Paula Reid, a producer for CBS News, walked into SpecDrive Tactical, a gun store in Alexandria, Virginia, recently to purchase a firearm.
Per Virginia law, she provided two items to prove state residency—a driver’s license and voter ID card—as well as her passport to prove U.S. citizenship.
She filled out federal and state forms requiring her name, date of birth, social security number and answered questions about any past criminal activity or current restraining orders. And she passed a brief electronic background check.
She paid $1,030 cash and walked out of the store legally armed with an AR-15 rifle, 100 rounds of ammunition and a 30-round magazine.
But what happened afterward has raised the question of the legality of the transaction.
The store reported that Reid told the store’s general manager, Ryan Lamke, that she wanted to purchase an AR-15 for her own use to undergo training.
“She refused basic, free instruction of firearms safety under the pretense that she was using the firearm for training with a NRA certified instructor,” Lamke said.
However, when CBS reported on the story in a segment that aired June 16, 2016, on “CBS This Morning” they revealed the gun was purchased for the story and transferred to a third party a few hours later. “The rifle we purchased was legally transferred to a federally licensed firearms dealer and weapons instructor in Virginia, just hours after we bought it,” the report said.
“Due to the information provided in the CBS News report filed today,” Lamke said, “I suspect Ms. Reid committed a straw purchase and procurement of a firearm under false pretenses.”
So the store’s owner, Jerry Rapp, filed a report with the Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives over concerns the purchase was unlawful. He feared the misdirection used by the CBS producer constituted a straw purchase, which would be a federal crime.
“The law is very clear. When you knowingly attempt to purchase a firearm with the intent of giving it to another person, you are trying to bypass the legal pathway to firearms ownership,” Rapp said. “This, in itself, is a very serious crime. I do not see how any member of the press can get away with potentially committing a felony just to boost their ratings and mislead the general public.”
The ATF acknowledged the questions surrounding the CBS News report but did not say whether or not it was currently investigating it.
“ATF is aware of the story, however, the details and the outcome of the sale in question is unclear and it is not evident if a violation occurred,” Corey Ray, ATF spokesperson, told the Washington Free Beacon. “In the event that an investigation is initiated, as a matter of policy, ATF does not comment on or acknowledge ongoing investigations.”
CBS insisted that the actions of its employees were legal.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.