Updated 12/14/2011 10:34 PM
Bloomberg Works To Halt Illegal Gun Sales Online
An undercover investigation by the city into online gun sales shows that 77 out of 125 private sellers were willing to make a sale to buyers who couldn't pass background checks, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now looking to crack down on these transactions. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
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After years of waging war on illegal guns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is looking to tackle the 40 percent of gun sales that take place privately, not through licensed dealers.
“Many of them are done online with no background check, no records kept of sales and no questions asked,” said Bloomberg.
While online sales are legal, it’s a felony if a seller has reason to believe the buyer can’t pass a background check. Undercover investigators contacted 125 sellers in 14 states and found 62 percent willing to do just that.
In five instances, investigators then purchased the gun in person, including a Ruger nine-millimeter like the one allegedly used to kill NYPD Officer Peter Figoski.
Similar operations in the past have raised the question: is it a good use of city taxpayer dollars to conduct investigations so far outside of the city’s jurisdiction?
According to city officials, this investigation cost less than $300,000. Officials also point out that after a similar investigation into out-of-state gun shows two years ago, four of the seven shows targeted improved their practices.
“If you shine a spotlight on this, you can change behavior. This is the first time anybody’s shining a spotlight on internet sales,” said John Feinblatt, the mayor’s chief policy advisor.
City officials say it should be the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms doing the monitoring and websites doing better self-policing. Bloomberg is also calling for background checks on all gun sales—even private, person-to-person sales.
“We just need a few minor laws from Congress, and they’re really just enforcement or loophole-closing laws to add to the federal laws that they already put on the books,” said Bloomberg.
As for those sellers, the city can do nothing to prosecute them, but it has forwarded the evidence to federal authorities.