January 31, 2011 / 8:28 PM / 6 years ago

New York City sting spotlights ease of buying guns at shows

3 Min Read

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An undercover sting at a Phoenix gun show found dealers sold weapons like the one used in the Tucson shooting rampage to questionable buyers without conducting background checks, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday.

Investigators working for New York City, prompted by the Tucson shooting that killed six people and injured 13, bought 9mm handguns at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Phoenix and secretly videotaped the transactions, Bloomberg said.

The mayor showed videotapes to the media of the January 23 sales at a news conference.

"You can still walk into a gun show and buy a 9mm in the same time it would take to buy a hamburger and fries at McDonalds," Bloomberg said.

Private gun show dealers are exempt from federal law requiring background checks of customers, Bloomberg said.

In one video, an undercover investigator is seen buying a gun in a legal transaction without a background check.

But in the other two videos, the sales were illegal because the investigators told the vendors they probably would be unable to pass a background check. Under federal law, the vendors should have stopped the sales and did not, he said.

Instead, the dealers on the videos replied that background checks would not be necessary to buy the guns.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show issued a statement calling the mayor's investigation "entrapment."

"Mayor Bloomberg and his 'task force' have no legal authority in the state of Arizona or in any other place in America except New York City," the statement said. "These forays into America's heartland committing blatant acts to entrap otherwise innocent gun owners is an unlawful scheme that is created by Bloomberg's task force."

Bloomberg said the findings were particularly disturbing in the wake of the January 8 shooting in Tucson, where U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords was severely injured.

"You would hope with the memory of the Tucson shootings still so painfully fresh, especially in the state of Arizona, people would think twice about selling a firearm to anyone who even hinted at not wanting to conduct a background check," said Bloomberg, who serves as co-chairman of the national coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Bloomberg said he would like to see a federal requirement for a background check of criminal records, drug use and psychological problems for any purchase of a firearm.

The exemption is based on a theory that gun show dealers are "a few friends selling the occasional gun out of their collection," the mayor said. However, some gun show dealers sell hundreds of guns, he said.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the gun-show exemption "a loophole you can drive a truck through."

Kelly estimated roughly 90 percent of the illegal guns New York police confiscate come from other states, and that many come from gun shows.

The U.S. has some of the most permissive gun laws in the developed world and Arizona has among the most permissive laws of U.S. states.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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