An undercover sting by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition against illegal guns revealed Monday that private gun dealers in Arizona are still selling high-powered semi-automatic guns to buyers who said they probably could not pass a background check.
The sales were captured in undercover video by private detectives and were shown at a news conference at City Hall.
The detectives bought the guns at the Crossroads Of The West Gun Show in Phoenix on January 23, or 15 days after the shooting in Tucson that left six dead and injured a congresswoman and more than a dozen others.
They were able to buy 9 mm semi-automatics with high-capacity magazines – similar to what was used in the Tucson shooting.
In at least one case, the sale was made even though the undercover detective said he probably would not pass a background check.
The checks are not required for guns purchased at gun shows, but it is illegal for a dealer to sell a gun to anyone they suspect is prohibited from buying one.
Bloomberg is calling on Congress to enact stricter gun control laws and close the so-called "gun show loophole."
"This exemption was meant to allow individuals to sell the occasional gun from their personal collections,” said the mayor. “But instead what has happened is that these so-called collectors and private sellers are using gun shows to run profitable businesses while criminals and traffickers are using privates sellers to buy guns anonymously and easily with no questions asked."
The mayor noted that 34 people a day die from gun violence and that 400,000 have been killed since 1968.
"That could be my loved one. I don't want that to happen, and the time to stop it is now," said Bloomberg.
"We pay the price right here in New York,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “Almost 90 percent of guns confiscated here, that the NYPD confiscates on the streets, are from out of state. Some are from states that are close, like Pennsylvania, and some are from states not so close like Texas, and, yes, Arizona, but gun traffickers don't respect state lines."
The promoter of the gun show, Robert Templeton, accused the mayor of overstepping his bounds, saying, "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."
The gun show's organizer also said the investigators likely broke the law because they were not likely Arizona inhabitants. According to the mayor's office, the detectives were.
City officials paid $100,000 to hire the private detectives.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which refused to comment on the findings, estimates 30 percent of all illegally trafficked firearms are connected to gun shows.
The White House also declined to comment on the task force's report.
Two years ago, undercover investigators at seven shows in three states, Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee, conducted a similar experiment. The mayor said that since then, some gun show operators have promised to enforce background checks.