THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bloomberg's Arizona sting | Globe Editorial

Close the gun-show loophole

February 8, 2011

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IF NEW York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hadn’t exposed disturbing violations of federal laws at gun shows in Arizona, who would have?

Under federal law, unlicensed “occasional sellers’’ of the sort who peddle firearms at gun shows — or, for that matter, out of their homes or car trunks — aren’t required to do an instant federal background check on purchasers. They are, however, supposed to turn away potential customers if they have reason to believe that person would be a prohibited purchaser.

Now, investigators working for New York City have shown once again how that requirement is easily ignored. Although an undercover investigator explicitly told the Arizona gun sellers that he “probably couldn’t pass’’ a federal background check, two nevertheless let him purchase a pistol. The sales came just weeks after six people were shot to death, and more than a dozen more wounded, in a bloody Tucson rampage that showed what can happen when the wrong person has easy access to weapons.

Two years ago, similar investigations in three other states revealed a slew of similar problems. Four of the seven gun shows embarrassed back then have since agreed to institute background checks. That’s progress, but why should it be left to investigators hired by New York City to press for changes?

If only officials in Arizona were more concerned. Governor Jan Brewer was among the Arizona officials who criticized Bloomberg’s involvement, but her ire would be better directed at gun-show sellers who aren’t following federal law. Congress should close the gun-show loophole and require instant background checks for these purchases.