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Home>UPDATE: In some U.S. states, it's harder to purchase Sudafed than a gun

UPDATE: In some U.S. states, it's harder to purchase Sudafed than a gun

UPDATE: In some U.S. states, it's harder to purchase Sudafed than a gun


By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch

After Las Vegas shooting, here are things trickier to buy than guns

In the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday evening, which left at least 50 people dead and more than 400 injured (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/reports-of-dead-injured-after-mass-shooting-at-las-vegas-concert-2017-10-02), Americans again are faced with a familiar story: A place where people felt safe and a lone gunman. The shooter, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, from Mesquite, Nev., fired on a country music festival crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino. The shooter had reportedly already killed himself when a SWAT team used an explosive to enter his room.

Nevada has some of the most lenient gun-control laws in the U.S. There is no law requiring the registrations of long guns or handguns (https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/78th2015/Reports/history.cfm?ID=399). Open carry is generally permitted without a gun permit, with some exceptions (https://library.municode.com/nv/north_las_vegas/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT9PUPEMOWE_CH9.32WEGE#TIT9PUPEMOWE_CH9.32WEGE_9.32.080DEWEPRVEXC). Nor does the state require gun owners to have licenses. Nevada does not ban assault weapons (http://www.nevadacarry.org/). In fact, the term "assault weapon" is not defined under Nevada law, according to the Las Vegas Defense Group law firm (http://www.nevadacarry.org/). "However, federal law prohibits the possession of machine guns unless they were lawfully possessed and registered before May 19, 1986."

"It was an act of pure evil," President Donald Trump said in a statement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2qQ1WKSa4Y) at the White House Monday. The president did not mention gun control, and instead quoted scripture. "We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family, and our shared values," he added. "We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity."

The latest shooting was the worst in modern U.S. history (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/02/deadliest-shootings-in-u-s-history.html). On June 12, 2016, at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. a shooter killed 49 people and injured 53 others. At that time, President Obama once again called on Americans to make gun control a priority for politicians, and said people should address both terrorism and gun control rather than making it an "either/or (http://www.wsj.com/articles/officials-hunt-for-details-from-orlando-shooting-1465823030)" debate. "There are common-sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm," Obama said at the time.

Don't miss:10 things the gun industry won't tell you (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-the-gun-industry-wont-tell-you-2014-03-07)

Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows, according to research (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/bipartisan-support-for-some-gun-proposals-stark-partisan-divisions-on-many-others/) carried out this year by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Democrats largely oppose proposals to shorten waiting periods for those who want to buy guns legally (25% favor, 74% oppose), but Republicans are divided (51% favor, 48% oppose), Pew found. Some 77% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats support background checks for private sales at gun shows, while 56% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats support a federal database to track gun sales. One theory for the difference in opinion: A majority of Republicans (56%) say there would be "less crime" if more Americans owned guns versus 51% of Democrats.

To illustrate the uphill battle such efforts face, here are 4 things in many states that are arguably harder to buy than a gun:

Cold medicine buyers are logged in a database

Having the common cold is enough to get one treated like a common criminal. To purchase seemingly innocuous cold medications such as Sudafed, consumers must not only show photo identification, but also have the purchase logged in a database (https://blog.mass.gov/masslawlib/misc/signing-for-sudafed/). In addition, stores are required to keep personal information about purchasers for at least two years (https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm072423.htm). It's all because the active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is the same substance used by chemists to cook up the illegal drug methamphetamine -- or crystal meth. Zyrtec-D and Mucinex-D also contain pseudoephedrine.

In addition, the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Act limits the amount that can be sold per person and prohibits the purchase of more than nine grams in a 30-day period.

In contrast, less than a dozen states and the District of Columbia require registration of some or all firearms (http://smartgunlaws.org/registration-of-firearms-policy-summary/). "These laws enable law enforcement to identify, disarm, and prosecute violent criminals and people illegally in possession of firearms. Registration systems also create accountability for firearm owners and discourage illegal sales," according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Title II (https://www.guntrustlawyer.com/category/title-ii-weapons)" weapons, which include machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, however, must be registered under the National Firearms Act (https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/national-firearms-act).

Wireless contracts involve a credit check

A credit check is usually necessary when buying a cellphone with a two-year contract -- something that's not required to buy a gun. If you want to buy a wireless contract without one, however, many carriers ask consumers to hand over an extra $500 as a security deposit. The reason: Companies sell iPhones for roughly one-third of the original market price and make back that money over the course of a two-year wireless contract. A gun, on the other hand, is a one-off transaction (ammunition aside). Consumers can often negotiate a better deal for guns when paying cash (https://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/payment.php). This company offers no credit-check financing for guns with a "shoot now, pay later plan (http://freedomgunfinance.com)."

Puppy owners often need references and home visits

Adopting a pet is not to be taken lightly. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises people to be prepared. Prospective adopters must be 21, bring two forms of identification -- a government-issued ID and a proof of address -- but, unlike gun buyers, may be asked to provide personal references. To make sure that the pet is not going to a dysfunctional home, some pet organizations like the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Fla., also have one of their team members perform a home visit before handing over the pet.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) conducts federal background checks to ensure transactions don't violate federal or state laws. Since the NICS was initiated in 1998, 1.32 million people have been denied guns (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/federal_denials.pdf). That said, federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks and most states do not require background checks (http://www.governing.com/gov-data/gun-background-checks-by-state-nics-chart.html) for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals. Some experts estimate (https://www.bradycampaign.org/our-impact/campaigns/background-checks) that 40% of gun sales occur in "no questions asked" transactions online or at gun shows where, in most states, background checks are not required.

Hunting licenses require Social Security numbers

Federal law requires U.S. citizens to provide their Social Security numbers (http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/ssn_faq.html) before buying recreational hunting or fishing licenses. (The same, incidentally, is required for getting a credit card.) As part of federal welfare reform, states can deny hunting and fishing licenses to those who have failed to keep up on their child support -- and having their Social Security number is one way to find a deadbeat mom or dad. What's more, the state can deny (http://www.capitalgazette.com/cg2-arc-75aa1198-0792-5fa4-b482-a0795fc88157-20120424-story.html) a person from buying a recreational license if he or she is in arrears on child support. A Social Security number is a unique identifier that does not change over the course of a person's life.

Licensed gun dealers must ask for a government-issued identification like a driver's license. "A Social Security card does not, by itself, contain sufficient information to identify a firearms purchaser," according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/national-firearms-act). "However, a purchaser may be identified by any combination of government--issued documents." While some gun buyers have said that sellers at gun shows have asked for a social security number before selling a gun (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/federal_denials.pdf), a Social Security number is not needed to buy a gun in most states. Providing one is listed as "optional (https://www.atf.gov/file/61446/download)" in most states.

-Quentin Fottrell; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


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10-04-17 2147ET

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