Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference and claimed that an undercover investigation proved 74% of gun show sellers were breaking the law and selling to criminals. I was preparing to write an article explaining why that statement is untrue, and how this is just another disingenuous publicity stunt, when I learned that the NRA had already done a great job explaining those points. That NRA article is quoted below:
Bathed in camera flashes during a “news conference” on October 7, 2009, New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg was in his element in announcing “a wide-ranging undercover investigation by the City of New York into illegal gun sales” that revealed “a willful disregard of the law” by “74% of gun show sellers.”
Or, so he claimed. The ego-driven multi-billionaire’s publicity stunt was neither “wide-ranging” nor representative of what occurs at gun shows, nor was it intended to be. And it determined nothing about “74%” of all gun show sellers.
Instead, as Bloomberg’s report on the stunt openly admits, his “investigators” attended gun shows only “in states . . . that supply crime guns trafficked across state lines at the highest rates,” only in neighborhoods with the highest incidence of “federal prosecutions for straw buying and trafficking, and proximity to urban areas experiencing gang violence,” and ultimately focused their attention on only 47 individuals who, based upon their comments and actions, seemed the most likely to violate a gun sale law.
Even that amount of deliberate skewing of Bloomberg’s sample of the nation’s “gun show sellers” did not work as he expected. Only 35 of the 47 (hence, the fraudulent “74%” claim) ultimately exercised poor judgment with respect to a gun sale law or, in perhaps some of the cases, may have been willing to break a law, and thus be subject to prosecution.
Anti-gun groups and politicians immediately heralded Bloomberg’s effort as definitive proof of the need for more restrictions on guns. “Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Police Department, the public can see firsthand what goes on at these weapons markets,” said the Brady Campaign. “This investigation reveals how easy it is for criminals and even terrorists to purchase firearms at gun shows,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
And, since the day of fair, hard and objective reporting has apparently passed into journalism’s history, newspapers went along with Bloomberg’s charade like shills at a carnival game of chance, reminding us why public confidence in “the press” has dropped to 15% in annual polls.
“[I]n almost three out of four instances, undercover investigators were able to purchase guns illegally,” the New York Times dutifully reported. Bloomberg’s investigators “repeatedly bought guns from unlicensed dealers at gun shows even though they disclosed they probably couldn’t pass a background check,” said the Washington Post. “Bloomberg’s sting documented that these transient marketplaces for guns, ammunition and accessories are a multibillion-dollar business that is funneling weapons directly into criminals’ hands, in plain sight,” said the New York Daily News. “Any doubt that stricter regulation would be helpful was removed last week when the results of an undercover investigation of gun show sales in Tennessee and two other states was released by the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal editorialized.
Bloomberg’s bottom line? You guessed it. Congress should adopt S. 843 and H.R. 2324 to “close the gun show loophole by requiring background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.” Bloomberg and his media friends failed to mention, of course, that both bills also propose that gun show promoters be registered, be required to pay unspecific fees, and be required to maintain ledgers of all non-dealers who bring firearms to shows (even if they bring them to sell only to dealers). H.R. 2324 further proposes that promoters be required to provide such ledgers to the Attorney General. For more information about anti-gun show legislation, see our facts sheets on S. 843 (www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=229&issue=014) and H.R. 2324 (www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=252&issue=014).
Reporters worthy of the name would have pointed out that buying a gun for a family member or friend as a gift is not a straw purchase. It’s a violation of the law only to buy a gun for a prohibited person. And competent reporters would have also noticed that Bloomberg’s “investigation” actually undercuts his call for requiring background checks on non-dealer sales at gun shows. The most common gun sale violation, Bloomberg says, is that straw purchasers defeat the background check. Requiring more sales to be run through checks would not alleviate the straw purchase problem one whit.
Individuals—dealers and non-dealers alike—who knowingly break the law should, of course, be prosecuted, as NRA has long advocated. Obtaining and providing a gun for a prohibited person are both federal felonies, each punishable by 10 years in prison.
However, enforcing gun sale laws is the responsibility of the BATFE, and state and local agencies. Bloomberg has no jurisdiction in other cities, let alone outside New York State. His periodic interstate escapades, of which “Gun Show” is but the latest, are not only possibly illegal (in that they may violate firearm sales laws), but risk compromising federal, state and local law enforcement agencies’ investigations.
At the bottom line, Bloomberg’s effort shows that even when you work very hard to find law-breakers at gun shows, you find that such individuals are few and far between.
Once again, Hizzoner demonstrates his true priority—media grandstanding.