Gunshow Undercover revealed today that investigators who went to a Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Phoenix on January 23rd did not have to pass any checks to purchase the same weapon used by Jared Loughner.
Two weeks after the tragic shootings in Tucson, undercover investigators went to a gun show in Phoenix, Arizona and purchased guns – no background check, no questions asked. [...] An undercover investigator purchased two 9 millimeter pistols from two different sellers, even after the investigator told the sellers that "I probably couldn't pass a background check."
During the sale you see the seller say "No Tax", "These are a bunch of private people…"; he asks the buyer to only show ID to "make sure you're not from California".
The site says their 2009 tests found 63% (19 of 30) of private gun dealers also required no background check to complete a sale.
Three issues here seem notable:
1) The site points to a legal loopholes that allows persons who sell weapons as a private citizen, instead of as a dealer, to avoid performing a background check. Presumably this loophole is meant to help private-citizens profit from weapon sales as well as avoid regulation of private-party commerce. However, private-citizens are regulated in other forms of commerce; high-risk items often are prohibited. The justification of the loophole therefore seems tenuous.
2) The site indicates that buyers who inform a seller that they probably couldn't pass a background check are still sold a weapon. This shows that even laws in place are violated — private sellers are prohibited from selling to someone they have a "reason to believe" would not pass a background check. This begs the question of why sellers flaunt the law. Does room for discretion leave the door open to abuse or negligence, or is it because enforcement is too weak? They warn buyers not to show them a California ID, so some forms of enforcement obviously work.
3) There is no current known internal enforcement mechanism at these gun shows. A show reserves the right to ask a seller to leave, but it is unclear whether they have ever done so and whether they would do any compliance tests on their own accord. A lack of transparent self-regulation increases the need for external assessments like that performed by Gunshow Undercover.