New York City's got a gun problem

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

KAI RYSSDAL: New York City's got a gun problem. And it's going out of state looking for solutions. The city is suing 15 gun dealers in five different states. From Georgia up to Pennsylvania. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says guns from those states were used in more than 500 crimes in the Big Apple in less than a decade. More from Marketplace's Amy Scott.


AMY SCOTT: The City's lawsuit says guns that wind up in New York City are often and easily purchased out of state, in transactions like this one.
MALE VOICES: You are a Virginia resident, correct? I am.

What you're hearing is a videotape recorded by a private investigator with a hidden camera. A man walks into a gun shop, posing as a customer. He negotiates a deal, and just when it's time to fill out the paperwork for a background check required under federal law . . . a woman he's with shows up at the counter.

MALE VOICE: I'm gonna get her to do the paperwork here. Let's see, answer these questions here.

FEMALE VOICE: Oh, okay.

That's a classic straw sale. One of more than a dozen New York city officials say their investigators recorded in a two-month sting. In almost every case, dealers didn't bat an eyelash when a customer bought a gun clearly intended for — and even paid for by — someone else. Gun control advocates say the reason is simple: profit motive. Cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Gary, Ind., have filed similar lawsuits. Few of these cases ever make it to a jury. Timothy Lytton wrote the book "Suing the Gun Industry." He says New York's case has one important thing going for it: a judge who's allowed similar cases to move forward.

TIMOTHY LYTTON: As to whether or not the jury will accept the plaintiff's claims, that's hard to predict. But it's very likely that the judge is going to try and allow the case to go to trial and to reach a jury. And that would make it alone an extremely significant case in the last 25 years.

New York is asking for money from the dealers and the appointment of a special master to monitor their sales.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
 
With Generous Support From...