun classifieds, according to the coalition, allow buyers to elude the background checks that federally licensed sellers are required to perform.

“People blame the media for violence, which may or may not be true,” said Ona Hamilton, president of the Pennsylvania Million Mom March. “However, the newspaper classified gun ad loophole is an example of newspapers potentially providing a direct connection to violence by making it easy for overseas or domestic terrorists to get guns.”

The 24 gun-control groups began their campaign against classified ads for guns last November — to virtually no newspaper-industry reaction. They’ve remobilized recently, however, as the “National Campaign to Close the Newspaper Classified Gun Ad Loophole,” and they are putting a patriotic/ anti-terrorist spin on their message.

Michele Massoth, manager of classified and national advertising for the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, heard from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence the other day. The Gannett Co. Inc. daily sees no real reason to change its policy on guns sold through its classified section, Massoth said.

“There’s not a big demand for that category — and we don’t make it easy [for advertisers],” Massoth pointed out. “We require them to come down in person. We require them to show us their FOID [firearm owner’s identification] card, and we make a copy of it. We feel as though we’re making an effort [to ensure] that the people who are selling these firearms are at least registered and legal.”

Thom Mannard, executive director of the Illinois gun-control group, said the coalition is not trying to get newspapers to stop classified advertising by licensed dealers: “If you’re a Wal-Mart or Joe’s Gun Shop, those places are licensed by federal government and need to do a background check.”

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