This kind of ties back in to my post about MAIG being a serious threat. But you can look at the PDF of Bloomberg’s gun show sting here, which shows considerable more detail than you’ll see in the video. It also evinces a knowledge of federal guns laws, and less of an attempt to hype gun shows as out of control arms bazaars for white supremacists and neo-nazis you often read from other gun control groups. Take this passage here:
For many Americans, gun shows are a family outing. For the gun enthusiast, there are a huge variety of guns â€“ new and used long guns and handguns, historical curios or related accessories â€“ and for the general shopper there are often other vendors selling clothing, books, or local crafts. The vast majority of vendors and customers at gun shows are law abiding citizens out to enjoy a day with others who share a common interest.
They then go on to make their case that unfortunately they are a significant source of guns for criminals, and it’s a compelling case, if you don’t take time to really understand what you’re looking at, the deceptions and distortions are very carefully hidden. In short, in reading the report with an open mind, I’m forced to admit this is the most compelling case against gun shows ever prepared by a group advocating for more gun control. But that’s not to say there aren’t deceptions and distortions, but those deceptions and distortions are very carefully hidden, and not obvious to a casual observer, even one fairly familiar with the gun culture and with some familiarity with federal gun laws.
The first distortion is in enhancing the scale of the problem. Â If you move to page 16 of the report, you’ll note that they report that 22 out of 33 transactions or 67% with private sellers failed their criteria, and on page 20 you will notice that 16 out of 17, or 94% of dealer transactions failed their criteria. Â But in their methods, note that they did not select a random sample of dealers of private sellers. They first looked for evidence of illegal activity before conducting their test buys:
Investigators chose private sellers to approach by looking for visual signs of engaging in the business without a license, including those selling large numbers of guns, those who appeared at multiple shows, and those selling guns with price tags and new in-the-box guns. Investigators also took note of conversations that private sellers had with customers and otherÂ sellers. They focused in particular on statements that the seller buys guns for resale, is reselling guns shortly after purchase, buys and sells a lot of guns, makes a lot of money on gun transactions, goes to gun shows frequently, or that additional kinds of guns other than those displayed are available.
Emphasis mine. In short, they observed for strong evidence of activity which was already against the law, and then approached the sellers to see if they’d be willing to engage in further activity that was a violation of the law. Not a surprise that many of them did. Their method for licensed dealers was no better:
Investigators chose FFLs to approach by watching for transactions exhibiting tell-tale signs of straw purchases. They also looked for licensed dealers engaging in business practices that rendered them vulnerable targets for gun traffickers, such as intermingling their private collections with their regular merchandise and employing a division of labor in which one clerk focuses on selling to customers while a completely different clerk oversees the paperwork.
Emphasis mine again. Intermingling their private collections with regular merchandise? Already illegal, and I don’t know any dealer who practices that. But in short, they spent their time looking for dealers who were already engaging in illegal activity, or for dealers who were suckers and engaging in poor business practices. But there was one dealer who denied the sale, and Bloomberg did include that in the report:
MALE DEALER #2 (MD2): Whoâ€™s buying what?
MALE INVESTIGATOR: [Inaudible]
MD2: OK. Can you own a gun buddy?
MD2: OK. Do you have a problem filling out a form? […]
MI: Alright, Yeah, no. I canâ€™t. Iâ€™m, Iâ€™m…Itâ€™s not going to be my gun so I wonâ€™t fill out the form.
MD2: Well we wonâ€™t put anything in your name. We just want to make sure youâ€™re a good guy.
MI: What form am I going to fill out then?
MD2: Same one she did.
MI: No, Well, I, Iâ€™m not going to do that, â€˜cause the gunâ€™s not for me.
MD2: Void it, baby.
Emphasis mine. The dealer deserves credit for smelling something fishy and stopping the sale, but the investigator is taking effort to convince the dealer than the sale is, in fact, legal and not a straw purchase. If the gun is not for him, and is in fact for her, it’s not a straw purchase. How many other dealers went through with the sale after assurances from “investigators” that he was not, in fact, the actual buyer of the gun, and that she was, in fact, the actual buyer of the gun?
I also question the small number of gun shows in this sample, many of them by the same promoter, Bill Goodmanâ€™s Gun & Knife Shows, who now has a statement on his web site speaking to the sting by Mayor Bloomberg, and promising to review his practices, which pretty clearly he needs to do if he has the same unlicensed dealers showing up multiple times at his shows.
I don’t question that Bloomberg’s investigators have found evidence of troubling illegal activity at some gun shows, and I agree that ATF needs to do a better job of cracking down this kind of thing. But I disagree with this reports assertion in regards to the scale of the problem, and with the reports contention that we need new laws to deal with this problem. Everything showing here is a violation of existing federal laws, and the individuals depicted could be prosecuted under those laws. Bloomberg’s goal here was to give gun shows a black eye, in hopes of promoting more gun control laws, and the methodology used is the most effective I’ve seen. I would say we can expect more of it. It is effective because, unfortunately, Â his investigators was actually able to uncover some blatantly illegal activity at some shows. That’s not something we should be proud of, and we ought to, as a community, demand better. Bloomberg may be inflating the scale of the problem, but it is a problem, and we ought not look kindly on members of our community who give the other side such powerful ammunition to use against us all.