Private gun sellers at an Arizona gun show didn't always require background checks of those who bought weapons, an undercover investigation by the Bloomberg administration revealed.
The investigation, part of Bloomberg's effort to crack down on illegal gun sales nationwide, came weeks after a Tucson shooting that killed six people and injured 13 others, including Rep Gabrielle Giffords.
Bloomberg urged Congress last week to ensure the system for background checks on firearms purchases includes the names of everyone prohibited from buying weapons.
In another attempt to shift the political climate on gun control, post-Tucson, the Bloomberg administration released a series of undercover videos Monday pointing to lax enforcement of laws at a gun show in Arizona.
The videos include one encounter, in which an undercover investigator posing as a buyer at the Crossroads of the West gun show attempts to buy a handgun. At one point, the investigator asks the seller whether he'd have to go through a background check. When the seller shakes his head, the investigator replies, "That's good, because I probably couldn't pass one, you know what I mean?"
Then the seller proceeds with the sale.
That's illegal: although "occasional" dealers at gun show don't usually have to run background checks, the law requires them to do so if it's likely the buyer wouldn't pass one. Watch the exchange here.
In response to the videos, the Crossroads of the West gun show released a defiant statement, arguing that law-enforcement oversight at all events is "conducted on a regular basis."
"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," read the statement. "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 result of the task force's illegal activity is the entrapment of individuals by involving them in a crime which the "investigators" themselves actually initiated and committed."
The mayor, further cementing his position as one of the nation's most vocal proponents of gun control, has held several gun control events since the Tucson shootings. He has called upon Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and to vastly expand the number of felons or mentally-ill people prevented from buying guns.
Despite his efforts, his remarks suggested that the shift in Congress has been slim, at best.
"Some elected officials are cognisant of our efforts," he said. "And they're maybe less comfortable with their positions than they were in the past."
Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
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