The Fog of Interstate Legality


If you haven’t seen the story, various elements of the media are between scratching their heads or complete hysterics, as they wonder just how a “teenager” of 18 years could purchase a shotgun in Colorado.

If you read that and are saying to yourself, “Because she’s 18 and has no disqualifying record.” you would have used a basis of logic that seems to escape many.

For context, the story we are discussing is that of Sol Pais, a Florida teen with a published digital trail concluding on a dangerous obsession with the Columbine school shooting.

The conclusion arrived at by authorities was that she was a high risk of commiting a copycat shooting and had possibly set out to do just that.

She made her way to Colorado, purchased a shotgun at a dealer (NICS check and all), and by all current reports then took her own life instead of commiting the attack authorities feared.

Schools were secured in the region until the clear was given.

So what’s the kerfuffle about?

How was a 18 year old Floridian girl able to buy a shotgun in Colorado, because Florida changed its age requirement to 21?

No, not ‘how come the fears of her probable copycat attack could not be flagged in NICS after, say, examination by a judge?’ It is how could an 18 year old buy a shotgun out of state when her home state requires her to be 21.

This has since become a game of finger pointing. Some of the inquiring body are referencing a passage stating that an out of state dealer must comply with their state laws and those of the purchasers residency as well.

[18 U.S.C. 922(b)(3); 27 CFR 478.99(a)]

Generally, a firearm may not lawfully be sold by a licensee to a nonlicensee who resides in a State other than the State in which the seller’s licensed premises is located. However, the sale may be made if the firearm is shipped to a licensee whose business is in the purchaser’s State of residence and the purchaser takes delivery of the firearm from the licensee in his or her State of residence. In addition, a licensee may sell a rifle or shotgun to a person who is not a resident of the State where the licensee’s business premises is located in an over–the–counter transaction, provided the transaction complies with State law in the State where the licensee is located and in the State where the purchaser resides. [Emphasis added]

Last Reviewed September 10, 2015

The passage seems to indicate the burden of knowledge is on the seller to be up to date on all 50 states various gun laws.

The ATF, however, have declared the transaction was legal and that the FFL in Colorado is not at fault in any way. Reasonable, in my opinion.

Florida’s law appears to effect only its residents while in state. They will apparently sell long guns to persons 18-20 who are not Florida residents and thus Florida residents purchasing out of state may not be subject to the in state restriction, just the normal federal ones.

It is entirely unreasonable, in my view, for an FFL to be the accountable entity for the legislative quagmire that constitutes the mass of the entire nation’s firearm regulations. That burden should be on the FBI and their NICS system or the equivalent state systems to flag noncompliance with the law and form the basis, when necessary, for arrest, prosecution, or any other intervention.

The FFL should be accountable for accurately transmitting the provided information for the check and on their recognizance for the warning signs of criminal activity, especially per any information that they get from local LE organizations, the ATF, or the FBI. They are not legal experts on the intricacies of interstate firearms law on the state by state level, they are federal dealers.

In short, the overly complex, overregulated, and poorly meshed layers of legalise make it a nightmare to navigate the rules and try to remain in the right of them all while trying to conduct business and check due diligence.

So who’s fault is it a disturbed eighteen year old, a legal adult who can vote, drive, purchase, make medical decisions, and has all the adult self sovereignty an eighteen year old legally possess to include buying a firearm, bought a firearm?


Ultimately the responsibility for her actions was hers. If anyone else holds a degree of liability for what might have happened, it would be those who manage the information system designed to warn FFL’s of those persons who should not be buying a firearm.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.