Undercover video shot by New York City-backed investigators shows independent dealers selling weapons to people who admit they wouldn't pass a background check—an illegal act the city says is a source of guns in the hands of criminals, terrorists and Mexican drug gangs.
Here's one of the videos released by the city.
The exercise wasn’t conducted by the NYPD, ATF or any other government agency. Instead, Mayor Mike Bloomberg—expected to roll to re-election Nov. 3—turned to security and investigations firm Kroll Inc., which boasts 65 offices in 33 countries.
The city touted the sting to highlight the "gun show loophole," in which unlicensed dealers can sell guns without performing a background check on the buyer. But if the dealer has reason to suspect that the buyer wouldn’t pass the check, the sale is forbidden.
According to a 37-page report on the sting, 35 out of 47 sellers approached by investigators completed illegal sales to people who said they would not bass a background check, or to "straw" purchasers fronting for others.
Kroll supervised 40 private investigators at seven gun shows. They concealed cameras in baseball hats and purses and had lenses "no larger than the tip of a ballpoint pen," the report says. The synchronized audio recording devices were hidden in watches.
The city posted the report, a press release and some of the video on a new Website, www.gunshowundercover.org, dedicated to the operation, but wouldn’t comment further on the investigation or if any arrests resulted.
"It is just too sensitive a topic for us," a spokesman said in e-mail.
Still, the Website provides plenty of information on the sting, and the undercover video footage is dressed up with lively editing and inviting presentation that resembles a television news undercover segment more than a typical government operation.
For the video, and for the link to the report on the sting itself, www.gunshowundercover.org is the Government Video Website of the Week. One city that was a location for one of the gun shows in the investigation, Sharonville, Ohio, issued a statement reacting to the sting.
"It is nice that Mayor Bloomberg has spent New York money hiring private investigators to identify alleged crimes of federal law in other states. However, proper arrests cannot be made without informing the Sharonville Police Department. Customarily, we are informed of these types of investigations so that we can coordinate with the appropriate federal agency.
To our knowledge no federal agency was informed of this private investigation and, therefore, makes enforcement of these particular incidents impossible. (sic)"
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