N.Y. Gun-Show Operators Agree to Background Check Rules

Gun-show operators in New York agreed to new rules set by the state to ensure required background checks on buyers following an investigation that uncovered firearms sales without the checks.

Twenty-three operators agreed to procedures in which all guns brought into a show by private sellers are tagged so that sales and checks can be tracked, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement yesterday.

The announcement of the new rules comes a day after a shooting that left four dead and two injured in Herkimer, New York, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of New York City. The suspected shooter, a 64-year-old man whom police say used a shotgun, was killed yesterday in a shootout with police.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun laws in the U.S. in January. The measure bars the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds and closed gaps in a 2000 ban on assault weapons. It also requires a National Instant Criminal Background Check for private gun sales that don’t take place at gun shows.

In Chicago yesterday, seven gun shops sued Cook County, which includes the city and surrounding towns, claiming a $25-per-gun sales tax unconstitutionally infringes on citizens’ right to bear arms.

“The tax is excessive and arbitrary,” the shops and four individuals claimed in a complaint filed yesterday in state court in Chicago. “The tax which is imposed on law-abiding citizens and retailers has no clear and reasonable relationship to the victims of violent crime or to any other legitimate governmental or regulatory function of Cook County.”

Constitutional Claims

The plaintiffs are seeking a ruling that the tax violates the U.S. and Illinois constitutions and an order blocking its enforcement.

Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said yesterday she couldn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit.

New York’s law, called the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, has been the target of protesters and lawsuits pushing for its repeal. It was the first U.S. measure tightening gun laws after the Dec. 14 Newtown, Connecticut, massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Illegal Sales

Even with the SAFE law, the new rules are needed because illegal sales could still occur at gun shows, according to the attorney general’s office.

Wilson Curry, president of Williston Auctions Inc. outside Buffalo, New York, and a firearms auctioneer, said he agreed to the new rules developed by the attorney general’s office because he supports background checks on buyers.

“What they’re doing is the right thing,” he said in a phone interview. “Make sure perps don’t get a hold of a gun at gun shows. But how many perps really go to gun shows to get a gun?”

New York enacted a law in 2000 requiring background checks for all sales or transfers at gun shows. Only the individual seller of a gun faces liability for a sale without a background check. Gun show operators face no civil or criminal liability if they comply with a few requirements, according to the state.

Binding Procedures

The procedures announced yesterday by the attorney general are binding on the gun show operators, according to the office.

“These procedures are unique to New York state and represent the first time law enforcement and gun show operators are working together to eliminate illegal gun sales,” Schneiderman said.

The attorney general began an investigation in 2011 when the office attended three shows and found guns were being sold without the required background checks. There were no attempts to inspect outgoing guns and no systems in place to verify that the checks had been conducted, according to the office.

During the state’s investigation, officials purchased 11 guns from 10 private sellers, including semi-automatics, without the checks. The 10 gun sellers who had failed to conduct checks were arrested.

The 23 operators agreeing to the rules oversee more than 50 scheduled shows and gun auctions in New York this year, representing more than 80 percent of the shows in the state, the attorney general said.

The Chicago case is ERP Inc., doing business as Chuck’s Gun Shop v. Ali, 2013CH07263, Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago).

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