A gun store display. (Michael Saechang / CC 2.0)

Seven hundred fifty-nine dollars and 99 cents, identification and seven minutes: That’s all it took for Philadelphia journalist Helen Ubiñas to purchase an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, one of the deadliest weapons available.

Following the horrifying attack at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla., that left 50 people dead (included Omar Mateen, the shooter), attention is again turning to gun laws. Since Sunday’s attack, members of Congress have staged a filibuster to protest lack of legislative action on gun control; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have raised the issue for political means; and Ubiñas, a daily news columnist for philly.com, decided to buy a gun.

Ubiñas writes about the effortless process:

I need to come up with some plausible story, I think. What if I’m asked why, a day after this massacre, I want to buy the very type of gun used to slaughter people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. …

Turns out I don’t need a story. The AR-15 is on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week.

What will it take to buy one, I ask the sales guy.

Did I have identification? Yes.

Was I a U.S. citizen? Yes.

“Bingo,” the friendly gun shop sales guy said. “All we have to do is fill paperwork out.”

No need for a concealed carry permit. No mandatory training, though the guys did give me a coupon for a free day pass for a local gun range. No need for even a moment to at least consider how gross all of this felt as relatives of the dead were still being notified.

She goes on to explain how, once having purchased the gun, she doesn’t know how to get rid of it. “I didn’t want it, but I also didn’t want it in anyone else’s hands either,” she says, before deciding to drive to the nearest police station and simply turn the gun in. “Have you ever tried to turn in a gun in this city?” Ubiñas writes. “Spoiler alert: It takes longer than it does to buy a gun.”

By “this city,” she is referring to Philadelphia, which has historically high rates of gun violence (although it is making significant progress in reversing that).

But Pennsylvania is probably not going to change its gun laws very soon, as Philadelphia Magazine notes:

The National Rifle Association has a friend in Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled General Assembly. In its regular “report cards” for lawmakers, the lobbying group gave Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai a perfect grade of A+, Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed an A, and Republican House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler an A, according to VoteSmart.org’s database of NRA scores. Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman got an A+ and Republican Senate Whip John Gordner got an A, as well.

It’s not just top Republicans who are in good standing with the NRA. In the proudly pro-gun state of Pennsylvania, the two highest-ranking Democrats in the House have received top marks from the group, too. Democratic Minority Leader Frank Dermody has an A grade from the NRA; so does Democratic Whip Michael Hanna.

So as disheartening as Ubiñas’ experience may be, her anecdote is a reminder of the deep pockets of the NRA, which will unfortunately take more than seven minutes to overcome.

—Posted by Emma Niles


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