Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Guns Across Borders

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a dramatic news conference yesterday to reveal that City investigators with hidden cameras went to the Crossroads of the West gun show in Phoenix, Arizona, resuming an investigation first conducted in 2009, when investigators visited six gun show, in three other states. A series of videos has been released, some clips from 2009 and some from the current study.

In this one (video below), the narrator explains

Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to run background checks but private, unlicensed gun dealers that call themselves collectors don't have to run those checks. This gap in the law allows criminals to buy guns at gun shows without fear of detection. That's the gun show loophole and it's one of the primary ways illegal guns wind up on our streets. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 30% of illegally trafficked guns are unrelated to gun shows.

A background check isn't required- unless the collector/dealer has reason to believe that the individual may not pass one. But in the 2009 sting, 19 of 31 dealers proceeded with a sale to a buyer who volunteered that he/she might not be able to pass a background check.

In the more recent investigation, Reuters reports, at least twice investigators were able to but a firearm after admitting they probably would not pass a background check. Bloomberg commented "You would hope with the memory of the Tucson shootings still so painfully fresh, especially in the state of Arizona, people would think twice about selling a firearm to anyone who even hinted at not wanting to conduct a background check."

Unless, apparently, the people (uh, person) would be Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Ever defiant, the Republican responded "We're strong people in Arizona. We believe in the Constitution, and we certainly support the Second Amendment." She asserted that gun laws are "something that the Legislature and I decide."

And so they do. At yesterday's press conference, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted

We pay the price right here in New York. Almost 90 percent of the guns we confiscate here, the NYPD confiscates on the streets of this city, are from out of state. Some are from states that are pretty close, like Pennsylvania. And some are from states that are not so close, such as Texas and, yes, Arizona. But gun traffickers don`t respect state lines.

Not only in New York City, though. Gun traffickers don't respect state lines- or national ones, as in December The Washington Post reported

Drug cartels have aggressively turned to the United States because Mexico severely restricts gun ownership. Following gunrunning paths that have been in place for 50 years, firearms cross the border and end up in the hands of criminals as well as ordinary citizens seeking protection.

"This is not a new phenomenon," (special agent in charge of the Houston field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Dewey)Webb said.

What is different now, authorities say, is the number of high-powered rifles heading south - AR-15s, AK-47s, armor-piercing .50-caliber weapons - and the savagery of the violence.

While law enforcement agencies in the U.S.A. have increased their efforts along the southwestern border (including Arizona) and "arrests of individual gunrunners have surged," the National Rifle Association has been on the job:

Federal authorities say more than 60,000 U.S. guns of all types have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years, helping fuel the violence that has contributed to 30,000 deaths

investigators rarely bring regulatory actions or criminal cases against U.S. gun dealers, in part because of laws backed by the gun lobby that make it difficult to prove cases.

So though neither the NRA nor Governor Brewer (nor Sarah Palin) is responsible for the rampage of Jared Loughner, it is not for lack of effort.

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