In a press conference held today to announce a new "report" entitled "Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal Online Gun Sales", New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a full frontal attack on private gun sales and Internet classified sites. In a scene reminiscent from his earlier "investigations" involving gun shows, Bloomberg's private investigators trolled 10 websites and called 125 private sellers. The sites included Craigslist (which doesn't allow firearms classifieds), Armslist.com, and GlockTalk.com. Supposedly, 77 out of 125 sellers agreed to sell a firearm to someone who self-identified as a prohibited person.
The InvestigationGiven these were private detectives and not commissioned police officers, I wonder about the legality of recording either the phone calls as well as the face-to-face transactions. Many states - and I don't know if the states in question were chosen to avoid this - forbid the recording of conversations unless both parties are aware of it and this goes double for videotaping. These are the same laws being used against the public when they record police encounters that go wrong.
The City hired licensed private investigators supervised by the global investigative firm Kroll to conduct a series of online purchases. Investigators captured audio of telephone calls with private sellers who advertise on websites, and used concealed cameras during in-person interactions. The investigative team placed telephone calls to 125 private sellers who posted online gun advertisements on 10 websites in 14 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
A clear majority of the sellers – 77 of 125 private sellers – failed the integrity test by agreeing to sell to a purchaser who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.
Private sellers on Craigslist failed the integrity test at the highest rate, despite the fact that the site says that it prohibits the listing of weapons on its server. On the five websites where investigators contacted the most sellers, an illegal sale was agreed to:
Craigslist.com: 82 percent of the time
Glocktalk.com: 78 percent
Gunlistings.org: 77 percent
KSL.com: 67 percent
Armslist.com: 54 percent
Bloomberg's report is pushing the following recommendations:
• Federal law should require a background check for every gun sale. Legislation now pending in both chambers of Congress – The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 (S.436/H.R.1781 (112th Congress)) – would enact this reform.The report also brings in the shootings on the campuses of Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. As has been reported before, the shooter at Virginia Tech purchased one of his pistols over the Internet. However, and this report downplays it, the pistol was shipped to a FFL in Virginia, the shooter then filled out an ATF Form 4473, and then a NICS check was run.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives(ATF) should improve enforcement of existing laws. ATF should conduct undercover investigations on a variety of websites, track whether guns recovered in crimes were originally sold online and offer online tutorials to train sellers and buyers on federal gun laws governing online sales.
• Websites should adopt tougher protocols to deter crime. Websites that permit gun sales should demand transparency from sellers and buyers, facilitate reporting
of suspicious behavior by site users and swiftly remove prohibited listings.
As unfortunately is to be expected, the mainstream media is lapping this up. The story was aired on ABC News as the number two story of the day. It was introduced by Diane Sawyer with her most concerned look and was uncritically reported by Pierre Thomas who hung on Mayor Bloomberg's every word.
While I don't expect the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 to go anywhere in this Congress, any move made by Mayor Bloomberg and his Illegal Mayors is to be watched. Unlike the rest of the gun prohibitionists, Bloomberg has the money and the business acumen needed to have an impact on gun rights and firearm ownership.