By: Mark Fitzgerald
Since November 2001, a group called Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence has been trying to persuade newspapers to not accept classified ads for guns from people who are not licensed dealers.
Wednesday, its “Campaign to Close the Newspaper Loophole” announced the policy had been adopted by four more Ohio papers, including the Cincinnati Enquirer and its joint operating agency partner the Cincinnati Post, as well as three Iowa dailies and a Nebraska daily.
The group said since its campaign began, a total of 26 papers with a combined circulation of 5.8 million have changed their policy after being contacted by the group.
In April, the group sent a letter to the publishers of all daily newspapers in Iowa, Ohio, and Nebraska. The Hawk Eye, a 19,000-circulation daily in Burlington, Iowa, was one of those persuaded. “Our publisher agreed there was a loophole, and that when we accepted ads on these transient customer to advertise gun shows, we had in the past not checked to see if they were licensed,” the Hawk Eye’s advertising director, Janet Stottmeister, told E&P in a telephone interview.
The paper changed its policy April 26, but so far has not had to turn anyone away. The classified ad business for guns is “very small” at the paper, she said.
“We are pleased that the publishers of these newspapers recognize that the classifieds provide opportunities for prohibited purchasers to buy guns without a background check and have taken steps to prevent their newspaper from being used as a marketplace for illegal gun purchases,” John Johnson, the campaign’s coordinator, said in a prepared statement. “We recognize that guns are legal products in the United States. But not all firearms transfers are legal. That’s where newspapers come into play.”
Johnson said newspapers can become “a marketplace for illegal gun purchases” from people who are not allowed to buy them because they are too young or have a criminal record and cannot pass the mandatory criminal background check required for sales by licensed dealers.
The campaign intends to contact dailies in all 50 states over the next 12 months, and expects to add another 100 to 200 newspapers to its list of papers that restrict gun advertisements to licensed sellers.
“At the very least, we expect to generate some ‘spirited discussion’ among newspapers publishers,” Johnson said. “We want newspaper publishers to discuss among themselves their responsibilities when it comes to running a marketplace for selling firearms.”
In addition to the Hawk Eye, the Iowa papers that have changed their ad policy since April are the Daily Iowegian in Centerville and the Daily Sentinel in Le Mars. In addition to the two Cincinnati dailies, the Ohio papers making recent policy changes are The Delphos Herald, and The Ironton Tribune. The Nebraska City (Neb.) News Press also changed its policy.
Among the papers the campaign says have closed the so-called “loophole” since 2001, the biggest are the Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Dallas Morning News, and The Miami Herald.