Video: Online guns undercover investigation catches sellers flouting law
A New York City undercover investigation of online gun sales in fourteen states has found that a majority of the 125 unlicensed sellers contacted were eager to sell firearms to buyers they knew couldn't pass a background check, a violation of federal law.
Colorado sellers fared somewhat better than those in other states -- only two of six sellers approached by the undercover team agreed to do business illegally, a 33 percent failure rate.
The report on the investigation, "Point, Click, Fire," has prompted a call from Mayors Against Illegal Guns for websites, including Craigslist, to more closely monitor online gun sales. The report also urges better enforcement of existing gun laws and passage of the Fix Gun Checks Act, federal legistation that would require a background check for all gun sales.
Gun sales by licensed dealers are already heavily regulated, and several states require background checks for sales at gun shows -- a loophole Colorado closed after the Columbine shootings. But sales between private individuals remain largely anonymous, particularly online, even though private sales account for 40 percent of all gun transactions in the U.S.
Sales over the Internet have been linked to the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, as well as illegal sales to minors and international trafficking operations. No background checks are required for such sales. However, federal law prohibits selling a gun to a person the seller has "reason to believe" may be an illegal purchaser -- for example, a convicted felon or someone adjudicated as mentally ill.
NYC's undercover investigators contacted various online sellers, on sites ranging from Craigslist to Glock Talk, posing as prospective buyers and informing the seller that they couldn't pass a background check. In 62 percent of the cases, the sellers agreed to the deal anyway. Private sellers on Craigslist (which already has a policy supposedly prohibiting firearms listings) had the highest failure rate -- 82 percent.
The two of six Colorado sellers who flunked the "integrity test" were operating out of the Denver-Boulder area, offering handguns in the $600 to $800 price range.
In five instances, investigators met the sellers and completed the cash transactions, purchasing four handguns and Ruger Mini-14. To see how the deals typically went down, check out the video below.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Badges, guns, Taser stolen during burglary of Boulder deputy."