Mayor Bloomberg grabbed national news again. No, he didn't actively solve a problem for city residents. Rather he sent investigators over to Arizona to demonstrate that people can purchase weapons at gun shows from gun dealers without passing background checks. In this case, according to the news, the investigators told the dealers that they probably wouldn't pass a background check yet still were able to obtain the weapons. Statements by officials from the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives indicate that it isn't clear that law was broken though they implied that they would prefer if Bloomberg didn't go out of his way to try making them look foolish.
So what have we learned from this:
(1) Mayor Bloomberg loves preening on the national stage. Not news, just a reminder that he would do a much better job as mayor if he stopped trying to grab headlines. Given all the issues in New York City, the mayor should focus more attention on his job... after all he violated two popular referendums on term limits to purchase the mayoral title!
(2) Paid vacations to Arizona are a perk if you can convince someone high enough up that you will get headlines. While I am happy to see that some of NYC's finest enjoyed time in the warm sun, why are NYC taxpayers subsidizing these misadventures? Most of the weapons found in NYC are purchased on the East Coast so a more local investigation would certainly been more justifiable than this boondoggle. Yes, I know they are riding the Gifford's shooting news wave. I do hope that they remembered to wear sunscreen whenever they found themselves on the golf course... I mean staking out a gun show.
(3) The US's national gun laws and Second Amendment fundamentalists are so remarkably alien to anyone from another country that it is mind boggling. I cordially invite every American to try this conversation on someone who was raised in a wealthy country outside the US (Western Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand...). First, explain that both the incarceration and the murder rates in the US are about 2 to 10 times more than most other wealthy countries. Second, remind them that the majority of murders in the US are gun-related. Lastly, state with the utmost confidence that while America has some of the world's most liberal gun laws, there will be no major changes to these laws... and watch how insane they think you are.
Sometimes federal agencies benefit from being shown up and they are prompted to take meaningful action. Attorney General Elliot Spitzer did some positive things when he held a mirror to the unjustness of many business practices, rather than hoping for the federal agencies to take action. Publicity was certainly a motivation for Spitzer, but he was able to justify that his actions fell into his legal jurisdiction. Can Bloomberg argue that this was anything more than a taxpayer-funded vacation/publicity stunt?
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