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New York City Probe of Internet Gun Sales Finds 62% Will Break the Law

A New York City-sponsored investigation of 125 individual gun sellers found that 62 percent would agree to commit felonies by selling the weapons on the Internet to people who said they wouldn’t legally qualify as purchasers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today.

The city hired Kroll Inc., a New York-based international consulting company specializing in security, at a cost of about $290,000 to conduct what Bloomberg described as the first nationwide investigation of Internet gun sales.

Seventy-seven of 125 individuals agreed to sell pistols and assault rifles to people who told them they probably couldn’t pass a background check, Bloomberg said. Investigators video- recorded the transactions and posted them on www.nyc.gov, the city website.

Bloomberg released the findings two days after Peter Figoski, 47, a 22-year police veteran, was shot and killed while responding to a Brooklyn house robbery. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the weapon that killed him was an illegally owned semi-automatic pistol. A private investigator purchased the same model in an online transaction, Bloomberg said.

“Illegal online sales is a problem that’s national in scope,” Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference. “Our investigators made calls to unlicensed, online gun dealers in 14 states. Time and again the sellers ignored statements investigators made about their not being able to pass background checks.”

Guns on Craigslist

Investigators reviewed 10 of more than 4,000 websites that offer guns for sale. On Craigslist, which says it bans such sales, 82 percent agreed to sell guns to people who said they couldn’t lawfully obtain one, the mayor said. Investigators checked sites that had 25,000 guns available for purchase, Bloomberg said in a news release.

While the law doesn’t require individual sellers to conduct background checks, it’s a felony for anyone to sell a gun to a purchaser when there’s reason to believe the buyer wouldn’t qualify, said John Feinblatt, the mayor’s chief policy aide.

The mayor called on the federal government to require background checks for all gun sales and to conduct similar undercover investigations to enforce existing laws. Websites should restrict such sales by requiring more disclosure between buyers and sellers, he said.

Bloomberg, 69, has targeted illegal gun possession and sales during his 10 years as mayor. In 2006, he founded the 600- member Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. He serves as co-chairman of the group.

In the past four years, the city has hired investigators to conduct undercover probes in which shops and dealers at U.S. gun shows have been caught selling weapons to investigators posing as straw buyers, or representatives for individuals whom they said wouldn’t pass a background check.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Henry Goldman in New York at hgoldman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

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