This afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce the results of an unprecedented undercover investigation of illegal sales at gun shows by the City of New York. At 2pm, you'll be able to see the investigation's undercover videos at: GunShowUndercover.org.
From a press release issued by the office of Mayor Bloomberg:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the results of a wide-ranging undercover investigation by the City of New York into illegal gun sales. The investigation, which covered seven gun shows in three states, proves on video how easy it is for criminals to buy firearms at gun shows. 35 of 47 gun sellers sold to people who said either they probably could not pass a background check or to apparent “straw purchasers.” The videos will be available on www.nyc.gov/gunshow. The accompanying report, Gun Show Undercover, also available online, documents the extent of the gun show problem, the City's investigative techniques, and offers recommendations on how illegal sales can be prevented.
The undercover investigation sent professional investigators to seven gun shows in Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee to determine whether sellers would engage in two types of illegal transactions. The first involves private sellers selling guns to people who they thought could not pass a federal background check. The second involves licensed dealers conducting illegal straw sales, which are sales made to accomplices posing as buyers in order to help the real buyer avoid a criminal background check.
“The gun show loophole is a deadly serious problem – and this undercover operation exposes just how pervasive and serious it is,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We are sending a copy of our detailed report Gun Show Undercover to every member of the United States Congress. We'll work with Congressional leaders to pass legislation closing the gun show loophole. This is an issue that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment; it's about keeping guns from criminals, plain and simple.”
Private Sellers Exploited the Gun Show Loophole
Even though private unlicensed sellers are not required to run background checks using the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check system, it is a federal felony for them to sell guns to people they have reason to believe are prohibited purchasers (such as felons or the mentally ill). In purchases attempted on 30 private sellers, the undercover investigator showed interest in buying a gun by asking about stopping power or by dry-firing the weapon. After agreeing on a price, the undercover would indicate that he probably couldn't pass a background check. At that point, the seller is required by law to refuse the sale – but only 11 out of 30 sellers did so. Investigators found private dealers who failed these integrity tests at every show, including two sellers who failed at multiple shows. In total, 19 of the 30 private sellers approached failed the integrity test.
The 11 sellers who terminated the sale confirmed that private sellers know the law. As one seller in Columbus, Ohio, explained “I mean even as a private citizen, I'm kind of allowed a certain latitude, but once you say that [you can't pass the background check], I'm kind of obligated not to...I think that's what the rules are.”
The investigation also revealed that some private sellers are in fact apparently “engaged in the business” of selling firearms without a federal license, in violation of the law. For example, one seller sold to investigators at three different gun shows and acknowledged selling 348 assault rifles in less than one year.
Licensed Dealers Sell to Straw Purchaser at a Gun Show
Undercover investigators also approached licensed dealers at gun shows and simulated straw purchases. A straw sale, a violation of federal law, occurs when a dealer allows someone who is not the actual buyer of the gun to fill out the paperwork and undergo the background check. Each integrity test of licensed dealers involved two investigators. The first was a male investigator who played the role of a person who wants to purchase a handgun but does not fill out any of the required paperwork. The other investigator, a female, served as the “straw” and appeared to be buying the handgun on behalf of the male. This scenario is typical of the straw purchases identified by ATF in its training program, which is designed to teach licensed dealers how to spot straw purchases.
All but one (16 of 17, or 94%) licensed dealer approached by City investigators failed the integrity test by selling to apparent straw purchasers. Only a dealer at a gun show in Niles, Ohio ended the sale after the straw attempted to fill out the paperwork.
Through the licensed and private seller scenarios, investigators purchased 38 guns in total, 36 semi-automatic handguns and 2 assault rifles.
About the Investigation
A team of 40 private investigators supervised by the firm Kroll, a global leader in business intelligence and investigations, worked for four months to capture video of gun shows. Licensed as private investigators in 17 different states, the investigative team has more than 460 years of combined law enforcement experience, including retired federal agents and police officers. Every investigator who participated in the integrity tests was required to complete an intensive training program designed and administered by Kroll.