January 31, 2011 2:03 pm ET - by Chris Brown
In the days following the Tucson shooting that left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in critical condition, New York City sent undercover investigators to an Arizona gun show to explore how easy it was to buy weapons without a background check. Just 15 days after the shooting, and just over 100 miles from where it happened, the investigators bought a Glock and a 33-round magazine — with no background check.
This new investigation is an expansion of the original 2009 Gun Show Undercover operation, which documented sales at seven gun shows in three states: Ohio, Tennessee and Nevada. At all locations investigators identified private sellers that failed integrity tests. An integrity test is the legal standard that private sellers are held to and means, if a private seller "knows" or "has reason to believe" the buyer is in a prohibited category, such as felons and drug abusers, it is illegal to go through with the sale.
The new investigation revealed the ease with which a convicted felon could purchase the very same weapons used by accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner:
In two instances, the New York undercover officers specifically said before buying a gun, "I probably couldn't pass a background check," but were still sold guns, city officials said.
In a third case, an investigator bought a Glock pistol and two high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Tucson shooting. Such purchases were made without any background check but were perfectly legal. [....]
According to a transcript from one investigator's purchase of a Sig Sauer pistol at the Phoenix show, the exchange went like this:
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?"
Investigator: "That's good, because I probably couldn't pass one, you know what I mean?"
The seller sold the gun for $500.
Guns purchased in Arizona were also the focus of a recent federal indictment accusing 20 people of participating in a gun ring that allegedly purchased more than 700 guns to smuggle into Mexico to arm Mexican drug cartels. The logistics of making mass purchases of firearms didn't appear any more difficult than bypassing the federal background check system at gun shows:
Officials say one buyer who is accused of making six buys for the ring purchased 48 guns.
In all, 560 of the ring's guns were recovered, a third in Mexico and the rest mostly in Arizona.
The indictment was unsealed Tuesday and will likely renew the nation's gun law debate in the wake of the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
According to MSNBC, officials said the alleged "straw buyers" had no trouble buying the guns and passing federal background checks despite buying multiple firearms and spending large amounts of cash. In one case, seven people spent $104,251 in cash at several Phoenix-area dealers to purchase 140 firearms, according to officials.
Indeed, the federal indictment indicates the smugglers purchased 600 of the 700 arms at a single gun store:
According to the indictment, ATF officials determined that more than 600 of the 700 guns purchased by the network had come from a single U.S. gun store, Lone Wolf Trading Co. in Glendale, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb. Lone Wolf was not charged with any wrongdoing.
Last year, The Post reported that Lone Wolf ranked first among U.S. stores with the most guns traced to Mexican crime scenes, with 185 firearms traced to Mexico over a two-year period.
Both the ability of convicted felons to purchase firearms at gun shows and the flow of American-purchased firearms to Mexican cartels has been demonstrated before. Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association has been active in opposing legislation and calls from law enforcement to enact common sense policies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.
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