A news outlet was promptly fact-checked on Friday after publishing a story that claimed purchasing an AR-15 rifle online is like “ordering groceries.”
What was claimed?
Zach Seward, editor-in-chief of Quartz, tweeted on Thursday, “We bought a gun—the same Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 assault rifle used in Uvalde. It was like ordering groceries. Click, checkout, done.”
In the story itself, Quartz claimed purchasing the firearm took only “five clicks.” In fact, the story problematized the ability to purchase firearms online by repeatedly noting the website from where they purchased the firearm did not verify the purchaser’s age or request a background check.
“Aside from that, it was a routine purchase, not unlike ordering a Lego set from Amazon or a pair of shoes from Zappos. Except, of course, for the lethality of the product,” the story said.
Then, after outlining the legal requirements for purchasing a rifle, the story observed, “We didn’t get any notices or warnings about that during the checkout process.”
“[T]he fact that shopping for a firearm does not feel noticeably different than ordering those everyday items is a telling commentary on the prevalence of guns in US culture,” the story concluded.
What was the reaction?
The framing of the story drew widespread criticism because it obfuscates the process for purchasing firearms online.
It is true that you can purchase firearms online like any other regular item. But the difference — and it is a significant difference — is that firearms purchased online can only be delivered to federally licensed firearm dealers. The Quartz story relegates this critical difference to the last paragraph of its story.
Once there, the identification and legal eligibility of the purchaser is verified by the dealer, who also conducts a background check. The process also requires the purchaser to complete a government document, ATF Form 4473. State and local laws can further complicate and delay the process.
Here’s what critics of the story said:
- “‘It’s like ordering groceries..’ if Safeway had access to your criminal records and personal info to sell you a strawberry,” communications strategist Matt Whitlock mocked.
- “Except he had to go to a FFL, fill out a 4473, wait for NICS to come back clear before ever leaving with it. Funny, I’ve never had to do that for groceries — and in some states you wait a few days,” Dana Loesch noted.
- “Just like ordering groceries if ordering groceries meant going to a specially licensed dealer and passing an fbi background check. (Also it’s not an ‘assault rifle’),” conservative writer David Harsanyi said.
- “These people are such liars. You will have to go to an FFL dealer to pick it up. Before you leave with it, you will be subjected to a background check. Only when you pass the background check will you have ‘bought the gun,'” Jason Howerton said.
- “‘Buying a gun is just like buying groceries!’ Because we all know you have to pass a federal background check when you go to pick up your curbside order at Wegman’s. They’re being deceptive about this on purpose,” John Cooper of the Heritage Foundation mocked.
- “Not a single person in this entire media organization thought this story felt incomplete before publishing it. That’s cultural illiteracy — and it’s just as bad as a news organization devoid of women, or one without the perspective of non-white employees,” Steve Krakauer noted.
- “Yes, ordering groceries, something that famously requires proof of a clean criminal record,” journalist Drew Holden mocked.