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Oh My: Couric’s Producers May Have Broken Federal Gun Laws

Katie wrote about the disgraceful selective editing that occurred in Under the Gun, a film that examines the gun control debate. Katie Couric, who produced and stars in the feature, has found herself in quite the pickle. You can't really examine both sides of the gun control issue when you a) edit audio from an interview with gun owners, who were offering a differing opinion, to make them look vapid and b) give a weak sauce excuse for the eight-second silence. The film’s director, Stephanie Soechtig, said the reason for the pause was for viewers to think about the question Couric posed to gun owners about background checks. No one bought it. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post described the filmmaker’s response as “weaselly,” while adding that an apology, re-editing, or a retraction was needed. National Public Radio straight up called the move “manipulation,” and that it would never have passed their ethical standards regarding conducting an interview. Couric and her crew were under siege from all sides.


The former Today Show host eventually did take responsibility for the editing, and released part of the transcript, but not in its entirely, which further irked Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), who were the victims of Couric and her team in their attempt to put the dunce hat on them.

Now, over at The Federalist, Sean Davis seems to have caught Soechtig pretty much saying that her team engaged in illegal firearms transactions during the making of the film. Davis provided the federal statutes, the transcript, and the added bonus of saying that this is very, very illegal:

It turns out that Couric’s production team deliberately conspired to violate federal gun laws. According to video obtained by Ammoland, a shooting sports news website, one of Couric’s producers deliberately committed at least four separate felonies by purchasing four separate firearms across state lines without a background check.


SOECHTIG: We sent a producer out and he was from Colorado. He went to Arizona, and he was able to buy a Bushmaster and then three other pistols without a background check in a matter of four hours. And that’s perfectly legal. He wasn’t doing some sort of underground market.


And he just met someone in the parking lot of Wendy’s and bought a Bushmaster. Legally. Like, this is legal.


Except it’s not legal. Like, it’s illegal. Super duper illegal. Quadruple illegal in the case of the Soechtig employee who purchased four firearms across state lines without processing the sale through a federal firearms licensee (FFL) in his home state of Colorado.

Federal law is abundantly clear on what types of transactions require federal background checks. Gun owners tend to understand these laws incredibly well. Gun controllers like Soechtig do not. Under federal law, all gun purchases from an FFL must be accompanied by a federal background check. It doesn’t matter if the FFL sells a gun at a retail location, at a gun show, or out of the back of a car in a Wendy’s parking lot. All FFL transactions require a federal background check. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from: if you buy a gun from an FFL, the FFL must confirm that you have passed a federal background check.

Next we have interstate purchases, all of which must be conducted through an FFL in the buyer’s home state. It is illegal to purchase a gun across state lines unless the transaction is processed through an FFL in the buyer’s home state. And what did we just learn about all FFL purchases? That they require federal background checks. Ergo, all interstate purchases must be accompanied by federal background checks.

What does that mean? It means that a producer who resides in Colorado cannot legally buy a gun in Arizona unless that gun is shipped to an FFL in Colorado, whereby that FFL confirms that the Colorado resident can legally own that firearm. The Colorado resident who bought the gun from someone in Arizona cannot take possession of that gun until the Colorado FFL receives the gun from Arizona and confirms that the Colorado buyer can legally own that weapon. Once that happens, the Colorado FFL would transfer possession of the gun to the Colorado buyer.


Davis even noted that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has a FAQ section on their site for questions about things, like out-of-state purchases.

Here’s the law:

How may an unlicensed person receive a firearm in his or her State that he or she purchased from an out–of–State source?

An unlicensed person who is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms may purchase a firearm from an out–of–State source, provided the transfer takes place through a Federal firearms licensee in his or her State of residence.

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and 922(b)(3); 27 CFR 478.29]

Yet, as Davis wrote, that’s not what Soechtig ordered her producer to do. He went into Arizona and bought those guns without a background check in either state, adding that if these illegal transactions were for Soechtig—then a straw purchase charge could be added to the docket. If a background check was conducted through a FFL dealer (non-resident purchases on long guns depend on the state of the transferee and transferor in some instances), there probably would be no controversy. The handgun sales are a different matter.

This isn’t the first time members of the media had broken existing gun laws to prove a point about gun violence. In the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, then-Meet The Press host David Gregory presented a 30-round magazine while discussing the matter with the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre. That’s a blatant violation of D.C. gun laws, and the police wanted to press charges. It was stopped by then-Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan because Gregory, as Professor William Jacobson put it, was “too nice a guy,” or something. Jacobson founded the Legal Insurrection blog, which had filed a FOIA request over the D.C. police’s investigation into possible gun charges against Gregory; Judicial Watch assisted them.


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