Some criminals are using dating app Tinder to purchase guns, ATF says

Federal officials are learning that guns are being trafficked using social media platforms, including an app where you would more likely find a date than a Glock.

A new report on firearms trafficking from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms released earlier this month found that armed offenders would sometimes turn to the dating app Tinder.

Along with other social media apps, such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, around 3.7% of guns from 2017 to 2021 were trafficked using that method. That is a larger percentage than what was found at gun shows, flea markets or auctions.

Only 1.6% were sold by licensed gun dealers.

“Gun stores and gun shows are not a major source of firearm trafficking,” Aidan Johnston, with gun rights group Gun Owners of America, told WTOP.

Around 40% of weapons trafficked to violent criminals, according to the report, come from straw purchases. The ATF defines a straw purchase as buying a firearm for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one, or for someone who doesn’t want their name associated with it, The Associated Press reported.

“This happens a lot with convicts, where they’ll pressure a girlfriend or a boyfriend or whatever, to go into the gun store and purchase the firearm they want. It’s already illegal. And yet criminals do it,” Johnston said.

Weapons bought through straw purchases sometimes end up in the hands of convicted felons, or minors, The Associated Press reported.

Another 40% were sold via an unlicensed dealer, also called a private sale. This is when someone who owns a firearm can sell to another individual. In most states, it’s not required by law to run a background check during this kind of sale.

The ATF report comes amid the release of new rules from the Biden administration requiring more sellers to perform background checks.

The rules require those who sell firearms, predominantly to earn a profit, to be federally licensed and to conduct background checks, regardless of whether they are selling on the internet, gun show or elsewhere.

Johnston is critical of the rules, saying they blur the line between a gun dealer that is already licensed and a private seller.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s to your friends, to your family member, to someone you’ve met in person, or if you advertise it on a particular platform or website, and then you later meet that person and then sell them the firearm — that’s all protected under the private sale,” Johnston said, adding the report casts a negative light on private sales.

“It’s your constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. And you can’t really do that, unless you can go out and purchase a firearm or sell a firearm.”

Gun control advocates, such as Everytown for Gun Safety, applauded the new rules, saying they would save lives and keep guns off the streets.

“The law is now clear: If you’re selling firearms at a gun show or online, you are presumed to be engaged in the business of dealing guns and must obtain a license and run background checks on all customers,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “This game-changing rule will thwart criminals, save lives, and serve as a testament to the Biden-Harris Administration’s steadfast commitment to keeping communities safe from gun violence.”

Johnston said his group is going to lobby Congress to overturn the rule and file a possible lawsuit.

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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