A Chicago reporter looked around and saw other reporters buying guns and writing stories about it after the Orlando terror attack and decided to try it for himself. The result left him surprised — perhaps a bit embarrassed.
Sun Times columnist Neil Steinberg said he planned with his boss to make a temporary purchase of an “assault weapon,” though at first he had some misgivings:
"[I]n my editor’s office, I had ticked off the reasons for me not to buy a gun: this was a journalistic stunt; done repeatedly; supporting an industry I despise. ... my qualms melted as I dug into the issue.
I don’t plan on keeping this gun a second longer than I have to for this column."
Steinberg also admitted he was a little fuzzy on gun laws.
It wasn't until he got to Maxon Shooter's Supply and Range that he was informed there was a 24-hour-waiting period and a law forbidding him from carrying his new purchase back into Chicago — two things he didn't know before doing the story. But he said that just learning those things made the quest worthwhile.
His experience also showed him that the gun store went by the book:
“He immediately asked for my FOID card — Firearm Owner’s Identification Card — no gun purchase without it.”
Apparently, Steinberg had an FOID card, because he continued to talk about guns with the sales rep as he looked skeptically at the “grizzled” patrons inside the store.
Steinberg made this observation:
“Being fact-based I know, you buy a gun, the person you are most likely to shoot, statistically, is yourself. And your family.”
Later he tossed off another “fact” when he marveled that the gun shop was making him fill out a form 4473 — a federally required back ground check:
“40 percent of gun transactions in the U.S. have no background checks.”
While Steinberg didn't elaborate on his point, most guns crimes are, sadly, suicides, according to the FBI statistics. And the '40%' stat? It's as wrong as it is old, according to FactCheck.org, The Washington Post, and gun researcher John Lott.
He says his transaction took nearly an hour “because we chatted” while he filled out his form 4473:
“A federal form asking, was I an illegal alien? No. Was I a fugitive? Again no. Had I ever been convicted on charges of domestic abuse? No. Handed over my credit card: $842.50. Another $40 for the instructor to acquaint me with the gun the next day.”
But later that day came the shocker — they denied him his gun purchase:
“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.”
While Steinberg thinks he was denied for being a reporter, Maxon sent a letter to the writer's boss explaining its action, part of which he included in his column:
"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.”
The gun store expanded upon its rationale on its Facebook page:
The comment explains:
“...[H]ere's the background and what points it contained: Mr. Steinberg was very aggressive on the phone with Sarah, insisting he was going to write that we denied him because he is a journalist. ”Journalist" is not a protected class, BTW.
We contacted his editor and said that, while we don't normally provide a reason for a denial, in this case to correct the record before you publish, here's why; we pasted a couple links of press accounts of his past behavior and his admission of same.
He's free to believe or disbelieve that's why he was denied, but that *is* why he was denied. There was no “We'll see you in court!!!!” type of language from us - we simply want to set the record straight. That it undermined his thesis and rendered the column incoherent isn't really our problem, is it?"
Other commenters on the gun store's page brought up some other issues with reporters buying guns as a “stunt,” as Steinberg himself called it:
Even the Illinois Gun Owners Rights chimed in that what Steinberg was looking for in the first place is one big 'snipe' hunt:
The group said:
“You should remind Mr. Steinberg that, in Illinois, you can't walk into a gun store and purchase an 'Assault Rifle'.”
For his part, Steinberg responded on Twitter:
He appears to be sticking with his theory that the reason he wasn't allowed to purchase the AR-15 was because he was a reporter and not because of his alcohol and domestic violence issues.