After the Figoski shooting, Bloomberg releases a report on online gun sales, denounces the N.R.A.

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Ray Kelly, Michael Bloomberg and John Feinblatt. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Three days after police officer Peter Figoski was shot in the face and killed in Cypress Hills while investigating a robbery, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed the results of a wide-ranging investigation into private online gun sales across the country.

Led by the mayor’s chief policy adviser, John Feinblatt, the mayor’s office spent $290,000 hiring 15 investigators affiliated with private security firm Kroll. The investigators proceeded to reach out to 125 private online gun sellers in 14 states via 10 websites, including Craigslist, Glocktalk.com, and Armslist.com.

Private gun sellers, unlike licensed sellers, do not have to conduct background checks, but they are forbidden from selling guns to people they have reason to believe might not pass a background check.

According to Feinblatt, 85 percent of the guns used in crimes in New York City originate out of state. Unlike in states like Ohio and Virginia, efforts to buy guns from private sellers in New York State routinely failed after investigators said they probably wouldn’t pass a background check.

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During the investigation, investigators disguised as buyers indicated their interest in purchasing guns, all the while acknowledging they probably wouldn’t pass a background check. In 77 of the 125 interactions, the gun sellers said they would nevertheless move ahead with the sales. The investigators ended up completing five purchases, including a $650 Ruger Mini-14 assault rifle via Armslist.com, and, via GunListings.com, a $500 Ruger P95 9mm handgun, the same model of weapon used to kill Figoski.

It is still unclear where Figoski’s alleged murderer got his weapon. Police commissioner Ray Kelly, who joined the mayor at the press conference, said someone legally purchased the gun in 1999 and put it in a box. The individual says he lost track of the gun after he was evicted from his home in 2009.

Of the 10 sites investigated, Craigslist came out as the easiest place to get weapons, with 82 percent of private gun sellers contacted via the site agreeing to proceed with the weapons sales even after buyers pointed out they probably couldn’t pass a background check.

The mayor recommended that federal law require background checks on all gun sales, including private ones. Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York have sponsored the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would implement that requirement.

The mayor’s office has given their evidence of illegal gun sales to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s office and today sent letters to the relevant web sites requesting meetings.

“When the world learned that Lee Harvey Oswald purchased his weapon, his rifle, through the mail, there was a huge outcry and the Gun Control Act of 1968 banned the sale of guns through the mail,” said Kelly. “We shouldn't have to wait for the assassination of a president or the killing of a police officer to dismantle a conduit bringing illicit guns into the city ... I-95 is a very effective way of getting guns into the city. We don't need an electronic highway to make it easier.”

“There’s one organization that's basically behind continuing the chaos in this country...and we all know who it is," added the mayor. “It's the N.R.A.” 

Separately, during a question-and-answer session with reporters, the mayor also reacted to reports that a dispute between the city and state over how to share in the proceeds from the sale of Emblem Health is the reason that the governor has yet to sign the outer-borough taxi bill, which would allow livery cars to pick up street hails, something they've been doing illegally for a while now. 

“Number one, it’s not tied into the taxi deal at all," said the mayor. "It is totally separate. I have talked to the governor about the taxi bill, as you know, for a while. He’s assured me that he wanted to look at it and make maybe some small changes, but it would get done. The governor is a man of his word."

They’re totally separate," added the mayor, "and the only tie is the coincidence is that they happen to be coming at the same time."