Reporter Tries to Buy AR-15 for Anti-Gun Article. But When the Background Check Comes in…

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A Chicago Sun-Times journalist decided to write an anti-gun hit piece about just how easy it is to buy an AR-15 rifle. But when the gun shop completed all of the required checks, he ended up writing a very different story.

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If you read the original screed Neil Steinberg published in the Chicago Sun Times, you might believe the laws governing who can and who can’t buy a gun are completely jacked up. That’s because Steinberg recently attempted to purchase an AR-15, just to see how easy it was to do, but the gun store wouldn’t sell it to him.

Steinberg would have you believe it is becasue the gun store employees at Maxon Shooter’s Supply hate him personally.

Let’s step back and acknowledge something. It is their right to deny a sale to anyone, for any reason. I’ve spent my fair share of time in gun stores, and I’ve seen it happen. I’ve witnessed people who have no records and no red flags get turned down–which takes money out of the pocket of the gun store owner–simply becasue something didn’t seem right.

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Take a closer look at the purple prose with which Steinberg details this escapade.

“Driving to Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in Des Plaines on Wednesday to purchase my first assault rifle, I admit, I was nervous. I’d never owned a gun before. And with the horror of Sunday’s Orlando massacre still echoing, even the pleasant summer day — the lush green trees, fluffy white clouds, blue sky — took on a grim aspect, the sweetness of fragile life flashing by as I headed into the Valley of Death.”


The Valley of Death? He’s clearly prone to exaggeration, so I won’t blame you if you begin questioning everything else that he writes.

“Earlier, in 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. But as I tell people, I just work here, I don’t own the place. And my qualms melted as I dug into the issue.”

At this point in the article, I understood something that Steinberg, perhaps, still does not. He admits that this whole exercise is a “journalistic stunt.” Gun store owners don’t sell guns for journalistic stunts. It is bad for business. Not the money-in-the-pocket-from-the-sale business, but the long term business. Anyone who can look ahead will turn their backs on such a sale.

Let’s take this to the next level. Steinberg wants to report the truth, and he wants to be a journalist, yet he doesn’t give you the whole picture.

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Where I come from, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. And Steinberg is guilty of omitting information in his effort to shape his readers’ response to his piece. Consider this paragraph:

“A reporter in Philadelphia bought an assault rifle in seven minutes; 40 percent of gun transactions in the U.S. have no background checks. Here, I had paperwork. 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.”

Why is Steinberg harping on the illegal alien question, or the fugitive issue? Why–here in this paragraph–mention the domestic abuse, or the questions of addiction?

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Steinberg has an epic history as an alcoholic. He’s detailed this in several of his articles, and even in a book that he’s written on the subject. He tells stories about drinking vanilla looking for a fix, and leaving his children unattended in a Chicago bookstore while he went in search of liquor.

He also has a history of domestic abuse involving his wife. He’s admitted to striking her. Cops got involved. He was charged, but not convicted, though he writes about the experience in a way that details the abuse. This is a fine line.

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Form 4473, which everyone buying a gun from a gun store fills out, asks the following questions.

11. e. asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Though alcohol is not technically a “controlled substance” by the government’s definitions, many read the rest of the list to include alcohol.

11. i. asks: “Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?” Steinberg wasn’t convicted, though he admits that he hit his wife. He not only admits it, he’s detailed the event (some would say crime) for the world to read. And then he’s shocked that someone has the audacity to question his character and refuses to sell him an AR-15.

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See, that’s the issue that this article’s title hints at, but does not actually address. No one knows how people actually end up on terrorist watch lists. In fact, we don’t know who is or isn’t on the list. And there’s one thing we do know about those people; many of them are not guilty of anything.

Before you accuse me of supporting terrorists, take a breath. Even the NRA wants to keep guns out of the hands of actual terrorists. But many of us who believe in the fundamental ideals of American Freedom have a problem with government overreach. And making lists of people you think might one day commit a crime is exactly that.

What Steinberg might recognize is that some gun store employees are like good bartenders. They can sniff out someone who needs to be told no. They will cut you off.

In the end, Steinberg did pass through the hoops that are technically needed to buy a gun. He had obtained an Illinois Firearms ID card. He may not have lied about any of the answers on the 4473. But he was still denied.

“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 d*&# you for being ignorant then hide when you try to find out.”


Someone at Maxon had the good-judgment to say no.

For their part, they’ve issued this response.

“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? Thanks for your support.”