A newspaper columnist is crying foul after a gun store rejected his application to purchase a firearm following a background check that uncovered his “admitted history of alcohol abuse, and a charge for domestic battery involving his wife.”
“Gun manufacturers and the stores that sell them make their money in the dark,” the Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg wrote in his column following his failed attempt to purchase a rifle.
“Congress, which has so much trouble passing the most basic gun laws, passed a law making it illegal for the federal government to fund research into gun violence. Except for the week or two after massacres, the public covers its eyes. Would-be terrorists can buy guns. Insane people can buy guns. But reporters … that’s a different story,” he added.
The owners of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in Des Plaines, Ill., however, maintained Steinberg’s application was rejected not because he’s in media, but for the simple reason that a background check raised several red flags.
“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, [by the way],” the store said in an explanation made available to the Washington Examiner’s media desk.
“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,” the statement added. “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?”
Steinberg explained he tried to buy an AR-15 rifle this month following a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., which claimed the lives of 49 victims, so that he could give a firsthand account of how easy it is to purchase a firearm in the United States.
Since the shooting in Orlando, several newsrooms have produced similar stories bringing attention to the fact that many privately owned gun shops have efficient operations in place by which a customer with a clean record can purchase a firearm in a short amount of time.
Steinberg decided on Maxon Shooter’s as a suitable candidate for his experiment.
He claimed he had hang-ups about financially contributing to an industry he despises, but decided anyway to make the trek to the gun store, which he referred to as the “Valley of Death.”
He wrote that after introducing himself to the store’s staff, he informed them he planned “to buy the gun, shoot at their range, then give it to the police.” Steinberg said he was dissuaded of that idea after a salesman, Mike, suggested he sell the firearm back to the store.
Forty percent of gun transactions in the U.S. have “no background checks,” the columnist continued, repeating a claim that earned three Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s fact checker. “Here, I had paperwork.”
“Our transaction took nearly an hour because we chatted. Mike used to read newspapers but doesn’t anymore because of opinion writers like me. He knew whether it was legal to bring the gun to Chicago — it’s not. He was friendly, candid, so I asked difficult questions. Did he ever feel guilty about the people killed by the guns he sells? No, he said, that’s like asking a car dealer if he felt guilty if someone gets drunk and kills somebody in a car he sold. It seemed a fair answer. I asked him if I could quote him in the newspaper, and he said no, I couldn’t, so I’m not quoting him,” he wrote.
Steinberg submitted his paperwork and waited. And then he got the call.
“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,” he wrote.
Steinberg told the woman he suspected his application was rejected because he’s in media. She denied the charge.
Maxon Shooter’s explained later in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times that it rejected Stenberg’s application because a background check had, “uncovered that Mr. Steinberg has an admitted history of alcohol abuse, and a charge for domestic battery involving his wife,” he wrote.
The columnist was not happy.
“Well, didn’t see that coming. Were that same standard applied to the American public, there would be a whole lot fewer guns sold,” he wrote, suggesting he believes a large number of gun owners have also been guilty of spousal or substance abuse or both.
He argued that the real reason that his application was rejected is because gun manufacturers want to operate in the shadows and away from the glaring light of media scrutiny.
“Gun makers avoid publicity because the truth is this: they sell tools of death to frightened people and make a fortune doing so. They shun attention because they know, if we saw clearly what is happening in our country, we’d demand change,” he added.
Steinberg did not respond to the Examiner’s request for comment.