Huffpost New York
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Michael R. Bloomberg Headshot

Gun Show Undercover

Posted: Updated:
Print

Ever wonder how criminals are able to get guns so easily? It's depressingly simple. On any given weekend, at dozens of gun shows held in states across the country -- criminals can buy guns from "private sellers" who are not required to perform background checks.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has identified gun shows as the source of more than 30% of all illegally trafficked guns in the country. Those are the guns most likely to be used in crimes -- and to kill innocent people, including police officers.

Today, New York City is releasing the results of a multi-state investigation into this activity: "Gun Show Undercover." We sent investigators with hidden cameras to seven gun shows across Ohio, Tennessee and Nevada, and we found out just how easy it is for criminals and the mentally ill to walk in and buy guns -- no questions asked.

Our investigators told the private sellers that they "probably couldn't pass a background check" -- and at that point, the seller should have sent them away. Because even private sellers are prohibited by federal law from selling to those who they have reason to suspect could not pass a background check.

Instead, 19 out of 30 private sellers made the sale.

2009-10-07-SharonvilleOH2.jpg

Our investigator tells a seller that he "probably couldn't pass" a background check and tests a gun.

These so-called private sellers are supposed to be making only occasional sales. According to federal law, they cannot be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms. But that's exactly what we found. We found private sellers with large inventories doing a brisk business. In fact, one private seller acknowledged selling 348 guns in less than a year.

At 2 p.m. today, you can watch our hidden camera videos and learn more about our investigation at www.nyc.gov/gunshow.

Now, why is the Mayor of New York City investigating gun shows in places like Ohio, Tennessee, and Nevada? Good question. And the answer is: because I have no other choice.

Even though New York is the safest big city in the country, and safer than most mid-sized cities, and even though we have the nation's toughest law against illegal possession of a loaded handgun, drug dealers and criminals continue to obtain guns from inter-state traffickers.

According to ATF, 89% of guns used in crimes in New York City last year originated out of state. Many cities around the country find themselves in the same situation. It is clear that we can't solve this problem by working only within our state. We need leadership from Washington to close loopholes that criminals exploit, and we need stronger enforcement of the laws already on the books.

2009-10-07-Nashville1.jpg

Our investigator tests a gun just before having a another investigator "do some paperwork" for him.

Congress should pass legislation requiring that all sales at gun shows be subject to criminal background checks -- a measure that has the support of Sen. John McCain, President Obama and 83% of gun owners. It is also time for Congress to support the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) with the resources it needs to crack down on illegal sales at gun shows.

The vast majority of gun buyers at gun shows are law abiding citizens. Closing the gun show loophole and increasing resources to help ATF enforce the laws will not detract from anyone's Second Amendment rights. What it will do is send the message that criminals are not welcome at gun shows.

Visit http://www.nyc.gov/gunshow.