In videos released by the New York City mayor's office, hidden cameras recorded how easy it is to buy guns from unlicensed dealers at a recent Arizona gun show. The videos raise questions about the lack of government oversight on weapons deals, since many of these weapons make their way to Mexican criminal organizations who are wreaking havoc in that country.
As part his city government's own gun-control campaign, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent several New York investigators to Phoenix, Arizona, in January, intending to document how the lack of background checks have turned gun shows into "magnets for criminals," according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the video below, an investigator buys a Glock 9mm and an extended magazine clip from a "private" gun dealer who asks only to see ID. In another video, the buyer purchases a pistol despite admitting that he could not pass a background check.
Under U.S. law, licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks, while "occasional" or private sellers are not. Laws vary by state, but Arizona is among the 33 states that do not restrict the private sale of firearms at gun shows, thereby attracting buyers with a criminal history in what is known as the "gun show loophole."
Along with Texas and California, Arizona is among the top three states where U.S. firearms are purchased and later trafficked to Mexico, according to a report by the Woodrow Wilson Center. Many of these weapons end up in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations that are locked in a fierce battle among themselves and with Mexican authorities that has led to more than 35,000 deaths since December 2006.
The operation is very similar to the videos released by the New York City's mayor's office. So-called "straw buyers" purchase grenades, semi-automatics and rocket launchers in bulk for middlemen, who traffic the weapons to the Mexican border where they sold into the black market.
One gun store in Arizona, X Caliber, was the source of as much as 700 AK-47s sold to "straw buyers," federal authorities have told InSight, many of which later surfaced in Mexico, as documented by InSight's joint project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, PBS Frontline, and the Center for Public Integrity - GunRunners.
In December, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) submitted an emergency request to the White House budget office, asking that gun stores along the Mexico border be required to report multiple purchases of high-power semi-automatic rifles, such as guns with calibers of .22 or greater, which are favored by Mexican cartels. On 4 February, the White House rejected the measure.