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03/14/2013

News / Most NY gun shows agree to new rules on criminal and mental health background check

Twenty-three operators responsible for more than 80 percent of gun show sales have agreed to implement new regulations to ensure that criminal and mental health background checks are conducted on all buyers at gun shows. The operators backed tougher regulations after a sting operation revealed how easy it was to purchase weapons at gun shows without undergoing the necessary background checks.

The operators said they would support the new regulations, developed by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, which include posting conspicuous notices that background checks are a legal requirement, tracking the guns carried in and out of gun shows, and notifying local law enforcement of the shows, so they could monitor the area around the location and deter any out-of-show deals.

New York made gun show background checks mandatory 13 years ago, but many states do not have similar legislation. The Congress is currently debating whether to require universal background checks at federal level, and Eric Schneiderman believes that New York can serve as a good example of how the law could be implemented.

“Our goal is to have 100 percent of the gun show operators on board, and then we have a good example for other states to follow,” Schneiderman was quoted by The New York Times as saying. “Once we demonstrate how easy this is, and how it keeps people safe, it weakens the arguments on the federal level that guaranteeing background checks are overly burdensome or face meaningful opposition.”

The gun tracking system that the show operators agreed to introduce should prevent gun buyers from carrying their weapons out of the shows without undergoing criminal and mental gun checks. Most operators will use a system in which weapons brought into the show are tagged with the owner’s name and the gun’s serial number. When someone buys a gun and passes a background check, a second tag will be affixed as evidence of the fact that the buyer passed the check. All guns will be checked on the exit. That way, organizers will be able to prevent those who do not pass background checks from carrying the guns out of the show’s premises.

The operators agreed to the regulations following an uncover investigation organized by the state Attorney General’s office. Two agents posing as buyers were able to purchase firearms even after telling vendors that they had orders of protection against them, something that prevents a person from passing a criminal background check. Among the weapons bought were AR-15 rifles similar to ones used in the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre last December. The vendors who sold their weapons without conducting the necessary background checks were charged by Schneiderman, and the Attorney General’s office also accused show organizers of failing to put up clear signs reminding sellers that background checks are mandatory. However, instead of civil action against these organizers, Schneiderman decided to develop a new set of statewide security procedure to make sure that the current state law on gun control is implemented.

The news came as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a ban on assault-style weapons Thursday. The issue of gun control was galvanized by a string of shootings throughout the United States last year, which was capped off by the tragic massacre of 20 children and seven adults by a lone gunman, who later took his life. President Barack Obama and his administration have been pushing for a ban on assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines and have called on Congress to close loopholes in the background check process.

In January New York, a state where gun control laws have been traditionally strict, enacted tough new gun control legislation, further limiting the definition of assault-style weapons, lowering the legal limit for the number of bullets a magazine could hold and making penalties for gun related crimes and violations stiffer.

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