New York cracks down on illegal gun sales

Published 8 February 2011

An undercover operation by New York City investigators at an Arizona gun show highlighted the ease with which people with questionable backgrounds can purchase weapons; investigators were able to purchase several handguns despite clearly stating that they would not be able to pass background checks; federal laws do not require background checks at gun shows, but it is illegal for dealers to sell weapons to individuals who they suspect could not pass a background check due to mental instability or a criminal record; investigators were able to purchase a Glock and large capacity magazines, the same used in the Tucson shooting, without any background checks; terrorists seeking to obtain weapons have been found purchasing weapons from gun shows

Gun shows are an important vulerability to control // Source:

New York City is helping to crack down on illegal gun sales across the United States.

In the wake of the Arizona shooting that left six dead and thirteen injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), New York sent special agents to investigate an Arizona gun show and found alarming failures in the background check system.

John Feinblatt, an adviser to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, “The background check system failed in Arizona, it failed in Virginia and it fails in states around the country,” and “if we don’t fix it now, the question is not whether another massacre will occur, but when.”

Undercover investigators at the Arizona gun show were able to purchase several handguns and extended capacity magazines despite telling sellers that they could not pass background checks.

Federal laws do not require private sellers to run background checks on customers, but they are required by law to not sell guns to people that they suspect could be convicted felons or mentally unstable and therefore unable to pass a background check.

In two instances, agents specifically stated, “I probably couldn’t pass a background check,” before purchasing weapons.

According to one transcript, an investigator had the following exchange:

Investigator: “So, you’re not one of those, you know, dealer guys, right?”

Seller: “No. No tax, no form, you don’t have to do transfers or nothing.”

Investigator: “Yeah, yeah.”

Seller: “Just see an Arizona ID and that’s it with me.”

Investigator: “So no background check?”

Seller: “No.”

Investigator: “That’s good, because I probably couldn’t pass one, you know what I mean?”

The seller went on to sell the investigator a pistol for $500.

Investigators also purchased a Glock pistol and two-high capacity magazines, the same used by Jared Loughner in the fatal Tucson shooting, without having to undergo any background checks.

The investigation occurred on 23 January 2011 at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Phoenix, Arizona.

In response to the findings, Bob Templeton, president of the Crossroads of the West Gun show, stated, “When we find someone who isn’t complying with the law, we ask them to leave or don’t allow them back.”

Arizona’s attorney general, Tom Horne, and Arizona governor Jan Brewer were not pleased with the undercover operation, openly criticizing Mayor Bloomberg.

On Fox News, Governor Brewer said, “He’s out here in Arizona solving our problems. I guess he believes that he has solved all the problems in New York.”

Horne added that “The fact that no such notification was made indicates this so-called sting is nothing less than a public relations stunt.”

He went on to say that Mayor Bloomberg should not waste resources in other states and instead work on reducing New York’s “skyrocketing crime rate.”

In defending the investigation, Jason Post, an aide to Mayor Bloomberg, said that 90 percent of guns recovered from crimes in New York are from out of state and therefore it is critical that law enforcement officials help crack down on illegal gun sales.

Lax gun control laws at gun shows are also exploited by terrorists seeking to obtain weapons.

In 2000, Ali Boumelhem was arrested for shipping weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah.

Federal agents observed Boumelhem and his brother attending gun shows and purchasing weapons to be shipped overseas. They had amassed an arsenal of shotguns, assault weapons, and hundreds of round of ammunition.

Ali Boumelhem had a criminal record and was therefore unable to purchase weapons from stores, instead he took advantage of gun show laws to purchase these weapons.

Past investigations launched by New York City found similar violations in other states and eventually led to agreements with gun show operators requiring that private sellers conduct background checks for all gun buyers.