Stephanie Soechtig, the director, producer, and writer for Katie Couric’s scandal-plagued anti-gun documentary “Under The Gun,” confirmed in a statement to The Federalist today that her production team skirted federal gun laws governing interstate gun purchases.
During an interview with The Lip TV, Soechtig stated that one of her producers, a male from Colorado, purchased three handguns and a rifle from a private, non-licensed individual in Arizona and that a background check was never required. Federal law states that all interstate gun purchases must be processed by a federal firearms licensee (FFL). Under federal law, FFLs must confirm that prospective buyers have passed federal background checks prior to transferring ownership of guns to those buyers.
In response to a series of detailed questions about the incident posed by The Federalist, Soechtig simultaneously confirmed that she and her team skirted federal gun laws and declared that they did absolutely nothing wrong:
“While it may seem hard to believe that one could buy these types of guns this easily, all purchases in the film were made completely legally. Arizona law allows out-of-state residents to buy long guns (i.e. rifles, shotguns, military style assault rifles) from a private seller without a background check. It also allows Arizona residents to buy handguns from a private seller without a background check.
“We demonstrated both versions of this dangerous loophole in the film on a hidden camera, in full compliance with both state and federal laws. The rifles – including a Smith and Wesson M&P 15, the gun used in the Aurora massacre – were purchased by an out of state resident. The handgun was purchased by an Arizona resident.
“These guns were then turned over to law enforcement and destroyed. They never left the state of Arizona.”
When combined with her statements during her interview with The Lip TV, Soechtig’s latest statement provides clear evidence that she and her team did not follow all applicable gun laws.
In the videotaped interview, Soechtig stated that all of the weapons, including the rifles, were purchased without the buyer having to undergo a federal background check.
“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,” Soechtig declared. “And that’s perfectly legal.”
And in her statement provided to The Federalist, Soechtig admitted that multiple rifles were purchased by a non-Arizona resident.
Federal and state gun law experts contacted by The Federalist vehemently disagreed with Soechtig’s declaration that out-of-state residents can legally purchase guns from private Arizona residents without processing the sales through a licensed federal gun dealer.
The Federalist spoke to a large FFL in the Phoenix area and asked about Soechtig’s interpretation of state and federal laws. Is it legal for an out-of-state resident to buy a gun in Arizona without involving an FFL in the transaction?
“Absolutely not!” the licensed gun dealer said during a phone conversation on Monday afternoon. “We’re talking about federal law here. If you are not an Arizona resident, you cannot legally buy a gun here without going through an FFL.”
“An Arizona FFL can process a long gun purchase and the background check for an out of state buyer,” he said. “Otherwise, an FFL in the buyer’s home state has to process the transaction.”
“Interstate sales between private individuals are a big no-no,” he concluded.
Alan Korwin, a nationally recognized expert on firearms law and author of “Gun Laws Of America,” the unabridged guide to the nation’s gun laws, told The Federalist that the transactions engineered by Couric’s production team appear to violate multiple federal gun laws.
“It appears that Katie Couric and her producer arranged to have firearms transferred to themselves outside their home state from an otherwise innocent person,” Korwin said. “That clearly is an illegal transfer under federal law, each transfer of which is a federal felony.”
Korwin’s interpretation also matches that of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). According to the ATF’s own website, the interstate firearms transactions described by Soechtig likely violated federal gun trafficking laws:
May an unlicensed person acquire a firearm under the GCA in any State?
Generally, a person may only acquire a firearm within the person’s own State. Exceptions include the acquisition pursuant to a lawful bequest, or an over–the–counter acquisition of a rifle or shotgun from a licensee where the transaction is allowed by the purchaser’s State of residence and the licensee’s State of business. A person may borrow or rent a firearm in any State for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes.
[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3); 27 CFR 478.29]
According to Soechtig’s own admission, her producer acquired multiple rifles in another state without doing an “over-the-counter acquisition…from a [federal firearms licensee]” and without undergoing a federal background check, which is required by law. But that may not be the only law violated by Katie Couric’s production team.
If they gave the seller reason to believe that their buyer was not a resident of Arizona, then they induced the seller to commit a federal crime. Under 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(5), it is unlawful for any non-FFL to transfer ownership of a firearm to anyone he knows or reasonably suspects resides in a state other than the one in which the seller resides. The Federalist asked Soechtig to provide the name of the seller as well as the original online gun listing for the sale but received no information prior to publication of this article. She also declined to provide the identity of the out-of-state resident who purchased the rifles or to state whether he acquired the firearms across state lines at her direction.
Last Friday, the ATF told the Washington Free Beacon, a widely respected investigative news website, that it was “unclear” if Soechtig and her team broke any laws.
“ATF is aware of the allegations, however, the outcome of the private sale in question is unclear and it is not evident if a violation occurred,” ATF spokesman Dillon McConnell said.
But Soechtig’s latest statement, in which she admits that she and her team deliberately purchased multiple rifles across state lines without processing the transaction through an FFL, makes the outcome of the private sale in question abundantly clear: her team deliberately set up a transaction in which an out-of-state resident acquired a firearm from an individual in another state without processing the purchase through a licensed gun dealer.
One key portion of Soechtig’s new statement, however, directly contradicts key portions of her previous interview with The Lip TV. In that interview, Soechtig said her out-of-state producer purchased three handguns in Arizona without going through an FFL. In the most recent statement, Soechtig states that only one handgun was purchased and that it was purchased by an Arizona resident, not a Colorado resident. Under federal law, all interstate handgun purchases must be processed by an FFL in the buyer’s home state. If Soechtig’s latest statement is an accurate representation of what happened, then it is unclear why she originally claimed that three handguns were legally purchased by an out-of-state resident without going through an FFL.
The Federalist contacted multiple state and local law enforcement agencies in Arizona to ask about Soechtig’s interpretation of state and federal gun trafficking laws, and none of them said that the purchases described by Soechtig were legal under state and federal law.